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Batman/Detective Conan_Deck of Minds

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Lightest of Nights: A Deck of Minds
 
Chapter 23
 
What Next?
 
He gazed into her eyes. The red haired woman did the same in return. The others stood by in silence.
 
"Problem? What kind of problem?" Batman finally spoke.
 
Batgirl stepped forward as she spoke her stance. "Ghosts."
 
Flash lifted a brow. "Ghosts? Now that sounds like a predicament."
 
Batgirl faced him. "Not as thrilling or supernatural as it may sound, I'm merely referring to the Ghost Dragons," she clarified.
 
"Ghost Dragons? As in that street gang known as the Ghost Dragons?" Flash asked.
 
"That'd be the ones," confirmed Batgirl.
 
"And let me guess, our neighborhood friends have struck again?" Nightwing assumed.
 
"Burnside yesterday. West end of Gotham tonight, a local bank," Batgirl began. "They appeared during a burglary."
 
"It's not like them to show up on the grid so freely," Batman said.
 
"They weren't the only ones who were at that bank," Batgirl informed.
 
"A public gathering of bad guys, can't wait to hear this," remarked Nightwing.
 
"Who else was at that bank?" Batman asked.
 
"That I am unsure of. I'm still investigating," Batgirl replied.
 
"Was this other group collaborating with the Ghost Dragons?"
 
"Quite the opposite actually," replied Batgirl. "A fight broke out."
 
"And?"
 
"Our mystery group, all dead," Batgirl revealed. "A single slash wound, the same in each place for every single one of them."
 
"The neck?" Batman assumed.
 
Batgirl nodded. "Hit it right on the mark."
 
"And what of the Dragons?" Batman questioned.
 
"Not a trace."
 
"What about security camera's?" Flash questioned. "Certainly surveillance must have picked up something?"
 
"All cameras were disabled," Batgirl informed. "So the sequence for what entirely went down is still partially a mystery."
 
"Well if that's the case, then how can you be sure the Ghost Dragons were involved?" Nightwing put into question.
 
Batgirl raised her left hand, revealing a small device in hand.
 
Nightwing blinked an eye. "What's that?"
 
"I found it on one of the deceased," Batgirl replied. "It is a com-link, one which Black Mask's men used to communicate with one another."
 
"What's its significance?"
 
"Playback," answered Batgirl. "The man who wore this, his final words was recorded. Once you listen to this there is no doubt of the Ghost Dragons involvement."
 
Batman held out his hand. "May I?"
 
Batgirl handed the device over to him. "Of course."
 
"So, what happens now?" Nightwing questioned.
 
"We prepare," replied Batman who then went on to make way toward the super computer.
 
"Well, unless you guys have anything else, I better be getting back to Central City," Flash said. "I have another local case that I need to get back to."
 
"We appreciate you coming through," Nightwing said.
 
Flash gave him the salute. "If you guys need me, I'm just a ring away."
 
Nightwing gave him the thumbs up. "Dually noted."
 
In the blink of an eye the Flash was gone. "Well I guess that just leaves the three of.." Nightwing paused after hearing a beeping sound that came from a device strapped around Batgirl's wrist. "What's that?"
 
Raising her left arm Batgirl gave quick eye to the device before responding. "Car chase, police are in pursuit."
 
"Where?"
 
"Near the Riverfront Center in the old Gotham district," informed Batgirl. "There are eight fugitives in all, five vehicles between the pack."
 
"Sounds like our kind of party," Nightwing smilingly remarked.
 
"Does that mean you want to tag along?"
 
"If you don't mind," Nightwing replied. "I could use a little night out."
 
Batgirl turned away before proceeding to walk. "Try and keep up."
 
"Go on ahead, I'll catch up to you," Nightwing called. He then looked back into the direction of the super computer.
 
"Yes, that's it," Batman spoke out loud.
 
Nightwing who heard this was most curious to what it was he spoke of. "What's going on?" Nightwing stopped after stepping up to the right side of the computer chair.
 
"The materials to create Crane's fear toxin that was shipped to Tokyo, the batch that ended up in the storage room under the Skytale building," Batman began.
 
"What about it?"
 
"The tracer I placed on the package sent a signal, the materials are on the move." Batman faced him. "No doubt the package is en route to its final destination."
 
"For where the gas itself will be produced?"
 
"Exactly."
 
"Sounds like it's time for a little intervention."
 
Batman was in full agreement. "It's time to play our hand."
 
"So," Nightwing said as he crossed his arms over his chest. "What's the plan?"
 
…..
 
The hand struck another length, announcing the passing of another hour. The school bell rang within moments, carrying out through the halls of the school. Conan who had just taken his seat placed a pencil atop his desk as he proceeded to slouch back. His eyes carried into the distance, not particularly focused on anything. He was in the moment, but his mind was anywhere but the present.
 
"Kaitou Kid, the Elephant Revenant, the fear toxin from Gotham, Batman… it almost feels as if it all links together in some way. Question is, how?"
 
His chain of thought would be cut off by the sound of three claps which came from the front of the room. Conan leveled his head to find it was his teacher.
 
"Happy Friday everyone."
 
"Happy Friday!" To which the class responded.
 
Sumiko smiled brightly. "Given that it is Friday, do you know what that means?" She paused momentarily before continuing. "That's right, show and tell! I hope you all have something interesting to share with your peers today."
 
"I do!" one shouted from the far left.
 
"Me too!" another exclaimed from the back of the room.
 
"That's good to know," Sumiko said pleased to hear. "So, what do you say we get started?"
 
"Yahhh!" the majority of the children in the class chanted.
 
Sumiko then surveyed the room before locking in on a specific student. "Zeily Zandreu, as the newest member of this class, would you like to present first?"
 
All eyes swayed to the left side. There she was, seated in the back corner of the room. Her raven black bangs sat just above her eyes. She looked forward before giving a subtle nod.
 
"Okay," said Zeily who dropped down from her seat. Crossing her arms across her chest she slowly made her way to the front of the classroom.
 
Not once did she make eye contact with anyone on her way to the front. Damian who stood beside the exit door took notice of this.
 
Once Zeily reached the front of the class she nervously raised her head as she prepared to share what she had brought to show. Reaching into her pocket she pulled out a hand sized object.
 
"What is that?" questioned Genta who sat in the front row.
 
"It looks like a wrist brace," another guessed.
 
Sumiko stepped over before tapping Zeily on her left shoulder. "Go on Zeily-chan, tell everyone what you have to share today."
 
Raising the object in hand Zeily did just that. "This is my special horseshoe," she finally revealed. "Papa made it for me at the old lab."
 
"It's a lovely horseshoe," Sumiko commented before turning focus back on the wider class. "Now class, why don't we all give Zeily-chan a round of applause?"
 
As Zeily made her way back to her seat all of her classmates clapped upon her presentations end.
 
"Alright, who would like to go next?"
 
"Me! I wanna share!" Ayumi volunteered with the wave of her hand.
 
"Very well," smiled in Sumiko. "The floor is now yours."
 
As Ayumi made her way to the front of the room Damian felt the vibration of his phone in his left pocket. He pulled out his phone to find there was an incoming call, one from his father. Why now of all times? It must be something important Damian figured. With that in mind he looked toward Sumiko.
 
"Ms. Kobayashi."
 
Sumiko faced him almost immediately. "What is it?"
 
"Would it be alright if I stepped out for a moment?" Damian asked. "I'll be no more than a minute."
 
Sumiko nodded. "Of course. That is fine by me."
 
With that Damian walked out of the room. Conan watched as the door closed on his way out. "I wonder what that's all about?" Conan then looked over at Ai who sat one seat away. She was seemingly struggling to keep her eyes open. "That's strange. It's not often Haibara doesn't get sufficient sleep."
 
Now on the outside Damian pulled out his phone, wasting no time in returning the missed call. It didn't take long for another voice to come from the other end.
 
"Damian, we have an update," informed Bruce.
 
This was promising. "For what?"
 
"The ingredients for Crane's fear gas, the product is on the move," Bruce relayed. "The tracer I placed on the crate indicates this."
 
"It was only a matter of time. So, where's our important package now?"
 
"That's why I've called. Here's the plan, so listen up."
 
….
 
Another street block was passed as he tracked on in the dark empty streets. No matter how far, no matter how hard he ran, he did not tire. How long had he been running for? Above all else, what was he running from? This was something of an uncertainty. There was only one thing that was to feel inside, a fear, a fear of stopping.
 
He pushed himself further, picking up with each stride. Unexpectedly it felt as if he was getting slower, as if time was freezing right before his eyes. This was followed by an immense pressure that ravaged throughout his entire body.
 
"I can barely move, barely.. breath. What's happening? Where am I?"
 
Upon questioning this a hiss was heard, one followed by a loud growl. It felt as if his heart skipped a beat. "What was that?!" Once again he tried to run, an attempt that would prove fruitless, he was unable to move. "Why.. why can't I move?"
 
What came in the wake of what he assumed to be a warning growl was a terrifying roar. Fretting, he glanced over his left shoulder to spot what he believed to be a giant bat which was soaring down at him from above. A sharpening fear erupted from within.
 
"I've found you now Kaitou Kid! There is no escaping!" The creature flashed its readied fangs.
 
He looked into its eyes, watching as it soared in ever so closely. "No, it can't end, not like…"
 
…..
 
"Not like THIS!"
 
The running, the dark city, the bat.. they were all gone. "A dream," Kaito realized. He looked to find he was in his own room, now sitting up in bed. He breathed out in relief. "It was just a dream."
 
Kaito raised a hand to wipe the sweat that streamed down the left side of his face. He then looked to the clock sitting atop the dresser beside his bed. "I over slept by almost two hours!" After realizing this Kaito jumped out of bed. "I can't believe I forgot to set the alarm last night. Well, considering what went down.."
 
He sighed before making his way toward the door. "I've already missed one entire period of class, I'm not looking to make it two." He stopped about halfway across the room after spotting his phone sitting on his desk. Grabbing hold of it he found several calls had been missed, all of which coming from one person. "Aoko."
 
Kaito placed the phone back onto the desk. "No doubt she was calling about that cruise she wants me to join her on tomorrow night." He paused at the thought of it. "Not so sure I have the room in my schedule right now. There's far too much on my plate as is."
 
With that Kaito reached the door, turning the knob as the previous night's encounters poured to the forefront. "The Royal Flush Gang, the Batman.. just what will it all lead to?"
 
The thought of it alone excited him. The uncertainty, the thrill of a chase he knew was to come. The question was, what would be at roads end?
 
 
The final bell of the day rang. One by one everyone poured out of the classrooms, relieved the weekend was now upon them. Conan was no exception to this. He anxiously made his way down the hallway, there was only one thing on his mind, getting to the hospital to check on Ran.
 
"Hey Conan, wait up!"
 
"Genta," said Conan who turned around to spot his friend.
 
He wasn't alone. Traveling at his side was the rest of his friends. "We're going to come with you," Mitsuhiko said.
 
"Ya! We want to see Ran-chan too," added Ayumi.
 
"You don't mind if we come too do you?" Genta asked.
 
Conan smiled. "Of course not."
 
"Then to the hospital we go!" declared Genta.
 
As they began to walk Haibara faded to Conan's right side as the others took the lead. "I'm curious."
 
Conan looked at her, he then faced forward. "About?"
 
"Do you plan on asking her?" Haibara began. "I mean, about what happened leading up to her being taken captive?"
 
"I'd rather not," Conan replied to her surprise. "Besides, I'm certain the authorities will blitz her for any information they can obtain in regards to her kidnapping. Whatever they learn, I'll know as well."
 
In little time they found themselves on the outside of the school. Several moments more passed before Haibara spoke again. "Who's to say they'll ask the right questions?"
 
Conan was unsure of what was meant by this. He looked to her once more. "What are you trying to say?"
 
After another taken step Haibara stopped. She placed a hand upon her forehead as if to check her temperature. Conan stopped as well. "You ok?"
 
Her hand dropped back to her side. "I'm fine," assured Haibara. "Just a little light headed."
 
"Hey, look guys," Mitsuhiko pointed. "What do you think is going on over there?"
 
Conan looked into the pointed direction. There were a total number of two police vehicles on the opposite side of the street. Two officers stood in sight, talking with someone who looked to be a civilian. He didn't recognize either of the officials. Looking further right he spotted someone of familiarity.
 
"Officer Takagi is over there," Conan pointed.
 
"I see him!" Mitsuhiko acknowledged. "I wonder what he's doing here?"
 
"Only one way to find out," Genta said in response.
 
Nothing more was said. The five wasted little time in marching across the road. From his position beside one of the cars Wataru noticed the group as they approached from the other side. "It's Conan-kun and his friends." This was an opportune moment in his mind.
 
"Takagi, what are you doing outside of our school?" Genta asked being the first to speak.
 
Wataru answered. "Safety precaution. After what happened with Eilji Amou it was decided that extra measures were to be taken. That is why two officers are stationed here."
 
"That makes sense," Haibara said in light of this.
 
Wataru then looked directly at Conan. "Sato-san mentioned she ran into you last night while at the Fun Entertainment Inc building."
 
"I did," confirmed Conan.
 
"What was Officer Sato doing there?" Ayumi asked.
 
"Well, she.. I mean, we were searching for someone." Wataru paused. "Well, at least we thought we were."
 
"You were with her?" Mitsuhiko asked.
 
"I was."
 
Conan's interest had been sparked. "You said you were searching for someone?"
 
"Oh, yes. A man by the name of, Aldor Sunshine," Wataru revealed. "According to an online profile it was said he worked at the Fun Entertainment building located here in Tokyo. We visited that very facility last night. Unfortunately we learned that no one by the name of Aldor Sunshine was employed there or at any other Fun Entertainment Inc building for that matter. Here or overseas."
 
Wataru then looked to the sky. "Furthermore there is a house, one registered to an Aldor Sunshine no more than a couple miles from here. When we visited the house in question there was no one to find." Wataru's sights dropped back down to ground level. "It's almost like this Aldor person is a ghost."
 
"Ghost?!" Genta, Ayumi, and Mitsuhiko all gulped at the thought of it.
 
"What's so important about this Sunshine-san anyway?" Conan asked. There had to be a good reason for why they were so driven in finding this individual.
 
"Well.." Wataru brought a hand to his chin. "I don't know if I can say. This isn't probably something I should be discussing with all of-"
 
"Please!" Conan pleaded. This was tacked on with a look of innocence. "I really want to know. Plus, I could pass everything you tell me to Oji-san on your behalf."
 
Wataru gave it a moment's thought. "Well, you see," Wataru said figuring how to put it in simple terms. "This Aldor Sunshine was part of a list."
 
"What list?" Haibara asked.
 
"A list of suspects," continued Wataru.
 
This drew him in even more. "A suspect for what?" asked Conan.
 
Wataru looked to the boy in glasses once more. "Well to put it simply. The names on this list in question are people who have been traveling in and out of Tokyo at a high rate. We believe one of these people is involved with the shipment of the toxin that Eilji Amou and many others were affected by."
 
Conan was completely drawn in. "Now we're making progress."
 
"What about the house registered to Aldor-san?" asked Mitsuhiko. "Have you gone back after your first visit to see if someone is there?"
 
"Well, we.. I think we've discussed this enough," said Wataru looking to change the subject. "What about all of you? Where were you off to before you encountered me?"
 
"We're going to the hospital," Ayumi informed.
 
This was not what he was expecting to hear. "The hospital? What business do any of you have there?"
 
"We have to go see Ran-chan," Ayumi replied.
 
Wataru smiled in that instance, one that brought a surprise to each and every one of them.
 
"What's so funny?" Mitsuhiko asked.
 
Wataru shook his head. "No, not funny. But rather good news I have to share," he clarified. "For starters, Ran-san is doing fine. I got a chance to speak with her just before I came here."
 
The Detective Boys cheered in happiness. Conan sighed in relief.
 
"She is currently at the police station," Wataru informed. "So if you wish to see her, that's where she is. No doubt she will be released soon. There is no need for any of you to visit the hospital."
 
"Thanks for letting us know Detective Takagi," thanked Conan who bowed his head. No sooner after that did it take for him to take off running.
 
"Come on guys, let's follow him," Genta said being the first to follow after him. Ayumi and Mitsuhiko were next to take off.
 
"Wait, hold on!" Wataru called.
 
The four of them came to an immediate stop. Conan looked back at him. "What is it?"
 
"No need to run," said Wataru. "I'd be more than willing to give you a ride. That is.. if you don't mind?"
 
"But don't you have to stay here and stand guard?" Mitsuhiko questioned.
 
"I'm not the one assigned to this post," Wataru clarafied. He then looked in the direction of the two other officers who stood a short distance away. "They're the ones who are stationed to keep a look out in this area. I only dropped by to check in with them, and shortly after that is when-"
 
"We came into the picture," Haibara figured.
 
"Pretty much," Wataru confirmed. "But enough about that, who's ready to go to the police station?"
 
"Yaah!" Genta, Ayumi, and Mitsuhiko all chanted together.
 
Wataru then went on to unlock the doors to his vehicle. Haibara found way to the front passenger seat while Conan and the others piled into the back. Wataru waved to the other officers before stepping into the vehicle himself.
 
"Alright everyone, remember to put your seatbelts on," Wataru reminded. Once he was strapped in himself he turned the key in the ignition.
 
And just like that, they were on their way. Conan sat in silence as his friends carried on with conversation. What was discussed between them did not register. The only thing on his mind was Ran. How was she feeling? What was he to say to her? That and much more surfed through his mind the entire trip.
 
In no time they arrived at the police station. "Alright everyone," Wataru said as he brought the vehicle to a complete stop. "We're here."
 
His words were immediately followed by Conan unbuttoning his seatbelt and exiting the vehicle.
 
"Hey, wait for us!" Ayumi yelled as she, Genta, and Mitsuhiko hurried after him.
 
Wataru sighed. He then looked to find Haibara still sitting beside him a few feet away. She showed no sign of taking off as the others had. "You ok? You look a little out of it," the detective observed.
 
"I'm fine," Haibara assured.
 
"Will you be joining your friends?"
 
"Of course," to which Haibara replied as she turned into the direction they had gone. "I just don't feel the need to run."
 
Wataru nodded. "I understand."
 
Unbuckling her belt, Ai too exited the car. "Thanks for the ride."
 
"Um, yah. Anytime."
 
As Haibara advanced toward the building distress in someone's voice was heard, the voice of a woman. Stopping she looked to the right. A short distance away two police officials were speaking with a woman. Who was she? Given the large floppy straw hat atop her head and the scarf tied around her neck it was hard to make out any distinctive features.
 
"What's going on over there?" Haibara wondered. She couldn't help but stick around to find out just that.
 
"I'm sorry Hepperway-sama," apologized one of the two officers. "But it is as I said, we have no new information regarding the disappearance of the girls."
 
"What about the jeep? Has there been any word on if it has been found or not?"
 
The other officer shook his head as a saddened look fell upon his face. "That would be a no on that account as well. I'm sorry Hepperway-sama."
 
"I see.." The woman said no more. She turned as she made a move to walk away. "Off to Osaka it is."
 
"Will that be all?" One of the policemen asked.
 
Still trailing away the opposite direction she responded. "No, that will be all."
 
From the little that she gathered there was only one thing to conclude. "A kidnapping." From the sound of it, two young girls were the subject of the woman's distress. Why hadn't she heard about this situation in the local news within the past couple days? Surely something like that would have high coverage?
 
"Aren't you going to join your friends inside?" someone spoke from behind.
 
Startled, Haibara leaped back as she turned around to find who had approached. Her eyes narrowed upon seeing him. "Damian-san."
 
"Don't look so surprised," replied Damian who stepped around her as he proceeded to make his way down the sidewalk.
 
Haibara watched as he departed. There was one thing to question. What was Damian doing at the police station? What could have warranted his visit?
 
She was certainly curious, if not a little suspicious of the unknown circumstances that brought Damian to the police station at the same time as them. What exactly had prompted his appearance here? Either way, that would have to wait.
 
"I better head in before the others become worr.." As Haibara turned in the direction of the entrance she stopped. Her light headedness had reached its breaking point. "All of a sudden I don't feel so..."
 
In that moment it felt as if all control had become lost to her. It started with her legs, how weakened they became. Her vision blurred soon after. As she attempted to take another step she stumbled forward, landing on the grass surface below.
 
 
There was nothing to hear, nor anything to feel. Everything was blank. It felt like that of an empty void. Then suddenly it hit; a sense of reality. Awareness had finally kicked in. The question now became, where was she? The uncertainty brought a raise in one emotion, fear. There was a raise in heartbeat, an irregularity in breathing. Before she knew it, she was shaking from top to bottom. A voice of familiarity soon came, piercing through the empty void which raised her from a state of unknown.
 
"Haibara, Haibara!"
 
Her eyes sprung open as she shot up from where she laid. Vision was still that of a blur. A shower of sweat was felt, a wet stream that slid down her face. "Where am I?" While she wasn't able to see she was able to hear. There was a sound. "What is that?"
 
No matter how subtle it was in voice she knew what it was. "A river.." Within seconds her vision gradually restored, bringing clarity of sorts. She came to discover she was in what appeared to be her school homeroom classroom. The moons light peered in from window side. There was no one there but her. "Why am I here?"
 
She checked her phone in hopes of learning the time. To her dismay the battery was dead. "Well of course," Haibara remarked. "How the hell did I end up here anyway?" her memory was somewhat of a blur. A subtle sound then came to ear, one from beneath.
 
"What was that?" It sounded like a stream, the carrying of a river. The sound only got louder with every second that passed. This freighted her. "I need to get out of here."
 
Standing to her feet brought the sound of a crack from below. Looking down Haibara came to find the very floor she stood upon was beginning to break apart, similar to that of a deteriorating surface of ice. Instinct took over. Without a seconds thought Haibara raced toward the door, she only made it halfway across the room before the floor caved in on her.
 
She screamed in fear as she fell into a dark pool of water, one that captured her like a whirlpool. Try as she may, there was no escape. All seemed lost as she sank deeper into the cold stream of nothingness. When all seemed lost she heard the call of her name through the fog of it all, then for a second time. It was only then that her eyes truly opened.
 
….
 
"Look, I think she's finally coming through."
 
"It appears you're right Shinichi."
 
"Haibara, say something."
 
Her eyes slowly opened. She looked from one to the other. "Please tell me this isn't another dream."
 
Hiroshi smiled. "How are you feeling?"
 
"Tired.. a little woozy," Haibara answered. "Where am I?"
 
"Back at the house," Hiroshi informed.
 
"Haibara, what happened?" Conan asked.
 
Haibara looked into his eyes as if to show a surprise. "I was hoping to ask the same."
 
Conan and Hiroshi briefly glanced at one another before tracking their eyes back on her. "Ok, we'll take it a step back," Hiroshi began. "What's the last thing you remember before waking up here?"
 
"..I, we were at-" the sound of the phone ringing brought an interruption.
 
"I'll be right back," said Hiroshi who made his way over.
 
"So what was it? What do you remember last?" Conan asked.
 
"Well." Haibara slowly sat up. Moments passed as she rehashed everything in mind "School. We had just finished our last period of the school day."
 
"And after that? Do you remember where we went after that?"
 
"I.. we, that's right." It was all now coming back to her. "We were on our way to the hospital to visit Ran. That's when we came across officer Takagi. We were informed that Ran was at the police station, he offered to give us a ride there."
 
"That's right. Do you remember anything else?"
 
A long pause followed. After some thought Haibara shook head. "I don't." she no longer wished to be kept in the dark. "Tell me, what happened? And how did I end up here?"
 
"When I entered the police station along with the others I found it strange that you didn't join us after a minute or so passed," Conan conveyed. "So I went back outside."
 
"And?"
 
"That's where I found you, lying face down in the front lawn of the station," Conan informed. "Thankfully I found you before anyone else did, the last thing we needed was an audience. No doubt you would have been investigated, background check and all. That's the last thing we need to deal with right now."
 
"So, that's what happened.."
 
"And you really don't remember any of what happened leading to whatever caused you to pass out?"
 
Haibara shook her head. "Sorry."
 
"Well, if you start to remember anything."
 
"I'll be sure to let you know."
 
Not a second later Hiroshi rejoined the two. "So, what did she say?"
 
"She doesn't completely remember," Conan replied.
 
"I feared that much," said Hiroshi who wasn't surprised.
 
"What about the others," Haibara asked. "Are they aware of what happened?"
 
Conan shook his head. "Fortunately they were all still inside waiting for Ran to finish with the questioning process. After I found you, I took you to the side of the building before calling Dr. Agasa. He arrived within a two minute frame."
 
"I just happened to be passing through the area," Hiroshi noted.
 
"I see.." Haibara sat in silence for seconds to come.
 
"While you were out I took a sample of your blood," Hiroshi informed. "I'm awaiting the results of the test now. Hopefully we'll have answers for what caused you to lose consciousness."
 
"How long was I out?" Haibara asked.
 
"Three hours, give or take," answered Conan.
 
"Ai-kun, would you like something?" Hiroshi asked. "Perhaps something to drink?"
 
"I'm fine, thank you," said Haibara.
 
"Very well," nodded Hiroshi who then turned his sights to the computer across the room. "I'll be back momentarily. I'm going to go check the status of the scan regarding the blood sample I extracted from you."
 
The two watched as Hiroshi made his way to the computer. Turning, Haibara looked toward Conan. Noticing, Conan did the same.
 
"So, how is she?" inquired Haibara.
 
"Huh?" It was evident by the look on Conan's face he was uncertain for what it was she was referring to.
 
"Ran," Haibara clarified. "How is she coping?"
 
"Oh, yah. She's fine, considering," Conan replied.
 
"What did she say about the Riddler?" Haibara asked. "Did she relay anything insightful about the whole ordeal?"
 
Conan shook his head. "Unfortunately she didn't recall much."
 
"That's probably for the better."
 
"All she can remember is when Edward-san asked her for help in finding a location. Shortly after that she claimed everything went blank," Conan informed. "It's pretty clear once Ran was taken out Edward-san kept her under the entire time everything went down."
 
"I see.. I guess that puts us at square one regarding the whereabouts of your riddle playmate," Haibara smilingly remarked.
 
"He's not my playmate," Conan shot down.
 
"You can certainly keep telling yourself that."
 
"Now that you bring up the Riddler, it's all kind of strange though," said Conan.
 
"What are you talking about?"
 
"The words between the Riddler and the man I was linked with electronically during Riddler's challenge."
 
"What was so strange about what was said?"
 
"He had something to hide, something big."
 
"Who?"
 
"The Knight."
 
"The Knight?" Haibara questioned. "Am I supposed to know who that is?"
 
"Oh, sorry," Conan apologized. "That was the title Riddler gave to the man who I was paired with. Outside of him, Kaitou Kid was simply the Magician, and Oji-san the Investigator."
 
"I see," Haibara realized. "Who was it that had something to hide? Nigma-san?"
 
"Not him, the Knight," Conan clarified. "At least that's what the Riddler seemed to be implying at the time."
 
"This supposed secret.. what relevance does it have pertaining the whereabouts of the Riddler?" asked Haibara.
 
"A connection," Conan replied. "I believe whatever the secret is something that connects the Riddler and the Knight in some way."
 
"And let me guess." Haibara leaned forward. "You believe if you're able to find out this secret it'll get you one step closer to finding the Riddler?"
 
"Maybe.."
 
"Any clue as to what the secret may be?"
 
"There is little to go off of right now. I think our best bet is to investigate Edward Nigma further," Conan said. "The more we learn about him, the better prepared we'll be for when and how he makes his next move."
 
"And if we're lucky perhaps we'll intercept whatever he has planned before he can act."
 
"That's the plan. Even with all that's happened there's still one thing I'm struggling to understand." Conan stepped away from the sofa. There was now a focused look to be found on his face. "What was the point of it all? What was the Riddler hoping to accomplish with his challenge? Why broadcast it?"
 
"Isn't it obvious?" questioned Haibara. "His entire goal was to prove to himself and everyone else he was superior to his selected subjects."
 
"Was that really his objective though?"
 
There was now an enquiring expression to be found on Haibara's face. "What are you implying?"
 
"Think about it," said Conan who was looking at it from another perspective. "From the moment Edward Nigma stepped in past the doors to the agency, there was one theme that stood above all else, deception."
 
Haibara was beginning to get an understanding for where he was going with his train of thought. "So, you believe the spectacle put on was nothing more than a distraction for what he truly has planned?"
 
"Not so much a distraction, but rather a hint." Conan crossed his arms across his chest. He thought long and hard on the matter. "Last night was just a hint to something else, something bigger. A prologue if you will. Whatever Riddler has planned, I don't think it is as simple as a test. He was reaching for something more.. but what? I'll figure it out, no matter what."
 
"You seem rather certain of yourself," pointed out Haibara.
 
Conan smiled. "I didn't say it was going to be easy. Besides, I like a good challenge once in a while."
 
"Don't forget the other matter we have to investigate. That fear toxin that originated from Gotham City," Haibara reminded.
 
"About that, I think we can gain some ground on that front," Conan replied. "All we need to do is obtain all of the information that Detective Takagi has concerning the case."
 
"I'd ask how you plan on doing gaining the information, but I think I have an idea for what you have in mind."
 
A couple seconds later Hiroshi rejoined the pair. "The diagnosis on the blood results came back positive," Hiroshi revealed.
 
"Positive?" Conan questioned.
 
Haibara showed a look of concern. "For what?"
 
Neither of them could have been prepared for what came next. "Found in your blood was a two percent dosage of the very toxin that has plagued the very streets of all of Japan."
 
Conan's eyes leveled wide. "What, that's impossible! How?"
 
To Be Continued

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Lightest of Nights: A Deck of Minds
 
Chapter 24
 
Common Problem
 
Uncertainty, disbelief, was there anything else to feel? Each of them was just as shocked as the other by the revealed diagnosis.
 
"Components of the fear toxin.. inside me?" Haibara was at a loss for words.
 
"Doc, are you sure of this?" questioned Conan.
 
"There is no mistaking it," Hiroshi said. "The results are unmistakable."
 
Conan then looked toward Ai. If the diagnosis were true there would have been warning signs, right? "Haibara, at any point did you experience any of the known effects of the toxin?"
 
Haibara shook her head. "Outside of a little light headedness I felt relatively normal throughout the day."
 
"That's strange." Conan crossed his arms over his chest. "You came in contact with the fear toxin, yet you didn't undergo any of the frightening episodes that all other victims experienced."
 
"How strange indeed," agreed Hiroshi. "Well, there could be a reason for that."
 
"And what do you think that is?" Haibara asked.
 
"Well, for starters your body only took in two percent of the toxin," Hiroshi reminded. "Perhaps such a small amount isn't enough to bring about the damaging side effects that have been documented."
 
"Well, I did have.. a dream," Haibara noted.
 
"A dream? What do you mean?"
 
"Never mind it," replied Haibara. It was all still that of a blur. "It's unimportant."
 
"Well since we know you came in contact with the fear gas at some point, that begs the question of the when and where," Conan said. "Haibara, do you have any idea when you might have been exposed to the drug?"
 
She responded by shaking her head. "I don't, sorry."
 
"I was afraid that would be the case," Hiroshi said.
 
"We'll just have to narrow the possibilities down," Conan stated.
 
"And how do you propose we do that Sherlock?" quipped Haibara.
 
Conan smiled as he looked to Dr. Agasa. "It's simple, we'll test my DNA to see if the toxin is in my system as well."
 
"I see," Hiroshi realized. "If there are traces of the toxin in you as we'll be able to determine you and Ai-kun were together when it occured."
 
Conan nodded. "Exactly."
 
"Brilliant," Haibara remarked.
 
"Whoever is producing the fear gas in Japan, we might be closer to finding them than we realized," said Conan. "Between this and the bit of information detective Takagi has I'll have this case closed in no time."
 
Conan's confidence was steadily rising.
 
"So how is it you propose to get the information from Detective Takagi?" Hiroshi asked. "I doubt he'd freely give out the details of the case, especially given the sensitivity of the situation and all."
 
"It's simple. All I need is a phone and this," replied Conan who pointed to the voice changing bowtie sitting upon his shirt. "I'll call him using oji-san's voice, obviously with the intent of wanting to help with the case."
 
"Well, that plan has worked wonders for you in the past," Haibara noted.
 
"Don't see why it would fail now," Hiroshi added. He then turned direct focus on Conan. "Shinichi, are you ready?"
 
Conan nodded. "I'm ready."
 
"Very well," Hiroshi said before turning for his desk across the room. "Come, let us make haste. The sooner I get a sample of your DNA, the sooner I can run the scan."
 
"Dr. Agasa, the sample that you need," Conan began as he followed him all the way to the desk. "Does it have to be blood?"
 
"Not particularly," replied Hiroshi. "A saliva sample would be just as effective. Why do you ask?"
 
"Good." Conan was pleased to learn this. "I'll call the others over as well."
 
This caught Hiroshi by surprise. "What for?"
 
"To truly track where Haibara came in contact with the toxin, we need to know if the others did as well."
 
…..
 
Gotham, inside the Bat-cave
 
The Fear gas, the Riddler.. what was the connection? The challenge he and everyone else had been put through the day prior, what was its relevance? Batman knew the Riddler all too well. It wasn't just about testing the subjects in question, no, there was something more.. something deeper. But what?
 
What was the Riddler's true motive? To discover that was to first figure out if Nigma and the presence of Scarecrow's fear gas internationally was linked. It was in those silent moments of thought that a sound was heard. Batman turned in seat to discover someone approaching.
 
"Alfred."
 
"You've been down here for quite some time now, I thought for sure you would have begun your routine patrol by now," Alfred admitted.
 
"I've been.. preoccupied," replied Batman who turned back to face the computer.
 
"I have no doubt about that. Well since you're still here I guess you wouldn't mind me reminding you of the scheduled board meeting tomorrow."
 
"I haven't forgotten."
 
"Of course not." Alfred took another step forward. "What of your overseas activities, I take it the investigation is coming along?"
 
"Progress," Batman simply put. "The tracer I planted while at Skytale will be on the move soon."
 
"That must mean production is going forward with producing the fear gas itself," Alfred figured. "It was only a matter of time."
 
"I've already alerted Robin about the situation," Batman informed.
 
"Speaking of which, how is the young master holding up in the city of Tokyo?"
 
"As fine as I would have hoped."
 
"Will he be following after the tracer you planted?"
 
"Yes. Though, I'm not expecting any further activity until six tomorrow morning."
 
"Why six?"
 
"Because that's when the ship will depart?"
 
Alfred was more lost than ever. "Excuse me, a ship?"
 
"I'll get you up to speed in time." Batman then gave a command. "Computer, initiate scan."
 
Following this Batman stood up from the chair.
 
"Whatever are you scanning?" asked Alfred out of curiosity.
 
"The coffin Ran Mouri was stashed in," Batman answered. "I want to take a closer look. If there are any clues to unravel for what Riddler is planning next, I will find them."
 
"And in the meantime?"
 
"I have some hunting to do," Batman replied.
 
"Hunting sir?"
 
Batman faced him one final time as he passed. "Yes, the Ghost Dragons."
 
….
 
Tokyo, Japan. Police Station
 
She had been summoned to the Superintendent's office. Miwako could only guess to what the reason could be. Either way she would soon find out. In a short amount of time she found herself standing in front of the door to his office. Miwako knocked, bringing an immediate response.
 
"You can step in."
 
With permission given Miwako did just that. Now inside she bowed her head. "You asked to see me?"
 
"Yes," replied Kiyonaga. "I have something for you."
 
Surprise filled her face. "You have something for me?"
 
"Please, step forward."
 
Miwako was completely unsure of what to expect. Walking up to his desk he handed over a folder. Opening it, Miwako came to discover what was inside. "A search warrant.. is this?"
 
"Yes," confirmed Kiyonaga. "For the house that you came across registered to Aldor Sunshine."
 
There was now a look of accomplishment on her face. "That's great news! I can't thank you enough."
 
Kiyonaga sat back in his seat as a half-smile formed across his lips. "Well, you better get going. I doubt that case is going to solve itself anytime soon."
 
Miwako nodded. "Yes, of course."
 
There was no time to waste. What was to happen next was clear. As she walked through the halls of the station she heard someone call to her from behind.
 
"Sato-san!"
 
"Takagi-Kun," replied Miwako after facing him.
 
"I just got a call from Detective Mouri," Wataru informed.
 
"And?"
 
"I got him up to speed on the investigation we've been working," Wataru replied. "So if he happens to come across anything possibly involving the case he said he'd be sure to report it."
 
"I certainly won't say no to that."
 
"It looked like you were in a hurry just now," Wataru noted. "Are you going somewhere?"
 
"I just received a search warrant for the house we stopped by the other night. The house registered to Aldor Sunshine," Miwako relayed. "I'm heading over there now to investigate the premises."
 
"I see," Wataru learned. "You don't mind if I come along do you?"
 
"Of course not," Miwako said as she began walking. "Either way let's get a move on. I have a feeling we're getting close to getting the answers we have been searching for."
 
"Right behind you," Wataru said following after her.
 
…..
 
Mitsuhiko now made his way down the side of the road. He had received a call from Conan letting him know to meet him and the others at Agasa's house. For what he wondered? No explanation had been given. He soon came to the end of a block, making sure to look both ways before crossing to the other side. Once all was clear he did just that.
 
"I guess I'll find out when I get there."
 
Mitsuhiko walked in silence, listening to the herd of passing vehicle, the whistles of the birds overhead. He raised a hand to his eyes, noting the brightness of the sun in line of his path. A man on a bicycle passing in the opposite direction waved, Mitsuhiko waved in return. He was now nearing a street intersection. Once there he stood in wait for the street light to turn red. It was during this time he took notice of someone.
 
"Who is that?" Mitsuhiko had taken eye of an individual walking down the right side of the street where he stood. It was someone dressed in a tan colored thick coat along with baggy pants and a pair of shades. Sitting over their head was a hood. Mitsuhiko's eyes narrowed in undeniable suspicion. "What is it, like eighty two degrees out here? They're really over dressed for a day like this."
 
The street light turned red moments later. There was now a decision to make. Gritting his teeth, Mitsuhiko ultimately opted to follow after the stranger instead of crossing to the other side.
 
"I'm sure the others won't mind if I'm a little late."
 
Moving cautiously and maintaining a notable distance Mitsuhiko followed after the person in the coat. What all of this would lead to was anyone's guess. He followed them up one street and down another, crossing roadside a number of two times. How much longer until they were to reach their destination? It was after having that thought come to mind that the person in the coat came to an abrupt stop. Mitsuhiko immediately took coverage behind a mailbox that was near.
 
"They've stopped. Could it be that they've almost reached wherever their going?"
 
Mitsuhiko slowly peeked out from the side of the mail box to monitor their actions. The person of interest was now in the process of observing the surrounding area. "They're obviously looking out to make sure they're not being followed," Mitsuhiko figured.
 
After finding that the coast was clear the person in the coat began walking once more. Not wanting to lose track of them Mitsuhiko followed after them once again. Another minute went by. It was in that time that a construction site came into view. Like they had before the person wearing the coat scoured the area for anyone who could possibly be walking in their tracks. As he had before Mitsuhiko stayed out of sight.
 
"They must be getting close to wherever they're going." Mitsuhiko was sure of this.
 
He continued to look on from where he stood beside a bus stop. A minute passed, then two. They had yet to make a move in that time. "I thought for sure they were going to enter that construction site." Mitsuhiko was surprised they hadn't. Could it be that they were now awaiting the arrival of another?
 
"I need to get in closer." Mitsuhiko took immediate notice of a large truck with a semi-trailer attached alongside the road. "Great, I can use that truck for cover."
 
With his mind now made up he advanced forward. While the back doors to the trailer were open, there was no one around, making ideal for him to wait it out there. After reaching the edge of the truck Mitsuhiko took to a knee before peeking out from behind the large tires.
 
"This is what you call a front row seat." He kept sharp eye on the opposition who stood no more than twenty feet away. Even with as close as he was Mitsuhiko was still unable to make out any defining features of the person he had followed. "What's going on? Why are they just standing there?"
 
That very question would soon be answered. A subtle sound traveled with the soft breeze that blew past, that of footsteps. Someone was coming Mitsuhiko realized. A couple seconds was all it took for someone to emerge from the depths of the construction site. Now in view of clarity was a tall man in a burgundy colored business suit. In his left hand was a silver briefcase.
 
By this point Mitsuhiko's heart was racing. "Now for the moment of truth."
 
"I was watching from the control room, you came early," the man in the business suit noted.
 
The person in the coat simply nodded.
 
"Enough about that. Why don't we get onto business, yes?" from there he raised the briefcase in hand. "I'm sure you're anxious to know what I have for you this time?"
 
What could possibly be inside? Money, drugs of some kind? Those were the two possibilities that registered to mind. The man in the business suit raised the briefcase in hand before making a move to reveal what was inside. What Mitsuhiko came to witness was not what he was expecting. "What is that?" It appeared to be two spray cans that sat beside one another.
 
"Tada! The two newest additions to our perfume brand. Both will suit you well for tonight's occasion out at sea. Tonight will bring retribution full circle."
 
Mitsuhiko was disappointed. Had his suspicious just lead him to a perfume sale?
 
The man in the suit raised the first perfume bottle. "This I simply call, the Sweet Death of Quicksand." Once placed back in its pouch he raised the second. "This beauty I call 'Second Life'."
 
There was nothing worth staying around for in Mitsuhiko's mind. "Alright, it's time to-"
 
Before Mitsuhiko had the chance to leave the man in the three piece suit began walking into his direction. "Come, there's something else I have for you."
 
Mitsuhiko heart began to race. What was he to do? If he ran they would surely see and chase after him. Turning he made a decision based on pressure of the moment. After taking a couple steps back he lunged into the trailer, leaping over a couple of crates to try and get as deep into the truck as he could. Now shielded out of sight he sat in the darkness of the trailer as his heart continued to dash with each taken breath.
 
"Please don't get seen, please don't get seen…"
 
That very thought plunged through his mind several times over. The sound of footsteps outside the walls of the truck could be heard clearly. It wasn't long after that the man from before was heard again.
 
"Here, I've also got something for you to wear." His voice carried from the entryway. A sound was heard in the moments that came, one Mitsuhiko assumed to be the opening of a box. "Here we are. This will fit the occasion perfectly. At long last this chapter in our lives can be put to a rest."
 
What Mitsuhiko heard next made his heart sink. The doors to the trailer slammed shut. "No way! Now I'm trapped."
 
It wasn't until the door was closed that its scent really registered. "What is that smell?" Bleach… Clorox? Why was its presence so strong? Even if it was the smell of product that was to be shipped Mitsuhiko would not expect it to come on this strong. It was almost as if the entire space had been drenched in its strong fume. He took small breaths, not wanting to breathe in the strong scent.
 
What was he to do now? Listening on he could hear as they walked alongside the truck from the outside. What was said between the two from there flew right over his head. The only thing that mattered in his mind was finding a way out of this mess without alarming the two he had just been spying on. Should he try using his phone to reach out to one of his friends?
 
That idea was quickly shot down. "They'll definitely hear me if I make any calls."
 
If not that, there was only one other logical solution in his mind, opening the doors to the back of the trailer himself. Moving quietly he maneuvered his way through the dark, occasionally having his leg bump into some unknown object. In very little time he found himself with his hands pressed against the doors, looking for any kind of handle that could lead to his exit.
 
"Darn it," Mitsuhiko hissed angrily. "It looks like the only way to open this door is from the outside. I'm virtually stuck here unless I let those guys know I'm back here."
 
His eyes began to tear up from the bleach flowing through the air. Mitsuhiko now had a choice to make, to wait it out or to let those on the outside know he was here. The decision was easy in his mind.
 
"I might as well speak up," Mitsuhiko said. "I'll just tell them I ended up back here by accident. I mean, what bad could come of it?"
 
Before Mitsuhiko could act on the decided a sound erupted, that of the trucks engine. "Oh no," Mitsuhiko said in fear. "He must be getting ready to drive off!"
 
With that in mind Mitsuhiko yelled at the top of his lungs. "Hey, there's someone back here! Stop the truck!" The vehicle began to slowly pull forward shortly after. Mitsuhiko's heart was racing even more now. "What, can you not hear me?!"
 
He tried again. "Hello, I'm stuck back here! Can you hear me, can anyone hear me?!" Like before, no one responded. Could it be that they really couldn't hear him? There was only one option remaining. "Looks like I have no choice but to call someone."
 
The question then became, who? "If I call my mom I have no doubt she would be angered by these circumstances." Mitsuhiko gulped at the dreaded thought of having to explain his current predicament to her. "I'd probably be better off calling Dr. Agasa."
 
Mitsuhiko nearly lost his balance as the vehicle began to pick up in speed. He made the quick decision of taking a seat against the closed doors. Now sitting in place he held up his phone to make an unexpected discovery. "You've got to be kidding me! No signal, really?!"
 
Should he be alarmed by this. Mitsuhiko lowered the phone back to his side in despair. "Well, it looks like all I can do now is, wait." He slouched downward as frustration began to emerge. "I can't believe I got myself into this mess."
 
….
 
Kaito laid atop his bed deep in thought. The weekend was now upon him. The question was, what was he to do in the next few days? The Revenant warrior statues, the Riddler, the Royal Flash Gang, and above all, Batman. Would the Riddler strike again? Should he make the next move in luring the Royal Flush Gang out once more, or should he wait for them to play their next card. Then there was Batman, could it be that Gotham's dark knight still wished to track him? If so that would be something else to account for.
 
"Decisions, decisions, decisions," Kaito repeated as he laid his hands to the back of his head. Shortly thereafter his phone sitting on his desk beside the bed began ringing. Moderately irritated by the fact his thoughts were interrupted Kaito rolled his eyes as he sat up to reach for it. "Who is it now?"
 
Raising the phone to eye he came to find who was calling. "Oh.. it's just Aoko." Slouching back onto the bed Kaito brought the phone to his ear before answering. "What do you want now?"
 
"What do you mean what do I want?" Aoko retorted. "Where are you, I've been waiting for you."
 
"Waiting for me?"
 
"Yes, at the train station. Remember, we have to catch the train to Osaka. That's where the cruise ship will be departing from that you so confidently agreed that you would be joining me on," Aoko reminded.
 
Kaito's eyes widened as he shot up from where he laid. "Wait, that's today?! I thought the cruise wasn't until tomorrow evening."
 
"I only told you like six times the cruise was Friday. Which you know happens to be today."
 
Kaito couldn't help but laugh. "Oops, my bad."
 
"Never mind that, hurry up and get down here," Aoko said. "If we want to make it in time for the ships departure we need to catch the train to Osaka that leaves at four fifty."
 
Kaito looked to his clock across the room. "That's less than twenty minutes from now."
 
"Still plenty of time for you to get here. See you soon," Aoko said before choosing to hang up.
 
"Great," said Kaito who lowered the phone to his side. "Now instead of focusing on my next move I get to go on some lame cruise… fun."
 
….
 
The doorbell rang. Conan who was the closest to the door walked over and opened it. As expected his classmates were on the other side. "Hey guys," Conan greeted. "Come on in."
 
"You don't have to ask me twice," replied Genta who was the first to accept.
 
Ayumi followed in right after him. Conan then realized the absence of a certain someone. "Hey, where's Mitsuhiko?" Conan asked.
 
"He's not here yet?" Ayumi questioned.
 
"I thought for sure he had beaten us here," Genta added.
 
"It's no big deal. I'm sure he'll be here soon." Conan was sure of this.
 
"Drinks for everyone," announced Hiroshi who stepped into the room with four cups in hand.
 
"Great, I am a little thirsty," admitted Genta.
 
"Me too," said Ayumi as the two headed toward Hiroshi.
 
Conan took one final look out the doorway. There was still no sign of Mitsuhiko. "It's nothing to worry about, he'll be here soon," Conan thought to himself as he closed the door.
 
 
How much time passed since Mitsuhiko had found himself in this unexpected situation? The battery to his phone had burned out a time ago, so he was uncertain of what the current time was. There was only one thought on his mind, how was he to get out of this situation? Given that the door could only be unlocked from the outside and he had no way of calling anyone, he'd have to wait for the owner of the truck to unlock it.
 
Mitsuhiko rested his head to the wall of the truck as he stared off into the darkness, not focusing in on anything particular. "My parents are going to be so mad." He dreaded the thought of having to face them, especially after not checking in after such an extended period of time.
 
Since being trapped in the storage area of the truck Mitsuhiko felt as if he had been drenched in the strong scent of Clorox. His eyes had since seized watering, though his dried tears could subtly be felt upon his eye pouches. He leaned forward. "I've been sitting for so long." He felt the need to get up. Mitsuhiko cautiously stood to his feet, given that the truck was still moving the last thing he wanted to do was lose his footing. "Let's see, I think I have a flashlight here somewhere."
 
Reaching a hand into his left pocket Mitsuhiko found what he was looking for. "There it is. Now to have a look around." Using the light to guide his path Mitsuhiko began his search. Moving from one end of the trailer to the other he occasionally placed a hand on top of a box to maintain balance. "Everything seems to be sealed. I guess I won't be able to find out what is being shipped inside thes-"
 
The truck came to a sudden stop, one which resulted in Mitsuhiko losing his balance. He immediately fell to the ground before rolling and crashing into a large crate that had been leaned against the wall. "Ouuo! That hurt!" he yelped before reaching for the top of his head. Not a second later the crate he had made contact with began to slide forward. "Uh, oh."
 
Mitsuhiko made an instant move to lunge out of the way as the crate came toppling down. It landed with a loud thump, one which resulted in its top falling off. "Phew, that was close." Mitsuhiko was most relived. Tracking his flashlight that had traveled a couple feet away he aimed it into the direction of where the crate had fallen. "I wonder what's inside."
 
Stepping around a couple boxes he walked over. Nothing could have prepared him for what he would come to discover. Aiming the projection of the light downward Mitsuhiko felt as if his heart skipped a beat. "Yo..you've got to be kidding me." There lying on the ground was the naked body of someone who was lying face down. What followed was a strong odor of familiarity, one that brought confirmation of his deepest fear. "They.. They're dead.."
 
What did this mean?
 
 
Gotham, Wayne Enterprises
 
It was business as usual.
 
"Will this be far enough sir?"
 
Bruce nodded in return. "Yes, this will be fine Alfred."
 
After the vehicle was parked Bruce stepped out. "Good luck with today's affairs Master Bruce. If there is anything that you may need please don't hesitate to call."
 
"I'll be in touch," Bruce replied before beginning his journey toward the building. He listened on as the Alfred drove off. As Bruce came within range of the front entrance the doorman waved, he did the same as he always did when coming in.
 
"Welcome back Mr. Wayne," greeted the doorman.
 
Bruce nodded. "Of course." Now inside he strolled past the main lobby, heading straight for the elevator clear across the way. As he walked he couldn't help but overhear the conversation between the desk clerk and someone who stood on the other side of the counter. "What's going on over there?"
 
Curious, Bruce walked over.
 
"Sir, listen if you would like an audience with Mr. Wayne you'll have to schedule an appointment," the clerk conveyed.
 
"I need to speak with him now! My travels have brought me from a faraway place you see, and I do not wish to wait any longer," the man explained. "This matter I come with is a problem that we're both intertwined in, Wayne-sama and myself that is."
 
"I'm sorry sir, but meeting with Mr. Wayne is through scheduled appointments only," the clerk repeated. "Now if you would like me to set up an appointment for you I'd be more than willi-"
 
"That won't be necessary," announced Bruce who joined the pair.
 
"M.. ," said the desk clerk who was surprised to see him. "It's not even six. I wasn't expecting you in until later this morning."
 
"I thought I'd come in early and get a few things prepared before today's board meeting at nine," to which Bruce replied. He then turned focus on the visitor. "And who is our guest?"
 
The man who sought to speak with Bruce faced him. "Bruce Wayne, the Prince of Gotham himself." He held out his hand. "The pleasure is mine."
 
Bruce shook his hand in return. "I overheard a little of your conversation. You mentioned some problem we're both intertwined in."
 
"Yes, that's right," the man standing before him replied as he released the hold.
 
"Who are you, and what is this concern you wish to bring to my attention?" Bruce asked.
 
"Yes, introductions are always needed before business can be discussed. I am Jirokichi Suzuki," the man relayed. "And the problem I speak of revolves around a certain thief, one I'm sure you're familiar with, Kaitou Kid."
 
To Be Continued

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Lightest of Nights: A Deck of Minds
 
Chapter 25
 
Paths Crossed
 
Conan stood by window side, staring up at the sky that gradually darkened. The voices of his friends carried from the near distance. What they said didn't register. There was only one thing on his mind. "Mitsuhiko.. where are you?"
 
Nearly an hour had passed since the others arrived. Lowering his head Conan raised his phone in hand. He had yet to receive a message from Mitsuhiko. This was concerning. Of their group, Mitsuhiko was the last one he'd expect this from.
 
"Conan," Genta called. When he didn't respond Genta tried for a second time. "Yo Conan, you ok?"
 
Conan finally acknowledging him stepped away from the window. "I'm fine," assured Conan. Strolling over, he took a seat in an empty chair left of everyone else. "I was just thinking is all."
 
"You're worried about Tsuburaya-kun," Haibara noted. There was no hiding this fact.
 
Conan didn't try and deny it. "Have any of you heard back from him?"
 
"I haven't," replied Genta.
 
"Me either," said Ayumi.
 
"I wouldn't worry about it. He might just be busy," Haibara assumed.
 
"That wouldn't explain why he hasn't at least called to let us know that," Conan responded.
 
Haibara took a deep breath. "Everything doesn't have to be some big mystery that needs to be solved. It could simply be that he is away from his phone right now."
 
Even if just a little, this comforted Conan. "Maybe she's right, maybe I am overthinking the whole situation."
 
"Hey, why don't we go to the park?" suggested Genta. "There's still plenty of time before it gets dark."
 
"Seconded!" said Ayumi cheerfully.
 
"For what?" Conan asked.
 
"To play ball of course," answered Genta.
 
"You know, that doesn't sound like a bad idea." Conan then looked toward Ai. "What do you say Haibara? You want to join us?"
 
Ai shrugged. "I don't see why not."
 
The four then made their way toward the front door.
 
They didn't get far before hearing his voice. "Conan-kun, there's something I'd like to show you before you depart," Hiroshi called from where he sat in front of the computer.
 
"You guys go on ahead, I'll catch up," Conan said to his friends before making way over to Agasa. He stopped after reaching his side. "What is it doc?"
 
Hiroshi shifted in the chair before delivering the news. "The results of the scan are in," Hiroshi informed. "From the DNA I collected from you, and the saliva samples I pulled from the glass cups for Ayumi-chan and Genta-kun."
 
Conan was not only pleased to hear this, but anxious. "So?"
 
"The fear toxin, like what was present in Ai-chan's system." Hiroshi paused. "Like her, I detected traces of it in all three of you as well."
 
There was a mixture of emotions. Was he surprised? Not entirely. How did they come in contact with the substance? When? The possibilities began coursing through his mind. He could only assume the same was true for Mitsuhiko.
 
"Shinichi, aren't you going to say something?" Hiroshi questioned.
 
There was one question above all others Conan wished to know. "Why?"
 
Hiroshi looked at him curiously. "I beg your pardon?"
 
"Haibara was affected. What about the rest of us?" Conan knew an answer wouldn't come easy. "Why didn't we feel the effects?"
 
"That is the question, isn't it?" Like Conan, Hiroshi was just as clueless on that front. There had to be a reason, but what?
 
 
Gotham, Wayne Enterprises
 
"I can't thank you enough for agreeing to have this meeting with me on such short notice," said Jirokichi.
 
Bruce who took lead as they traveled through the long halls stopped upon reaching a certain door. "This is it." Bruce opened the door, stepping aside as if to invite Jirokichi in. "Welcome to my office."
 
Nodding, Jirokichi accepted the invitation in. The first thing that caught his sight was the large windows, ones which provided a view of the entirety of the city. Trotting over, Jirokichi placed his arms behind his back. "Absolutely magnificent."
 
The point of view, the colors, the wide range of structures, it was all so.. breath taking. Looking down upon an entire empire is what it felt like.
 
"It is quite the view." Bruce couldn't agree anymore. He pressed on toward the large desk across the way, taking a seat after reaching it. "You wished to discuss business, so shall we?"
 
Jirokichi stepped away from window-side. "Yes, I won't let the view detract me from why I've traveled all the way here." Jirokichi walked over and took a seat in the chair directly across from Bruce.
 
"Back in the lobby, you mentioned Kaitou Kid," Bruce said. "From the limited knowledge I have about you one thing is notable, your long list of encounters with that thief. You two certainly have a lengthy history, don't you?"
 
This caught Jirokichi by surprise. "So you have heard of me? Well I'll be damned, my reputation precedes me. Well since you have that much knowledge then I don't really need to explain who I am, or even why I'm here." Slightly leaning forward Jirokichi went on. "I'd wager you've already determined that."
 
"Kaitou Kid stole from the Gotham Museum days ago, and then just yesterday took an item from the art show I had put together from here," Bruce noted. "In both cases the Wayne security that had been set up was bypassed."
 
"Kid eluded the police and myself at the Midtown Tower as well," Jirokichi added. "And not just last night, but for years now."
 
"Double jeopardy at its finest," remarked Bruce. "Onto the matter at hand; am I right to assume what you seek is an open hand for a partnership?"
 
"The last two places Kaitou Kid has hit have been linked to you in some form or fashion."
 
"And you believe that trend will continue?"
 
".. That is yet to be seen."
 
Bruce eased back in seat. "I must ask.. what is it you want from me? How would a partnership between us prove beneficial?"
 
"My initiative and deep knowledge on Kaitou Kid's habits coupled in with the technology you hold at your disposal is a match that can't be overcome." Jirokichi seemed confident in stating this. "I took some time to look at some of the branches of your company, Wayne Technologies and the Wayne Electronics caught my eye in particular. So Wayne-sama, how do you feel about taking up the challenge of capturing one of the world's greatest thieves?"
 
Bruce eased up, resting his chin atop his hands that had been placed together. Nothing was said for seconds. Jirokichi was unsure of what to make of this. "Wayne-sama?"
 
Bruce stood to his feet. "For starters, no need to be so formal Mr. Suzuki. Call me Bruce."
 
"Bruce, yes, of course."
 
"And to answer your question.." Bruce now looked him dead in the eyes. "I think it is high due time that Kaitou Kid was apprehended."
 
Jirokichi couldn't hold back a smile. "I'm over joyed to know we're on the same page."
 
"You do understand Mr. Suzuki that I will be unable to travel back to Tokyo with you at this time?" Bruce voiced.
 
"Yes, your position here I'd imagine would prohibit such an action." Jirokichi fully understood. "Besides, you also have a charity event you're hosting later this week; No doubt that holds high importance."
 
"So you're aware?"
 
"I happened to come across the tabloid on my way to this very building."
 
Bruce smiled as he proceeded to have a seat once more. "Even with all that said I'd like for us to keep a close.. hand in our efforts for catching Kid."
 
"And how do you propose we do that Bruce-san?" asked Jirokichi who gave a grin of his own. "We live worlds apart."
 
"I'd like to send someone for you to closely work with on my behalf, an associate, a close ally of mine if you will," conveyed Bruce. "They would help oversee any operation we put together, serving as the physical presence in Japan that I can't be on a consistent basis. Of course it will be someone who if familiar with the tech that I have to offer."
 
Jirokichi's grin widened. "I like the way you think."
 
"Then it appears we have an agreement," replied Bruce who held out his hand.
 
Jirokichi firmly shook his hand. "Let's call that a checkmate."
 
And just like that a new partnership was formed.
 
…..
 
Tokyo, Japan
 
Panic? No, there was no time for that. Mitsuhiko's body was now shaking. Fear resided, but he would not let that overcome him.
 
"So I have no idea where I'm going, check. I have no way out of this truck, check. Oh, and there's also a dead body, check."
 
Mitsuhiko had since focused his attention away from the body. It was that moment that the thought occurred to him. 'I'm a detective'.
 
In some strange way he felt obligated to investigate the situation at hand. "What would Conan do?" That very thought streamed through his mind. Mitsuhiko gulped, shivering as he reached for his flashlight once more. Forcing himself back to his feet he shined the light's beam into the direction of the body. He took a deep breath. "Alright Mitsuhiko, you can do this."
 
Stepping around a set of boxes the body was back in view. There was no stopping now. It felt as if his legs became weaker with every taken step. Mitsuhiko stopped after reaching the body. He was frozen in place. The thought of his friends came over him, leading to his hand tightening around the flashlight in hand.
 
"I have to do this."
 
Mitsuhiko lowered himself to a knee. Now with a clear view of the body it was time to begin. "Ok, fi.. first I need to check the temperature of the body."
 
Even with the strong scent of bleach the truck had been doused with, there was no denying the smell of death. Mitsuhiko reached forward, his hand making contact with a strand of long shoulder length hair. "Dark brown," said Mitsuhiko taking note of the gathered detail. Using his index finger he pushed the hair aside before pressing his hand against the deceased's neck. The body was cold, hard. "From what I can tell they've been dead for at least twenty four hours. How much more than that I can't say." What was the cause of death? That was the top question to be asked. Using the lights ray Mitsuhiko searched all boundaries of the body. No wounds, nothing to suggest foul play as far as he could tell.
 
"There has to be something to go off of," said Mitsuhiko who stood back to his feet. He now looked over the body from a different vantage point. Based from the physique of the body he assumed the victim to be male. There wasn't any glaring details or features on the body such as a tattoo or scar to make for any further determinations. "Even with all that, I still know little to nothing. Think Mitsuhiko, think."
 
The young detective took a step back. "Conan once said, if the body doesn't tell the story then perhaps the scene of the crime will." Mitsuhiko then went on to focus his attention on the surrounding area. "I doubt whatever happened to this guy happened here. If I had to take a guess, if he was killed it would have been somewhere else and then his body was brought here to.. wait, that's it!"
 
Mitsuhiko turned in every direction to have his thought confirmed. Fear and fret had blinded him from realizing sooner. No matter where he looked there were boxes and crates to be found everywhere. "Now I see, the driver of this truck must work for some kind of shipping company." Wanting to be sure of this he began looking over each and every box. Sure enough, each of them had a label, showing they were destined to reach a certain location.
 
Somehow Mitsuhiko managed a smile through it all. "There's also the bleach. It is clear they were trying to hide the smell of the decaying body," He determined. Mitsuhiko's focus then fell back to the former. "Hold on a sec, if all these boxes have a label, then the crate the body was hidden in must have one as well."
 
Mitsuhiko immediately looked back into the direction of the body. "If I can find out where the body is supposed to end up at, then perhaps I'll have a deeper understanding for what is going on."
 
Even with that said, there was still so much that was unknown. Mitsuhiko made his return to the side of the body. Once there he turned his focus on the boxed shipment the body had been sealed in. A mere couple seconds was all it took for Mitsuhiko to notice a shipment label attached on the side of the large crate.
 
"Let's see here." Holding the light steadily Mitsuhiko went on to read what was printed on the label. "End in Uji, rebirth in Bay." He read over it a number of six times, and with each there was not much to make of it.
 
"Unlike the labels on the others packages, this one doesn't even have an address attached to it," stated Mitsuhiko. "Just some random words. Is it an inside message of some kind?"
 
Mitsuhiko thought back to the events that had led him to this moment. The suspicious person in the coat, the man they met up with at the construction site. "Wait a minute.." Mitsuhiko didn't put much stock into their words before, but now with the dead body.. could it be there was something alarming in their conversation that he had failed to consider?
 
"The man in the suit mentioned retribution would come in full circle tonight, is he taking revenge on someone?" Mitsuhiko began shaking at the thought of the possibility. "That could mean another killing."
 
He couldn't allow that. "What a lousy time for me to be separated from Conan and the oth-" Mitsuhiko stopped. Something unexpected happened at that moment. The truck came to a complete halt, with it bringing the stop of the vehicles engine. Mitsuhiko's eyes fired wide. "He stopped, which means there's a good chance he'll come back here. That's not good!"
 
There was only one thing on his mind. "I have to hide!" As he had before, Mitsuhiko made haste to the far end of the trailer, taking position behind a number of boxes as he turned off his flashlight. He sat in silence, listening to the sound of the passing vehicles on the outside. A sound was heard soon after, one which echoed throughout the entire trailer.
 
There was no mistaking what it was. "Someone's opening the trailer doors." Mitsuhiko's heart began racing as it had before.
 
Light from the outside charged in the moment the doors were opened. "It's time to begin." There was no mistaking who the voice belonged to, it was the man in the business suit from before. Following the claimed, the sound of him hopping into the trailer was clearly heard.
 
Mitsuhiko tightly closed his eyes as he braced for all outcomes. "Please don't let him see me. It can't end like this!"
 
Movement was heard, he was clearly moving deeper into the trailer. "He's getting closer.." Mitsuhiko was dead frozen. He knew the slightest of movement could very well give away his position. All sound seized in an instant, it could only mean one thing in Mitsuhiko's mind. "The body."
 
Uproar unleashed. "What the hell!" Silence followed. The body had clearly been discovered. Did he believe the body falling from its seal was the work of someone's direct actions? "Hmmm. I'll have to drive more carefully next time. The poor bloke must have fallen out during one of those intersection turns."
 
Mitsuhiko breathed a sigh of relief. "Phew, just my luck."
 
"I better get this all wrapped up, can't have a great show without a sparkling beginning," the man spoke one again. "If I'm not mistaken, still have some of that wire in the passenger seat. I'll go and grab some of that to make sure the body is tightly secure this time."
 
As before, Mitsuhiko listened as he exited the trailer. There was no way of putting it. If there was ever a time to make a move it was now. "He's gone, this is my chance."
 
Swallowing all fear Mitsuhiko jumped to his feet. Leaping out from behind the boxes that had shielded him he proceeded to race forward, jumping over one obstacle after another. Excitement kicked in as the exit came well within his range. "I'm home free!"
 
With one final launch Mitsuhiko glided out from the depths of the trailer, landing onto the hard pavement that waited. Mitsuhiko didn't stop there, spotting a large garbage bin a few feet away he continued running until he managed to find cover behind it. His heart continued to race. Had he been heard? Had he been seen?
 
Where was he now? Looking to the surrounding area there was no mistaking it, the truck had been backed into an alley. Turning his head slowly Mitsuhiko peeked out from the side of the garbage-can. There was no one in pursuit. He breathed out in relief.
 
The man dressed in the burgundy colored suit returned a short time later. Now in his right hand was a long strand of wire, in his other hand was a phone he held to ear, clearly conversing with someone. Mitsuhiko could only assume the carried wire would be the one he would use to secure the body back in the large crate it had fallen out of. As he had before, the man in the business suit hopped back into the trailer. Mitsuhiko patiently maintained his position, keeping lookout for what would happen next.
 
Over a minute passed. In that time Mitsuhiko caught eye of something printed on the side of the truck, a line of bold print which read; 'Travelway'. "So this guy works for Travelway." Mitsuhiko was able to determine.
 
Time continued to pass. "He still hasn't come out," Mitsuhiko spoke softly. "What could be the hold up?"
 
After having that thought come to mind the man reappeared, dragging what appeared to be the same large crate the body of the deceased had been in before. Once he neared the edge the individual in the burgundy suit dropped back down to ground level before turning immediate attention to the watch on his left wrist.
 
"What's he doing now?" Mitsuhiko wondered. "Is he waiting for someone?"
 
A minute passed, then two. Who or what could he possibly be waiting for? That question would soon be answered. Left of the large truck a dark figure was spotted, one that was heading directly toward them. "Someone's coming."
 
As they neared Mitsuhiko was able to get a clearer view of them. It was a man who was wearing a top hat and a black colored suit, with him he dragged along what appeared to be a large electronic wagon of sorts. Why the wagon? Was he a business man looking to sell?
 
The man in the burgundy colored suit turned eye to the gentlemen who approached, smiling as he did. "I take it you're the Stevedore who has been sent to collect the package?"
 
"Stevedore? Isn't that someone who loads and unloads trains, trucks, airplanes, and ships?" Mitsuhiko was sure of this.
 
"Yes, I'm the one they sent," confirmed the Stevedore. "Where is the package you need loaded to the ship?"
 
He swayed his head in the direction of the trailer. "Right over here." He led the Stevedore to the edge of the truck before stopping. "It's a little heavy, so allow me to help you lift it down into those wheels of yours."
 
"Of course," replied the Stevedore.
 
The pair then went on to grab hold of the crate that was now wrapped in packaging wire. Pulling forward, the two carefully lowered the package into the wagon. "There we go. Will there be anything else?"
 
"Yes. For record purposes I'm going to need you to sign here," replied the Stevedore who went on to hand him a clip board and pen he had stashed inside his jacket.
 
After signing the paperwork the two exchanged a final nod before the Stevedore turned back for the direction he had come. Closing the doors to the trailer the man in the business suit evilly smiled. "Yes, everything is going according to plan." Following the stated he walked back to the driver side of the vehicle before proceeding to enter the truck.
 
If one thing was clear, his business here was completed. The question now became, what was Mitsuhiko to do next? "I have to follow that Stevedore," the kid detective declared. "I need to know where he is taking that body, and if there is another killing that is supposed to happen tonight.. I will prevent it. Whatever is going to happen, I have a feeling that body will be at the center of it."
 
The Travelway truck started up moments later, Mitsuhiko stepped out from behind the garbage can after it had completely turned the corner. The mission couldn't be any clearer Mitsuhiko thought as his eyes locked onto the Stevedore who was now a distance away. "I won't let him out of my sight, no matter what." With that Mitsuhiko fell in pursuit of the Stevedore.
 
….
 
The premises had been completely searched, from the inside out. Not once, but twice. Yet.. Miwako felt no closer to the truth than before she had entered. She now found herself seated across from Kiyonaga which felt like the tenth time this week. He looked at her curiously, patiently waiting for what she would reveal.
 
"So, what did you find at the Sunshine residence?" Kiyonaga finally went on to ask.
 
Miwako who stared down at the surface of the desk raised her head, her eyes meeting his. "There wasn't much, nothing that really tells a story." The disappointment in her voice could not be denied.
 
Kiyonaga felt differently. "No matter how little there may have been there's always a story to find." The superintendent nodded. "Now tell me, what did you find?"
 
Miwako rehashed every small detail in mind that there was to account for. "The yard itself was in well condition. If I had to take a guess I'd say the lawn had been mowed within the last week." There was a pause. "It was strange.. the opposite seemed to be true on the inside."
 
"What do you mean?"
 
"While the outside of the house heavily implied someone lived there, the inside made it seem as if someone may have recently moved out," Miwako stated. "Throughout the entire one floor home there was only one table, which was located in the dining room area."
 
"What else?"
 
"There were three sets of curtains, two that blocked the windows in the front of the house with the third accounting for the windows located at the back of the house." Miwako didn't stop there. "We checked all cabinets, nothing. We checked all kitchen drawers, empty. The one bathroom there was had none of the usual supplements you would expect to find either."
 
"I see." Kiyonaga was now getting a picture for everything. "You've spoken of what wasn't, what about what you did find."
 
"Oh, yes. For starters we came across a set of playing cards that was on top of the table I mentioned before," Miwako informed. "They have since been sent to the lab to test for finger prints."
 
"What condition was the deck of cards in when you found them? Were they laid out across the table or stacked?"
 
"Stacked," to which Miwako replied. "There was something else I came across; a single receipt which was found in the trash can beside the table."
 
"And the purchase?"
 
"The receipt was for a Kamen Yaiba show.. though, there wasn't a date attached for which showing," Miwako reported. "It could have been a receipt for one that already occurred or for one that will play soon."
 
"…."
 
"There was one last thing we found, one jug of milk sitting in the fridge with an expiration date that will be reached this Sunday," continued Miwako.
 
"Was that the only item in the fridge?"
 
Miwako nodded. "Yes, it was. Like the receipt and deck of cards, it is currently in the lab being tested for finger prints."
 
He found this to be strange. "Good work Sato."
 
"Thank you Superintendent." Miwako then stood up from where she was seated. "If any new information comes to light I will make sure you're informed."
 
"I'll be here."
 
Following that Miwako made way for the exit. Would light soon shine on the mystery of the unknown?
 
….
 
This was it, what he had been sent for. Damian strolled across the deck of the ship, stopping after reaching the rail on the far end. He stared down at the calm waves that pressed against the ship. "According to the tracer father planted, the materials for creating Crane's toxin are aboard this ship. One of two things is going to happen." Two possible scenarios ran in mind. "A. the one looking to make the pickup will be waiting at the finish line of this ships adventure. B. the person who has been given responsibility of collecting the materials will be aboard this ship, and look to make a move during the duration of the cruise."
 
With both possibilities accounted for, there was only one thing left to determine. If someone aboard tonight's cruise was to make a move on Crane's substance, who would it be? That was something Damian would need to figure out, sooner rather than later. "According to the online guest list I was able to pull, there will be a total number of twenty nine people, including the captain and the rest of the staff."
 
He would definitely have his work cut out for him. "I'll wait until everyone has boarded before I launch my investigation in full."
 
Damian caught eye of someone who stepped up from the left, joining him at rail-side.
 
"Beautiful view, wouldn't you say kid?" the tall man who now stood beside him spoke. "It doesn't get any better than this."
 
The man then went on to place his hands atop the railing, leaning slightly forward as if to expand his view of the sight to behold. It was that moment that Damian noticed a mark on the center of the man's right hand, a tattoo."
 
"Is that supposed to be a moon?" wondered Damian.
 
It wasn't long before the large man noticed Damian had taken an eye to his ink. "It's a Waxing Crescent," he conveyed. "Which is-"
 
"The first phase to come after a New Moon," interjected Damian who turned to walk away.
 
"You know your stuff."
 
"That wouldn't be inaccurate."
 
"See you around kid," the man waved.
 
Damian continued to stroll away, not stopping until he reached center deck. "I'd best make a trip to the storage room, it would be wise to set up surveillance, that way I can investigate things from the surface while keeping tabs on what's going on down there."
 
Damian had studied the ships blueprints before boarding, so he knew where the storage room was. "I'll have to keep a look-out; the last thing I want is for anyone to catch on for what I'm going to do."
 
Damian hands sunk into his pocket as he walked once more. There was a door on the far end of the ship, one which would lead him to the lower levels. He was cautious; making sure no one was looking before he opened the door. After stepping to the other side he tightly closed the door behind him. Things were going according to plan.
 
"Now to visit the storage room."
 
From there Damian made his way down a fleet of stairs. The many scenarios that could possibly occur ran through his mind. He would prepare for anything that could be deemed unexpected. After short a short time the final step was reached. Damian then went on to draw focus to the set of blue prints in hand.
 
"If I go straight and then take a right followed by a left I should reach the storage room in no time." With that in mind Damian pressed on. The first intersection was reached, he slowly peeked his head around the right corner to find two staff members locked in conversation. "Damn, just my luck."
 
Sticking to the plan of not wanting to get seen Damian opted to instead go left. He moved quickly, not wanting to be spotted by the pair who was near. Once he reached the end of the hall he turned right, given that was the only option available to him. He then referenced the sheet once more.
 
"If I go all the way down this hall and take another right that should take me to where I want to be." He went on to lower the sheet in hand. "Short or long route, I will get to that storage room."
 
Commotion from the deck above could be heard as he pressed on. The boarding process was clearly now underway. Damian followed what was shown on the sheet. Within a minutes time he stopped after reaching a certain point. "This should be it," said Damian who looked at the door he now stood in front of. He pressed his ear against the door. There was nothing to hear on the other side. "The coast is clear."
 
Turning the knob the boy wonder forced the door open, quietly closing it after doing so. The area was large, spanning at least twenty five yards from one end to the other from his estimation. "It would be wise to set up the camera in range of the box Scarecrow's goods are in," Damian stated. With that in mind he pulled out his phone. "Now, let's see where the tracer's signal leads me."
 
Now with the signal on lock Damian made a move for the left side of the room. "The package is over there somewhere." He took but a mere to steps before stopping. There was a sound, one that came from nearby. "What was that?"
 
Triggered, Damian was now on high alert. Was he being watched? Could it be that he was just hearing things? No, he was certain he had heard something. He turned to the right, his sights immediately falling in line with a lone barrel. There was something suspicious about it. In what way he couldn't say. "Hmmmm.." Damian's eyes narrowed as he pressed forward.
 
Upon reaching the barrel Damian pushed it over to have his suspicions confirmed. The barrel slammed to the ground as its top rolled across the room.
 
"Ouuhhww!" someone shrieked from inside.
 
Damian stepped back as he watched someone slowly crawl out past several enclosed packages that had been inside the barrel as well, to his ultimate surprise it was someone he recognized. "You're that kid from Teitan Elementary, Tsuburaya right?"
 
"Damian-kun!" replied Mitsuhiko who was just as surprised to see him. Rubbing the side of his head he stood to his feet.
 
"What are you doing on this ship, let alone hiding in a barrel of all places?"
 
"I, ummm.." Mitsuhiko froze. Should he tell him the truth? The truth about the body of the dead man he had come to cross along with all details that had lead him to this point? No, surely Damian would freak out and in turn ruin his investigation. "Well, you see.."
 
Damian who was becoming impatient crossed his arms. "Come on, get on with it already."
 
"My friends and I, we were.. playing hide and seek," Mitsuhiko smilingly fibbed. "Yah, that's it."
 
Damian blinked an eye. He wasn't convinced in the least. "Playing hide and seek where? Surely you didn't choose to stay in that barrel from Tokyo all the way to Osaka? And why would you choose to remain in the barrel when you could clearly feel that you were being carried away."
 
Stunned, Mitsuhiko was uncertain on how to respond to the inquired.
 
"I see you've realized there are more holes in your story than the sinking titanic." Damian went on to lower his arms down to his side. "So, how about telling me the truth for why you were hiding in the barrel?"
 
Mitsuhiko's hands were now tingling. What was he to say? Before he had a chance to respond, things were only going to get more complicated. Unexpectedly the door to the storage room flew open. Now standing before them was a man who looked each of them over, he then shed eye to the product that lied on the ground that had been stashed away in the barrel. "What? What are you kids doing with my shipment?!" he yelled.
 
"Th.. that was yours?" fretted Mitsuhiko.
 
"Your damn right it is!" he shouted angrily. "Now I'm not going to ask again, so I better get an answer! What are you kids doing with my-"
 
He would be cut off by another. "Trogg, there is no need to exert yourself so," someone softly spoke from the darkness of the hall.
 
Damian's heart began racing. "That voice.. could it be?"
 
Footsteps followed, ones heavy in impact. To his ultimate fear Damian's prediction walked into absolute clarity as the six foot eight man entered the storage room. "After all amigo, it's merely a child and a little bird," stated the newcomer who stared directly at Damian.
 
Tightening his fists Damian went on to hiss his name. "Bane.."
 
To Be Continued

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Lightest of Nights: A Deck of Minds
 
Chapter 26
 
Guest List
 
First the fear toxin, then Riddler, and now.. now him? Damian couldn't believe it. There was no way this could be coincidence, could it?
 
Trogg turned to the man that now stood behind him, a questioning look prevalent on his face. "You sure about this, don't you want me to-"
 
"Unnecessary," rejected Bane. "A matter such as this doesn't call for such action. You may see yourself out Trogg."
 
"But boss." Trogg would be cut off for a second time.
 
"I don't plan on dismissing you for a third time, go." The command in Bane's voice was powerful.
 
"I.. yes, of course." Making his way by Trogg exited.
 
This left just the three of them. Mitsuhiko turned focus to the items that had fallen out of the barrel he had inside. Walking over he picked up each and everything that had scattered back into the barrel. After doing so he sat the barrel back up. In that moment Mitsuhiko's eyes popped. "There it is!" The very crate that had led him to this point was sitting in the far right corner of the room, stashed behind several other shipments.
 
There was something strange, something that didn't sit quite right. "The strong odor I smelled while in the back of that truck, how come I can't smell it anymore? The body is just over there, so shouldn't we be able to smell it?"
 
Damian glanced over at him in the seconds that followed. "What is it?" questioned Mitsuhiko after noticing this.
 
"Would you mind waiting outside?"
 
Mitsuhiko pointed to himself. "You want me to wait outside?"
 
"I'm certain you're the only one standing next to me," Damian pointed out. "Who else could I possibly be talking to? Your imaginary friend?"
 
"I don't have a.."Mitsuhiko paused. "Forget it." Turning in the direction of the doorway he gulped upon sighting the large man that stood in wait.
 
When Mitsuhiko didn't immediately begin walking Damian gave him a push. "The door isn't going to come to you."
 
"I know that," muttered Mitsuhiko. He pressed on, his legs feeling as if they were weakening with each taken step, almost as if he was walking through an endless swamp of mud. The closer he got, the faster his heart raced. He took one look at Bane before swinging his head elsewhere. "Gee, that is one big guy! I'd hate to get on his bad side."
 
As Mitsuhiko came within inches of Bane he began to shiver. He glanced up at him for a second time, bringing about a fear he only got when coming across that of death. Mitsuhiko managed to look away, hurrying along after stepping past him. After reaching the door Mitsuhiko breathed a sigh of relief. He looked in the direction of the crate for a final time. "I will solve this mystery, no matter what." From there Mitsuhiko stepped out of the room. This left just the two of them. Many seconds passed, not a word.
 
Damian took the liberty of delivering the first line. "Well."
 
"Well," to which Bane responded.
 
Damian knew he would have to choose his next words carefully. There was no way he could afford confrontation, especially not against someone like Bane without the assistance of any of the others. Maintaining a look of confidence Damian strolled over, coming within feet of him in short time. "I would have never expected to cross you while on my travels," Damian admitted.
 
"Likewise."
 
Damian's sights fell to the ground momentarily. Twitching an eye Bane grunted; he was becoming impatient. Damian faced him once more. "What are you doing in Japan? And on a cruiser of all places? Admittedly, I never took you for a vacationer Bane."
 
"I'm not obligated nor will I answer to the likes of you," Bane scoffed. "You will however tell me what you're doing aboard this ship, I don't believe in unwanted coincidence to this level."
 
Damian went on to cross his arms over his chest. "And if I don't?"
 
Leaning forward Bane closed the distance between them. "Listen here chico, I'm going to ask one thing of you and I'm only going to ask it once. Stay out of my things and out of my way, clear? That goes for your camarada as well."
 
"You don't intimidate me," Damian retorted.
 
Bane grinned. "You're alone. What hope would you have against me?"
 
"What makes you so sure I'm alone?"
 
"I have surveillance installed in certain locations on this ship, one being this storage room," Bane relayed. "Did you really think it was coincidence that I tailed you down here so soon after you arrived? And from the footage I've gathered I know you've come alone."
 
"It appears I've been figured."
 
"I'll always be a step ahead."
 
"What the hell are you planning to do?"
 
Bane stood back up straight. "I plan nothing. And if you mind your own business I give my word no harm will come to you or anyone else," promised Bane as he turned for the door himself. "Dear cross me bird, and I'll break you."
 
There was nothing more to say. Bane exited the room in the same fashion he had come. Now alone, Damian stood in silence. What was he to do now? Somewhere in the room Bane had already set up a recording device of his own, so if he were to plant one himself Bane would surely know. Clutching his right fist Damian stomped a foot. "Damn him.. this changes everything."
 
Moments later the storage door cracked open once more. "What now?" wondered Damian. In seconds he came to find it was only Mitsuhiko. "Oh, it's you."
 
"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?" Mitsuhiko questioned, referring to the tone in his words.
 
"Ah.. nothing," Damian responded.
 
"Aren't you going to come out," asked Mitsuhiko who stepped back into the room. "Or do you plan on staying in here?"
 
"Of course I don't plan on staying in here," replied Damian who launched an effort toward the door, moving past Mitsuhiko in the process.
 
"Hey, wait for me!" called Mitsuhiko who followed after him.
 
Now in the darkness of the hall Damian raised a hand to his chin, his thoughts scattering to make meaning of it all. The shipment of the toxin, Bane.. both on the same cruiser? What was the connection? Was there even a connection? Could it be pure coincidence? "Father once said the obvious is never to be overlooked, but to also account for the unlikely or unexpected." This in Damian's mind meant everyone else on the cruiser was just as much of a suspect as Bane in regards to who was linked to the shipment of the toxin. The question now, who?
 
"Damian-kun, so," began Mitsuhiko. "I got the vibe you knew those guys. Are they friends of yours?"
 
His words did not register to Damian who kept moving through the hall. "Given that Bane already has cameras stationed throughout the ship, me doing the same would only draw his attention. I'll have to go about my investigation in a more discreet way," Damian thought to himself. "But even with that said I need something to expand my sight.. I need an extra set of eyes."
 
"Hey Damian-kun, are you even listening?" asked Mitsuhiko who continued to pursue his attention.
 
"That's it!" Damian stopped abruptly which caused Mitsuhiko to do the same.
 
"What's wrong?" Mitsuhiko asked.
 
Facing him Damian responded. "You'll have to do."
 
Mitsuhiko was puzzled. "Wh.. what?"
 
"Listen Tsuburaya, I have an assignment for you," Damian conveyed. "I need your help with something."
 
Mitsuhiko was not expecting this. "You need my help?"
 
"You and your friends.. you're the Detective Boys, right?"
 
Mitsuhiko nodded, giving confirmation. "What about it?"
 
"I need that side of you, a detective. The task is simple. How should I put this.." Damian momentarily fell silent. "I just need you to keep an eye on things."
 
"Keep an eye on things?" Mitsuhiko went on to rub the top of his head in obvious confusion. "Um, yah.. I don't get it what you're talking about."
 
Damian clarified. "All passengers on this ship besides you and myself, I want you to keep a lookout for anyone or anything suspicious."
 
"Have you already forgotten? I ended up on this ship by accident," Mitsuhiko reminded. "Without a paid ticket I'll be kicked off the cruiser if security or the captain finds out."
 
"Drop it already, we both know you didn't end up on this ship by some unplanned measure of coincident," stated Damian who began walking once more, pulling out his phone in the process. "As far as a paid ticket is concerned, you need not worry about that. I'll make sure that's not a problem."
 
Mitsuhiko followed after him. "Where are we going?"
 
"To the deck," replied Damian. "Everyone who is scheduled to be a part of tonight's cruise should all be boarding soon. First impressions are always very telling."
 
"How many people will be on board in all?"
 
"The number I have is only for those who pre-paid," replied Damian. "That won't account for those that will show up within the hour. I checked the list for staff earlier, outside of us the people confirmed to be on board are the captain, two security guards, and two cooks."
 
"What time is the cruiser supposed to depart?"
 
"Seven forty five sharp," replied Damian who went on to check the time. It was twenty two after seven. "We have roughly twenty five minutes before that time comes."
 
"You said before you want me to look out for anything suspicious," Mitsuhiko referred back to.
 
"And?"
 
"Why?" asked Mitsuhiko.
 
"Believe me Tsuburaya, the less you know the better." That was the only answer Damian was going to give.
 
This sparked a possibility in Mitsuhiko's mind. Could it be that Damian too was aware there was someone aboard the ship who was possibly plotting to commit murder? "No, there's no way he could know. He must be looking out for something else." Mitsuhiko seemed sure of this. The question residing on mind now, should he tell Damian everything he had seen and gone through within the past couple hours?
 
The two walked in silence the rest of the way. In small time the two made it to the destined location. This was Mitsuhiko's first time standing on deck; he looked on in awe at the sight to see. "Wow.." The rich white color of the ship's floor, the gold railings even. What really caught his eye was the outside pool sitting directly in the center of the ship.
 
Mitsuhiko's train of thought would be cut off by Damian who waved him off to the side. "Come on."
 
"Where are we going?" asked Mitsuhiko.
 
He would soon find out. After coming within inches of the railing overlooking the sea Damian stopped. Turning around he began scouring the deck for any new faces. "It doesn't appear any one else has boarded since I visited the storage room." Upon having his view fall toward the far left he noticed the tall man he had spoken with earlier.
 
"Hey, Tsuburaya," Damian began. "Stay here for a sec, I'll be right back."
 
"Where are you going?" Mitsuhiko asked. Damian walked off without so much as an explanation. "Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised."
 
It didn't take long for Damian to close the distance. It took only moments for the tall man to notice him. "So the little guy returns."
 
"Damian," he went on to convey. "Damian Wayne."
 
"And I'm Shou Inaba. The pleasure is mine Wayne-kun."
 
Damian crossed his arms over his chest. "Question for you Inaba, within the past couple minutes has anyone else come aboard the ship?"
 
Shou looked up as if to think. "Well, outside of two guys I presumed to be security guards I've yet to see anyone board the.. wait, hold on." Shou paused.
 
"What is it?"
 
Shou looked down at him. "Actually there was someone who did board, some kid in a sports cap," Shou recalled. He then went on to look across the deck area. "Not sure where he ran off to though, that would have been about two minutes ago."
 
"What did he look like?" Damian asked.
 
"Didn't get a close look at him," Shou admitted. "He was young, no older than twenty if I had to take a guess. Why do you ask? You expecting someone?"
 
Damian made a move to walk away. "Something like that."
 
By this time Mitsuhiko's sights had gravitated to the view of the ocean. The sound of footsteps approaching bled through the sound of the sailing waves below. Still focused on the ocean Mitsuhiko spoke. "Did you find what you were looking for?"
 
"To an extent," Damian replied. Turning he leaned his back to the railing as he looked in the direction for where the ramp connected to the ship was. He knew anybody who was to arrive would have to board from there. Standing beside the ramp was one of the security guards.
 
"Hey, Damian-kun.. don't you still want to know what lead to me ending up on this ship?"
 
"At this point in time I don't really care," Damian admitted. "We need to focus on all who board. That's all that matters."
 
Mitsuhiko looked back at the ocean. "So, what now?"
 
"We wait."
 
Individually both had a lot on their minds. Bane's unexpected appearance.. the Scarecrow's toxin, a possible murder plot. Just what twists and turns would this cruise bring?
 
It was in those silent filled moments of thought that Damian really began to dive into the possibility of it all. "The more and more I think about it the less sense it makes. Bane is a conqueror, and is rarely subtle about how he chooses to make noise. Spreading fear toxin.. that's not his style." It was feeling more and more unlikely by the minute that Bane was linked with the fear toxin. If not him, who? Could it be one of the other passengers that would be a part of tonight's cruise? "From here I'll need to analyze each and every one who boards this cruiser."
 
Without warning someone appeared from afar, someone who made their way up the ramp. Giving sharp eye, Damian made out as much of them as possible. It appeared to be a man based on their stature and size. He had long brown hair, wearing a pair of jeans, blue colored sneakers, and a tan colored sweater. Damian watched as he spoke with the security guard who was handling the boarding check ins.
 
"And you are?" asked the security guard.
 
"Lukmar Xiene." the man held up an ID to confirm this.
 
The security guard then went on to check the list showing who had paid, nodding his head before giving him the ok. "Got ya, you're free to enter." He then went on to hand him a key card. "Your room number is 24B."
 
Moving past, Lukmar walked across the ship's deck. He didn't stop, continuing toward the left end of the ship.
 
"Doesn't appear to be anything suspicious about him, even so I'll be sure to keep an eye on him just in case," Damian said.
 
Not long after three more people marched up the ramp. Traveling in the front was young man and woman, both dressed in what one would describe as jogging attire. The woman had two carryon bags while the man had only one. Along with them was an older man who trailed slightly behind. He wore a pair of shades and held a cane in his left hand.
 
"Welcome to the Sunshine cruiser. And you three are?" inquired the security guard.
 
The young man took the liberty of answering. "I am Taro Toda," he replied before then turning to the woman who stood at his side. "And this is my wife Kiku Toda along with my father in law, Katsuo Yanagi."
 
The security guard found their listed names in little time. "You may proceed." They too received card keys.
 
"Clearly they're traveling as a family." Like the first there didn't appear to be anything suspicious about the trio. Unlike the man to have boarded before them the three of them headed towards the right.
 
Suddenly a sound was heard, a loud splash that came left from where he stood. "What was that..?" Damian assumed it to be some fish splashing about beside the ship. Moments later someone else appeared at ramp side. "Good, everyone is showing up now."
 
This time it was a single woman. She had long red hair that was tied in a ponytail. Sitting atop her head was a grey colored floppy hat, complementing that was the grey summer dress she wore. The only carry on item she had was the suitcase she dragged along.
 
"She looks innocent enough."
 
Damian couldn't help but look her up and down. The shape of her body, the configuration of her face, the complexion of her skin even.. there was something there. "I don't know what it is, but something seems really familiar about her. I can't quite pin point what though.."
 
Seconds into staring her over Damian felt a nudge at his right arm, turning to find a grinning Mitsuhiko. "What?" Damian questioned.
 
"You're totally checking her out," Mitsuhiko accused.
 
"I am not," denied Damian who looked away.
 
Mitsuhiko giggled. "Yah, whatever you say."
 
"What a delusional claim," remarked Damian under his breath.
 
"Ma'am, would you please state you name," the security guard asked of her.
 
Turning her head with the swing of her hair she held up her ID. "Rosetta," she replied. "Rosetta Dellmara."
 
"You're clear to pass Dellmara-san," the security guard conveyed after checking the list.
 
Given the ok to do so, she grabbed hold of the key card before doing just that.
 
Directly following her was a bald man who stood at least six feet tall. He had on a red tank top and a pair of black colored jeans. Sitting over his shoulders was a backpack, he carried nothing more.
 
"Neour Cheon," the man reported in.
 
"You're listed here, you can enter."
 
Damian caught eye of something over to the right. It was Bane. "What's he up to now?" wondered Damian.
 
Bane wasn't alone; Trogg was with him along with two others, another man and a woman. Damian immediately recognized the long haired blonde man. "That's Bird, Bane's right hand man," Damian noted before turning focus to the woman. "Not a clue who she is, no doubt a new recruit or a business partner of some kind."
 
Not wanting to miss the boarding of anyone else Damian refocused his line of sight. A minute passed, then a couple more. Mitsuhiko spoke once more. "Has everyone boarded yet?"
 
Damian replied. "Still ongoing." A second later another person appeared. The boy wonder's suspicions were tickled. The person to appear wore a thick white jacket, a pair of shades, a ski cap, and a hygiene mask over their mouth. Could it be that they were simply ill? Or was there more to it than that?
 
"State your name," the security guard asked of them.
 
"My name?"
 
"Yes, confirming you're on the guest list or have already paid is a requirement before I can allow you to board."
 
"Oh yes, of course. Manabu Yoneda."
 
Like those who previously boarded his name too was checked off the list.
 
"Welcome to the top of my list of suspects," Damian announced internally.
 
"Hey Damian-kun, look!" Mitsuhiko pointed. "I see someone suspicious! See that person in the jacket?"
 
"Nice catch genius," Damian muttered under his breath.
 
The two watched as the person who was fully covered from head to toe strolled off to the left side of the ship. There was only one thought in Mitsuhiko's mind, was this the person he needed to be weary of. "Damian-Kun, think we should follow him?"
 
"No. If they're up to something us following them will only alert them to the fact we're coming onto them," Damian explained. "We'll watch from afar, and if need be we'll act when the time is right. Got it?"
 
Mitsuhiko nodded. Manabu fell out of sight after turning the corner on the far left. Shortly after two more people approached the security guard. It was a woman and a man. The woman wore a black dress and had on black elbow length gloves. The man standing next to her wore a black suit and carried a brief case in one hand and held a suitcase in the other.
 
"Names?" the security guard went on to ask.
 
"I am Reira Jo," the woman answered before looking toward the man who stood beside her. "And this is Issuma Sadow."
 
Smiling, the security guard nodded his head. "How did I not realize it?! It is a pleasure to meet you Jo-san, I'm a big fan of your work."
 
Reira was flattered to hear this. "Why thank you."
 
"I passed your names on the list earlier, you're free to board," conveyed the security guard who stepped to the side to allow them entry.
 
Damian blinked an eye. "Reira Jo? Is she famous or something? Cus I've never heard of her."
 
Mitsuhiko was surprised to learn this. "You haven't?"
 
"Who is she anyway?" Damian asked. "Some kind of big time star?"
 
"Yep. She is an up and coming singer," informed Mitsuhiko. "Everyone in school has been talking about her. Jo-san's newest track is scheduled to come out early next month."
 
"Is that right?" Damian looked back in the direction of the singer and the man with her. He'd definitely keep tabs on the two of them. The next person to approach the security guard was an older woman, one whom he presumed to be in her late forties, early fifties. She was alone, and carried with her a single suitcase and wore a straw hat atop her head.
 
"Hello there," the woman greeted. She was fully aware of the procedure that was to follow. "My name is Freya Hepperway, I purchased my ticket online about-"
 
"Two hours ago, yes," the security guard confirmed. "I added you to the list of attendees first thing."
 
"Thank you," replied Freya who went on to board after receiving a key card.
 
Splash! For a second time within the past ten minutes Damian heard a loud splash which yanked his attention, even if only a little. "Those must be some good sized fish if I can hear them from here," Damian thought to himself.
 
Redirecting his focus he looked just as three more people came within view. It was a woman accompanied by two men. All three wore sun glasses, stylish black leather jackets, and a backpack of their own.
 
"And you three are?" asked the security guard.
 
The woman who stood front and center titled her shades down to where her dark brown eyes could be seen. "We're the fun bunch," she replied, blowing and popping the chewed gum in her mouth. "I'm Yasu Oehi, and these two freeloaders are-"
 
She would be cut off by the shorter man of the pair. "Name's Kiyoshi, and my pal here is Saburo."
 
Looking over their ID's and running eye down the guest list once more the security guard nodded before looking back at them. "You're all listed, step right on through."
 
The two continued to observe. "They certainly look like a bunch of winners," Damian remarked.
 
"What's that supposed to mean?" Mitsuhiko asked.
 
"Only that they're people we should keep an eye on during the duration of this cruise," answered Damain.
 
"Are you ever going to tell me what exactly we're looking out for?"
 
"Probably not," Damian admitted.
 
Mitsuhiko frowned. "Come on, we're a team now."
 
"No, you're just an extra set of eyes," Damian noted.
 
"Why are you so mean?" asked Mitsuhiko who turned to where he now fully faced him.
 
"I swear you ask too many questions."
 
Mitsuhiko was baffled.
 
"Look," Damian pointed. "Someone else is coming."
 
This time it was a woman, standing at her side was a young boy. How old was he? Six? Maybe seven? The two were greeted by a security guard like everyone else before them.
 
"Need help with your suitcase there kid?" the security guard offered as he gave eye to the boy.
 
"Oh, he'll be ok," the woman assured. "Won't ya Sammy?"
 
The young boy nodded. Smiling, the security guard stepped off to the side. "You're a strong one aren't you?"
 
"You know it," the boy smiled in response.
 
"I'm guessing you're the party of two at the top of the list, Anna and Samuel Hamilton?"
 
"You hit it on the nail mister," confirmed Anna.
 
"That woman is clearly that boy's mother," Damian figured.
 
"No doubt about that." Mitsuhiko agreed.
 
The next to appear was a pair of teenagers, both had on uniforms Damian assumed was representative of whatever school they went to.
 
"Hey, hold on a second," said Mitsuhiko whose eyes narrowed. He took a long hard look at the two to have just arrived.
 
Damian looked at him. "What is it?"
 
"I knew it!" exclaimed Mitsuhiko. "I totally know that girl. Yah, she's Aoko Nakamori, daughter of the inspector of the Tokyo district, Ginzo Nakamori."
 
Damian's mind flashed back to the night he spotted Ginzo for the first time during the whole Riddler fiasco. "Is that right?" Damian then looked to the one who accompanied her. "What about the guy, you know him to?"
 
"Hmmm, he does look familiar," admitted Mitsuhiko. "But his name leaves me at the moment."
 
"Would the two of you show me some form of identification?" asked the security guard.
 
"Of course," replied Aoko who went on to hold out her ID for him to see. She then looked to Kaito who was seemingly searching through any and all of his pockets. "What are you doing?"
 
"Well.." Kaito began as a huge grin formed. "I have seemed to misplaced my ID."
 
"What do you mean you misplaced it?!" exclaimed Aoko. "Are you telling me we traveled all this way for nothing?!"
 
Ignoring her Kaito faced the security guard. "Hey, I may not have my ID. But you seem like a reasonable guy, any chance you'll let me board by taking my word for who I say I am?"
 
The security guard smiled himself. "That's not how things work. No ID, no cruise."
 
Kaito's eyes widened, a freight now present on his face. "What is that?!"
 
The security guard nearly jumped. "What is what?!"
 
"There, beside your left ear, a spider!" Kaito pointed. He took a step forward. "Don't move, I'll grab it!"
 
Aoko was confused. "What is he talking about, I don't see a spider."
 
Reaching out to the left side of his face, Kaito pulled back with such force. "Got it!" Kaito stated as the smirk from before returned. Kaito then went on to open the palm of his hand. "Oh.. I guess it wasn't a spider, but rather.. my ID!"
 
Kaito held up his ID for the security guard to see. He couldn't help but laugh. "Impressive, how did you do that?!"
 
"Well," began Kaito who bowed his head. "I'm magic."
 
Kaito then looked over at Aoko whose hands were now on her hips. She wasn't amused in the least, the glare on her face all too telling.
 
Kaito looked back to the security guard. "I think someone needs a sense of humor," Kaito whispered to him.
 
"No comment," was all the security guard would say.
 
The security guard then went on to handing each of them separate key cards.
 
Damian watched as Aoko went on to seemingly nag her companion as they walked. "I doubt either of them are connected to Scarecrow's goods," thought Damian. "But looks can certainly be deceiving."
 
A short time later two additional women walked up the ramp. Both were in high spirits.
 
"Hello ladies, may I enquire your names and see a form of identification from you both?" The two of them held their ID's up for him to read, leaving him to do just that. "Chiasa Waitto.. Yuriko Konya. I have the both of you listed, you're good to go."
 
Receiving their tickets the two marched forward, as they did the longer haired girl stopped. This prompted her friend to do the same. "What's wrong Yuriko-chan?"
 
Yuriko went on to grasp her hair, twisting it in attempt to ring out the water. "My hair is still wet, it's really bothering me," Yuriko replied.
 
"How did you get wet again?" Chiasa laughingly asked. She took amusement in her friend's displeasure.
 
Yuriko simply rolled her eyes. "I already told you, and I don't plan on repeating myself."
 
This only garnered further laughter from Chiasa.
 
"There doesn't appear to be anything suspicious about those two," Damian said to himself.
 
"You think that's the last of them?" Mitsuhiko questioned.
 
"Last or not, everyone who plans on going on this particular cruise will have to be on board within the next minute or so," replied Damian. "So we must be close."
 
Another couple minutes passed as the two stood in wait. The ship's departure had to be close, right?
 
"The cruiser will depart at seven forty five right? What time is it now?" Mitsuhiko asked.
 
Checking the time Damian responded. "We have exactly six minutes before the deadline; we'll be heading out before you know it."
 
A look of intent grew on Mitsuhiko's face. "And that's when the investigation will truly begin." Mitsuhiko was not only excited, but even a little frightened. His friends weren't there, no Conan.. this was his moment, if there was ever a time to prove himself as a detective the time was now.
 
"I can do this," said Mitsuhiko attempting to wash out any doubt that lingered.
 
A short time later a new face appeared, but this time it wasn't someone who was boarding from ramp side, but rather someone who panned into their line of view from the right.
 
"Who is that?" Mitsuhiko wondered.
 
There was no doubt in Damian's mind who it was. "Based on their apparel I'd say that's the captain, Hirata." The sailor themed suit and hat was very telling. "If he's making an appearance that can only mean we'll be setting sail shortly."
 
The man who Damian assumed to be the captain didn't stop, continuing across the deck of the ship clear to the other side.
 
"What do you think he's doing?" Mitsuhiko asked.
 
"He's heading in the direction of the control room," Damian pointed out. "That can only mean we will depart soon."
 
This thought would only be further backed by what happened next. The ramp that was connected to the ship was disconnected, meaning that no one else would be boarding. The cast was now set, and the show would soon begin.
 
"There are thirty two people on board including Tsuburaya and myself. Of the large remaining sum there are five staff members; the captain, two security guards, and the two cooks," Damian took mental note of. There was only one thing about this cruise that held any real meaning in his mind. "So.. which one of them is it?"
 
That was the question above all, of everyone on tonight's cruise who was the one tied to Scarecrow's fear gas?
 
Similar thoughts ran through Mitsuhiko's mind. There was no doubt; someone was aboard the ship with intentions of killing another. But who? Of the thirty two people outside of him and Damian, who could it possibly be? And who was the target? Whatever the case he'd have to determine that, and soon.. before it is too late.
 
Mitsuhiko looked over at Damian, the question lingering.. should he tell him the truth about what lead to him ending up on this ship? Whatever the choice, he knew it would bring ramifications. But in what light? Good or bad? The roar of the ship's engine ignited seconds later, the cruise was now to begin.
 
"Here we go."
 
To Be Continued

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Lightest of Nights: A Deck of Minds
 
Chapter 27
 
A Secret to Share
 
The sky darkened by the minute, the sun would soon set. Conan had since separated from the others. There was a lot on his mind; the Black Organization, the assurgent of the drug he had come to know as 'Fear Gas', and most recently the Riddler. The question residing on the surface of his mind.. what next?
 
The Detective Agency was now in view. Leaning his head forward he began to slow in step, there was something that came to mind, something he had not considered before this very moment. "Could it be?" He stopped. "The fear gas originated from Gotham City before finding ground here in Japan. Gotham is also home to Edward Nigma.."
 
Conan looked upward. "It can't just be a convenience.. can it?" What if the distribution of the fear gas and the Riddler's presence in Japan were linked? Conan gave the possibility some thought. "But then it wouldn't really make sense. Nigma traveled to Japan with one clear goal in mind, to challenge the oji-san and Kid. If he was in fact responsible for the spread of the toxin one would have to ask.. why?"
 
Conan's thoughts reverted back to the riddles; stemming from Nigma's initial words all the way through the night of challenge. Was there anything that hinted of his connection with the toxin? Conan didn't feel such a conclusion could be reached. "If there truly is a connection, there is only one way to determine that. The beginning," Conan said. "I'll have to start from the very beginning."
 
Conan reached for his phone, scrolling through his contacts he found the name he was looking for. Placing the phone upon his ear Conan stood in wait, listening to the sound of the ring that came from the other side. "Come on, please answer." Unfortunately the only voice to come was that of an answering machine. Sighing, Conan went on to leave a message.
 
"Jodie-sensei, it's," Conan began. He paused. "Listen, I have a favor to ask, there's something I need from you. Get back to me when you can."
 
Taking a deep breath Conan dropped the phone back to his side. "Well, I guess I better head in for the nigh-"
 
In the moments of him speaking his phone began to ring. "Jodie-sensei?" Conan was hopeful. Raising the phone he found this not to be the case. "It's Dr. Agasa."
 
What could he possibly be calling about? A break in the case regarding the fear toxin perhaps? "Doc, it's me," said Conan answering the call. "What's up?"
 
"Shinichi, it's Mitsuhiko-kun," Hiroshi dispensed.
 
"Did he finally turn up?" there was a relief to be heard in his voice. "Where was he?"
 
"No, I just received a call from his mother," Hiroshi replied. "Shinichi, like the rest of us.. she hasn't been able to get ahold of him. He's missing."
 
His phone began to tremble in hand. "No…"
 
…..
 
The boarding process had finally concluded. Now traveling down a fleet of stairs Kaito brought eye to the key card in hand, one which read; 'R 22B'. The end of the staircase was reached shortly after. Lowering the card in hand Kaito referred to his travel mate. "Aoko, what room number are you in?"
 
"6B," replied Aoko who walked a short distance ahead of him.
 
Catching up to her side Kaito spoke again. "So.. when are you going to tell me why you really invited me on this cruise?" There had to be a reason. "Surely you didn't drag us all the way out here for just a little sightseeing?"
 
"If I were to tell you now that would ruin the surprise," Aoko replied.
 
"Surprise?"
 
The door reading 6B was reached moments later. Holding out the key card Aoko swiped it which allowed her entry to the room. "We'll meet back up in a bit, there's a few things I need to do," said Aoko who stepped in past the door.
 
Kaito watched as the door closed before him. "How long before you want to-"
 
"I'll call you," Aoko's voice carried from the other side.
 
Sighing Kaito turned back for the hall. It was here that he laid eyes on two women who strolled past. "I recognize them. Yah, they're one of the last people who boarded this ship."
 
No doubt they were heading toward their assigned room. Given his room was in the same direction Kaito followed. While proceeding Kaito took note of the fact all even numbered rooms were on the right while all odd numbered doors were on the left. Room 22B was reached sooner than he expected. "Now, where did I put that key?"
 
Moving his hand through his pocket Kaito grabbed hold of the room key. "There you are." Just as he was to swipe it he caught eye of the two women who were standing outside of the room next to his own. "I wonder why they haven't entered yet."
 
"Oh come on," she said taking another swipe of the card. "It's not working."
 
"Maybe you're sliding it wrong," the woman beside her stated.
 
"I've already tried both ways," she responded.
 
"Here, why don't you let me take a look," greeted Kaito who approached the two.
 
The girl holding the key froze upon his approach, her eyes locked in awe. Reaching out Kaito grabbed hold of the card she possessed. "Hmmmm.." After examining the card Kaito then looked up at the room they were attempting to enter. "So that would explain."
 
"What?" questioned the woman with the longer hair of the two. "Have you figured out what's wrong?"
 
Nodding Kaito handed the key card back to the shorter haired woman. "This room 24B, your card is for room 24A," Kaito pointed out. "In other words, you're on the wrong floor."
 
The two women looked to one another, then back at him before laughing. "Oops, my mistake," said the longer haired girl who wore a pair of finger cut gloves. "I had forgotten that I asked the captain to move us up a floor."
 
Kaito smiled, finding humor in the situation. "It happens to us all. Don't mind it."
 
"Well then, we better get going."
 
Kaito went on to turn back for his room.
 
"Wait, what's your name?" the shorter haired girl asked.
 
Turning once more Kaito came to face the shorter haired girl. "Kaito," he replied.
 
"It's nice to meet you Kaito-kun, I'm Chiasa," she replied bowing her head. "And this is Yuriko."
 
"Perhaps I'll see you both around," Kaito said.
 
Chiasa smiled brightly. "I sincerely hope so!"
 
"Ok, we really should be going," said Yuriko who grabbed hold of her friends hand before marching forward.
 
"See you later Kaito-kun!" waved Chiasa as the two departed.
 
He watched as the pair strolled away.
 
"Did you have to make it so obvious," scolded Yuriko after the two were halfway down the hall.
 
"I can't help it, he's really cute," argued Chiasa.
 
Vaguely hearing their words Kaito smiled as he turned for the door he stood before. Sliding the card he forced his way in. "Might as well get myself acquainted." Now inside the room he did just that.
 
To his surprise the space to find was much larger than he had anticipated. Far across the room was screen door, one which provided a view of the ocean on the outside. Toward the right was where the bed was located; next to it on the left was a night stand. Kaito then looked to the other side of the room to find a TV attached to the wall, below it was a dresser. There was a door to spot further up, what could be on the other side? He assumed it to be the bathroom.
 
"Well, I'm not exactly in a rush to go anywhere," said Kaito who walked. Finding way to the side of the bed he removed his bag before tossing it into a chair that was near. Fading back he fell onto the softness of the sheets below. "Just what will this delightful cruise bring?"
 
Laying there his mind began to flow to a matter that had been lost to him since arriving. "The Riddler." There was no way that what occurred the other night was over. On the contrary, that was only the beginning. There was no doubt about this in his mind. "Lucky for me I took note of every riddle the Riddler gave that night."
 
Raising his phone to eye Kaito went on to open a window that had stored notes for everything he had accounted for the previous night. "You played your first hand man of riddles… just what will be your next move?"
 
….
 
Ten minutes passed since the ship's departure. In that time everyone had cleared the deck, all except Mitsuhiko. He was becoming growingly anxious by the minute. If there was a possible murder to come, what good would standing around do? Damian who had left for a short time returned, clearly focused on something that was on his phone.
 
"Damian-kun, didn't you say we should be on the lookout for anything or anyone suspicious?" reminded Mitsuhiko. "How can we do that if we stay up here?"
 
Damian didn't respond. "Hey, are you even listening?" asked Mitsuhiko trying to get his attention for a second time.
 
"Silence," Damian retorted. "You're distracting me."
 
"What could be more important than our mission?"
 
Damian didn't respond. Could it be that he wasn't taking it serious? The thought of it crawled into mind. "Should I tell him?" Mitsuhiko looked over at Damian. "Should I tell him the truth? No.. I can do this. This is my case, I'll crack the mystery, no matter what!"
 
It was time to act. "Standing around isn't going to get me anywhere."
 
As Mitsuhiko turned to walk Damian spoke. "That's it, bout time."
 
His words pulled Mitsuhiko's attention. Curious as to what he was talking about he looked back at him. "What are you talking about?"
 
"I hacked into the server," informed Damian. "Now we'll know who is staying in which room aboard this ship."
 
This was good news. "What! Really?!"
 
Raising the phone Damian skimmed through the list he now had at his disposal. "Where are you Bane, what name are you traveling under?" The thought of that rolled through his mind as he scrolled down. He stopped upon coming across a certain name on the list. "Enab? … That's Bane's name spelled backwards, that has to be him. Room 12B."
 
Directly under Bane's listing he found the names of two others that grabbed his attention; Drib and Ggort. "Room's 13B and 14B, Bird and Trogg no doubt. You seriously can't convince me that was the best they could come up with for fake names."
 
"Damian-kun."
 
"What?" questioned Damian who swung his head to face him.
 
"What about that really suspicious guy we saw board earlier," Mitsuhiko asked. "The one who was wearing the hygiene mask.. what was his name again?"
 
"Manabu Yoneda," answered Damian who now had his name atop the list. "Room 2B."
 
"Great, then that's where we'll go."
 
"Pretty sure we're not getting in without a key card to that room," Damian noted. "And it's not like we can just knock on his door and say let us in, we're investigating you for looking painfully suspicious."
 
Mitsuhiko chuckled. "Why not, we could at least give it a try."
 
"Very humorous," replied Damian with a dose of sarcasm.
 
"Hey, where did you go just a while ago," Mitsuhiko asked. "You told me to stay here, but you never told me where you were going."
 
"Oh yah, I almost forgot about that." Reaching into his pocket Damian revealed a key card. "This one is yours, Room 25A."
 
Damian handed the key card over to him. Mitsuhiko was admittedly surprised. "You really got me my own room? How much did it cos-"
 
"An insignificant detail," Damian shot down. "Here's the deal, this ship has four levels; the deck where we are now, floor A which is directly beneath us, floor B, and the bottom level which we visited earlier."
 
"You mean where the storage room is right?"
 
"Yes," Damian confirmed. "I purchased you a room for floor A and my room is on floor B. This was intentional."
 
Mitsuhiko's detective instincts kicked in. "I see, you wanted us to be able to explore both floors without coming off as suspicious to the other guests. As long as I have my key card for floor 'A' no one will question me roaming that area, likewise for you on floor 'B'."
 
Damian was impressed. "Perhaps you'll be useful after all."
 
"Wait, are you saying you didn't believe in me beforehand?"
 
"Ah hem," Damian huffed as he turned away. "Listen, this is all that is located on floor A outside of the rooms for guests. Toward the rare of the ship is where this ship's kitchen is located; in there is where the cooks will be."
 
"Why do you say? Do you want me to investigate them too?"
 
"It wouldn't hurt," Damian replied.
 
"He's right," Mitsuhiko thought. "I still don't know the full circumstances for what is going to happen."
 
Damian continued. "Located beside the kitchen is the cafeteria, you'll want to check there as well."
 
"Got it," nodded Mitsuhiko.
 
"Now on the opposite side of floor B is where the game room is located."
 
Mitsuhiko's eyes lit up. "Game room?"
 
Damian's eyes narrowed. "That's not going to be a distraction for you is it?"
 
Mitsuhiko shook his head. "Of course not, why would it?"
 
Damian took a long hard look at him. While not completely convinced he found it in himself to take his word for it. "Like the cafeteria, if there is anyone in there I want you to observe them from a distance. Don't engage or bring any attention to yourself, just observe."
 
He nodded. "Got it." That moment was when it really hit him. "Hey, what exactly should I be on the lookout for?"
 
"As I said before, if anything out of the ordinary happens you'll keep note of it and report to me."
 
"Well.. that doesn't really help."
 
"Is the makeup of my words that difficult for you to comprehend?" questioned Damian.
 
"I fully understand, that's not what I'm saying."
 
"Then what?"
 
"You still haven't told me why we're doing this," Mitsuhiko replied. "If you tell me what we're specifically looking for it would give me a better handle for what I should be searching for."
 
"Trust me when I say the less you know the better," Damian shot down. "Either way that wraps up all there is to find on floor A."
 
"What about floor B?"
 
"You need not concern yourself with that," replied Damian. "I'll be searching floor B myself."
 
"So I search floor A, you search floor B.. then what?"
 
"We regroup and head to the bottom level together," Damian responded. "Outside of the storage room there are still a number of other places we need to check. These areas would include; the indoor pool, a steam room, a recreation center, and the armory."
 
Mitsuhiko was surprised by the last. "An armory? What is something like that doing on a cruiser?"
 
"It's merrily there for guests to spectate if they so choose," Damian explained. "Nothing more. Unless you have any more enquiries, shall we proceed?"
 
"I do have one more question. How long do you want to search floors 'A' and 'B' before we meet on the bottom floor?"
 
"Hmmm.." Damian gave it some thought. "Let's try and keep it within the fifteen minute range, a little under or over is ok. That all?"
 
Mitsuhiko nodded. "That's it."
 
"Very well."
 
…..
 
Conan had searched high and low. No matter where he looked there was no sign of Mitsuhiko. He stopped after reaching a certain street corner. Once there he looked down at his watch. "They should be here any moment," Conan determined after noting the time. As expected a short time later Haibara and Ayumi came into view from his right while Genta panned in from the left.
 
"Any luck guys?!" asked an out of breath Genta.
 
"No sign of him at the park," Ayumi replied.
 
"He wasn't at the school either," Genta conveyed.
 
"We've searched every place we'd expect him to be," Haibara added.
 
"Dammit," hissed Conan under his breath. "Just where could he be?"
 
"According to what was told to the Professor from Tsuburaya-kun's parents, he was on his way to meet the rest of us," Harbara relayed. "Something clearly happened that prevented him from showing."
 
"But what?" Genta questioned.
 
"It could also be something prompted his focus elsewhere," Haibara added. "Wherever he is, Tsuburaya-kun has either lost his phone or is unable to use it due to his situation or the battery being dead all together."
 
Ayumi gulped. "Or maybe it's because he's.."
 
"Don't think that," Conan stated. "He's alive for sure, I know it. We'll find him, so don't you worry."
 
Haibara looked to the sky, noting how dark it had gotten within the past couple minutes. "It's getting dark, perhaps we should continue our search of the neighborhood inside the car alongside the professor."
 
Conan agreed. "I'll call him and let him know to meet us here." The young detective did as he said he would, raising the phone to ear as he waited for an answer. "We'll find him no matter what."
 
 
Mitsuhiko now walked the floors of level A. He had just exited the stairwell. On the right was another door. He could check to see what was on the other side or instead opt to go down the long hall that led to the other side of the ship. "It'd be best if I checked this room now, I'll save myself a trip."
 
With his mind now made up Mitsuhiko turned for the door. After reaching it he noticed a sign hanging over the door, one which read 'Cafeteria'. "Damian-kun was right; the cafeteria is definitely on this floor."
 
Now with an idea what to expect Mitsuhiko turned the door knob which allowed him entry. The cafeteria was much larger in size then he had been expecting. Subconsciously he began accounting for everything that came to view. There were fifteen seating areas spread across the room … no seventeen, each from what he could tell could at least host twenty people at a time.
 
Mitsuhiko scoured the room further, counting off every person that fell in his line of sight. "One, two, three.. four. That's it," Mitsuhiko said. "There's only four people in here."
 
While he may not have noticed at first glass, far across the room in the right corner another door was spotted. "Could that be where the kitchen is located?"
 
Pressing an inch forward Mitsuhiko stopped after catching eye of something left of him. "Oh, it's just a water fountain." Further down was a hanging sign which read 'Rest Room' was spotted. He looked away, refocusing on what was most important; the subjects to investigate. "Damian-kun said only to observe, not to engage. I don't see how that's going to help us learn anything, and with a possible murder on the line there's no way I can just sit back and make mental annotations."
 
With his mind now made up Mitsuhiko walked toward the four who sat near the door. "I recognize all of them. The two sitting with their backs to me are Kiku Toda and her father Katsuo Yanagi." Mitsuhiko was sure of this. "The two sitting across from them is that up and coming singer Reira Jo and her agent Issuma Sadow."
 
Reira who was holding a menu in hand was the first to notice him approaching. "Hey there," she greeted.
 
Mitsuhiko waved in return. "Hi!"
 
Everyone else who sat among them became aware of his arrival. "Who is this?" Issuma asked. "Reira-san, do you know this boy?"
 
She responded by shaking her head. "I do not." Reira then looked him in the eyes. "I take it you would like an autograph?"
 
This was the perfect opportunity. Mitsuhiko played it off as that, nodding as to confirm the predicted. "Yes, I would really like that!"
 
Reira turned to Issuma. "Sadow-kun do you have a pen and a piece of paper on you?"
 
"Of course," he replied. A few moments was all it took for him to search his pocket for a writing utensil and a notepad. Ripping out a page he handed it over along with the pen. "There you go."
 
Reira wrote her name down before holding it out for Mitsuhiko to handle. "All done, here you are little guy."
 
Mitsuhiko bowed his head before thanking her after accepting the piece of paper. "I can't thank you enough." It was now time to act on his true motive for what brought him here. "Jo-san, what lead to you joining this cruise, if you don't mind me asking?"
 
She took a couple seconds to think about the asked. "A small vacation would be the best way of putting it," Reira replied. "What better way to do that than taking a cruise?"
 
"Hard to argue against that," Mitsuhiko said.
 
"Better make that the both of us," spoke Kiku who sat directly across from Reira. "There's nothing better than taking a cruise to get away from it all."
 
Mitsuhiko looked up at her. "So you're on vacation?"
 
"That's right," confirmed Kiku who looked down at him. "Today marks my father's Birthday who just turned fifty two. To celebrate that my husband and I who just married a couple months ago decided we'd go on a cruise to celebrate."
 
Mitsuhiko looked around after hearing this. "Where is your husband now?"
 
"Upstairs resting up for a bit, he plans on joining us in a bit," Kiku replied. "It's been a long day to say the least."
 
"Tell me about it," murmured Mitsuhiko.
 
"Where are my manners, I failed to ask your name," Reira said.
 
"Tsuburaya Mitsuhiko," he proudly replied.
 
Reira smiled. "Well it is a pleasure to meet you Mitsuhiko-kun. So who are you with? Your parents? Surely you aren't traveling alone?"
 
"I.."
 
Unexpectedly the five would be joined by a young man who made his way over from across the room. Taking note of his apparel which consisted of a white apron and white fluffy hat sitting atop his head there was no mistaking who it was in Mitsuhiko's mind. "This must be one of the cooks. None of these people seem all that troublesome, there's no need for me to stick around any longer."
 
"Hello everyone, my name is Nenjo, and I will be the one serving you tonight," he introduced. "Can I start you all off with some drinks?"
 
With everyone's attention now diverted on the cook Mitsuhiko took that opportunity to stroll off. He exited out the same door he had entered. Now back in the hall he took a deep breath. "That takes care of the cafeteria, now for the game room."
 
From there he marched onward. As he did he couldn't help but shed eye to the number of guest rooms he passed. 1A, 2A, 6A.. 13A. The numbers increased the further he progressed. One of the doors ahead flew open without warning. Mitsuhiko stopped, was someone about to come out?
 
"Yuriko, I'll meet you down at the pool!"
 
Mitsuhiko was uncertain of who the voice belonged to.
 
"Ok," another spoke. "I'll join you soon Chiasa. I'm going to stop by the cafeteria first to get us some snacks."
 
"Alrighty!"
 
A moment later a young woman dressed in a two piece gold and black swim suit stepped out. Not wanting to get in her way Mitsuhiko stepped off to the side. Noticing his gesture Chiasa spoke. "Thank you."
 
"You're welcome," a smiling Mitsuhiko replied.
 
Now with a clear path ahead the young detective continued forward. The final guest room on this floor was 25A. Making a left turn after reaching the end of the hall Mitsuhiko came to find a door on the right no more than five yards away. He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "That has to be the game room."
 
Excitement mounted. What would he find on the other side? What kind of games would be available? The door was reached in short. Once inside he was astonished by what he saw, not expecting to sight as much as he did. There was a pool table no more than ten feet into the room. Turning his head he spotted a badminton setup nearby, a set of dart boards, and a table hockey further left. While the lights were a bit dim in this room he was still able to make out where everything was.
 
"What to try first?"
 
Moving deeper into the room Mitsuhiko noticed a fleet of stairs toward the right, his eyes widening after spotting what was on the second level of the room. "Arcade games!"
 
Following the floor lights that were embedded Mitsuhiko excitedly hurried to the next floor. Once at the top he heard a sound that was familiar. "Could it be?" It sounded like that of someone mashing buttons, which could only mean one thing, someone else was in the game room besides him.
 
Determined to find out who Mitsuhiko followed the continuous sound to its source. Maneuvering around two arcade machines Mitsuhiko came to spot two men who were seemingly battling against each other in one of the games, due to them standing side by side. Closing the distance Mitsuhiko came to recognize who they were, the black leather jackets they wore being a dead giveaway. "Kiyoshi and Saburo.. yah, I'm pretty sure that's what their names are."
 
How should he greet them? That was the question that resided. Mitsuhiko contemplated that as he continued to approach the pair.
 
"There we go! How do you like that combo?!"
 
"Phff!" the other grunted. "The red button on this control pad was jammed there for a second, that's the only reason you were able to land those hits."
 
"That's right, let's hear those usual excuses Saburo."
 
"I'm not lying," Saburo protested. "Switch me sticks, you'll see!"
 
"Stop ur complainin', the match isn't over yet."
 
Mitsuhiko stopped after falling within inches of the pair. It didn't take long for one of them to notice.
 
"Yes!" shouted Kiyoshi who threw his arms into the air. "I'll take that win! At this rate you might want to retire my friend."
 
"It's not even like that, I was distracted by this kid," Saburo argued.
 
"Are you really fallin' to that level of excuses?" Kiyoshi laughed. "An imaginary friend, really?"
 
"No, I'm not kidding," said Saburo who pointed directly at Mitsuhiko. "Look!"
 
Feeling his friend was telling a tall tale, Kiyoshi gave his friend the benefit of the doubt and looked to find there was someone else now among them. "Who the hell are you?!"
 
Mitsuhiko gritted his teeth. This was not how he envisioned things going. "I umm.. I was just looking for a game to.. play."
 
"Cool it Kiyoshi, you're scaring the boy," Saburo stated before looking back down at him. "What's your name kid?"
 
"Mitsuhiko," he replied. "That's my name."
 
"Well then Mitsuhiko-kun, is there something we could help you with?" Saburo asked. "Perhaps you wanted to play the game we're currently occupying?"
 
Mitsuhiko waved his hands back and forth in denial. "No, that's not it at all," he assured. "I'm just looking around."
 
Following this Mitsuhiko made a move to walk away. "I guess I should be going now." The thought of it ran through his mind, to ask or not to ask. Unexpected to the others Mitsuhiko stopped after only taking a couple steps.
 
"Something the matter?" questioned Kiyoshi. "You drop something?"
 
Mitsuhiko had made up his mind. He looked back at the two men. "I hope you don't mind if I ask you guys something."
 
"It depends what you're askin'," Kiyoshi replied.
 
Dropping all hesitation Mitsuhiko went on to ask what was on his mind. "What made you guys decide to join this cruise?"
 
The pair looked to one another before looking back at him. "Admittedly none of this was planned," Saburo informed. "It was Yasu who received three tickets in the mail about two months ago for this specific cruise."
 
"Yasu.. that must be the girl that was with them the first time I saw them," Mitsuhiko remembered. "You said she received the tickets. What do you mean by that? Did she not go out and purchase them?"
 
Kiyoshi shook his head. "She won them in some kind of prize drawing, one she didn't recall entering, her own words."
 
"Whether she remembers or not, we'll take it!" Saburo yelled. "I've never been on a cruise before now!"
 
"I see.." Mitsuhiko paused.
 
"What's this all about anyway?" asked Kiyoshi. "Why do you care to know all of this?"
 
"Well, I guess I should be going. My friend is probably wondering where I am," Mitsuhiko smilingly waved. "See ya!"
 
The young detective took off from there, not once looking back. Kiyoshi shook his head as he watched the boy turn the corner. "What a strange kid."
 
"You can say that again," agreed Saburo. He went on to shift his focus back to the arcade game beside them. "Up for a couple more rounds?"
 
"More rounds of grown ass beatings delivered to you? How could I possibly turn down such a generous offer?"
 
Saburo rolled his eyes. "Ya, we'll just have to see about that. Let's do this!"
 
….
 
BWOOM!
 
Kaito pushed up from where he had fallen asleep, his heart now pounding. "That loud noise, what was that?"
 
He stood up from the bed as he looked to the screen door right of him. "It sounded like glass shattering.. like it came from outside."
 
Walking over Kaito opened the screen door. Now on the balcony he searched the area. There was a glass table aligned with two chairs on the right. Looking left there was nothing more to find. He was certain what he had heard came from the outside. Yet, there was nothing that appeared to be broken. Kaito went on to step up to the railing, looking overboard he saw nothing but an endless sea.
 
"Maybe I was just hearing things." Kaito looked to the night sky. The view of the moon was enough to draw a smile. A sound suddenly erupted from back in the room. "My phone."
 
Retrieving his phone which was still positioned on the bed Kaito came to find he had five missed calls and a number of unread texts. "Of course all of them would be from Aoko. No doubt she's wondering where I am." Checking the time Kaito found that over twenty minutes had passed since he had entered the room. "I better get going before Aoko orchestrates some kind of riot to find me."
 
He checked the most recent received text which read; "In cafeteria, where R U?!"
 
"Yep, I better hurry." Placing the phone back into his pants Kaito walked toward the door. He stopped, it was subtle, but he was certain he heard something. Kaito looked right; it was coming from the other side of the wall. "It sounds like a shower is running. I guess someone is in room 24B after all."
 
Continuing onward Kaito made his way out, certain to make sure the door was securely locked on his way out. Kaito looked right; rooms 24B and 25B directly across could be seen. Past both rooms there was a lone door at the end of the hall. "I wonder what's in there?"
 
Upon questioning this Kaito spotted a sign cemented above it, one reading 'Computer Room'. "That's definitely not where I want to be. If I'm not mistaking the staircase to the next floor is this way," said Kaito who turned left. He took only a step after hearing something from behind. Looking over his shoulder he saw nothing. He stood there for several moments before going on to shake his head. "I guess it's nothing."
 
As he walked his thoughts drifted back to what he had been thinking about earlier. He tried to block it all out. "I'll worry about all of that later. One night of a relaxing cruise shouldn't hurt."
 
As Kaito came within feet of the door leading to the stairwell he heard a sound once more, one which echoed through the hall. He grinned. "And this is the part where I turn around to find that there isn't anyone ther-" Kaito was cold stunned to find that there was someone standing at the far end of the hall where he had come.
 
It looked to be a man, one wearing a white jacket, shades, a ski cap, and a hygiene mask over his mouth. Their sights were aimed dead on each other. Kaito felt as if his heart skipped a beat. In the heat of the moment the door from behind swung open, startling Kaito who spun around and raised his hands to the air as if to prepare for a fight.
 
"Relax kid, I'm just running a surveillance check for this floor. We've been having a couple glitch problems with a couple of the cameras."
 
Kaito sighed in relief after finding it was only one of the security guards. "Sorry, you startled me," Kaito apologized as he lowered his hands.
 
"I figured that much," replied the security guard.
 
Kaito looked over his shoulder to find that there was no longer anyone standing at the end of the hall. "Did I envision all of that?"
 
The security guard noticed this. "Something wrong?"
 
Kaito shook his head. "Nothing, nothing at all.."
 
 
Mitsuhiko couldn't get the thought of it out of his mind. The mysterious man he had followed earlier in the day, the truck driver, the dead body, and now the possibility of a planned murder. How did it all tie together? Above all, was it wise for him to keep this all to himself? He was starting to question that very thing. "I wish Conan was here, he would figure this out no problem."
 
After refocusing his sights Mitsuhiko found only three steps remained before he was to reach the bottom; noting this instead of continuing to walk Mitsuhiko jumped, bringing him to the stairs end. "Now, to find Damian-kun."
 
The door leading to the hallway was only a few feet away. Pushing toward it Mitsuhiko heard a voice. "Don't bother." Mitsuhiko turned around just as Damian stepped out from the side of the stairs where he clearly had been waiting. "Took you long enough."
 
"Don't do that, you scared me!" Mitsuhiko shrieked.
 
"Hardly see how that's my problem," Damian said in response. "How did things go on floor 'A'? Anything worth reporting?"
 
Mitsuhiko shook his head. "What about you?"
 
"Outside of the rooms for guests, there was only the computer and laundry room on that floor. Both which were empty.. now, shall we?" commented Damian who took a step toward the door.
 
When Damian realized Mitsuhiko wasn't following he stopped. "What's the big idea? Why aren't you moving?"
 
"Damian-kun, I… there is something I need to tell you."
 
"We don't have time for any of that, come on," Damian responded with the sway of his left hand.
 
"It's really important though," Mitsuhiko argued.
 
Damian grunted as he faced him once more. "Alright then, what's so important?"
 
"Well.. you know how earlier I told you I ended up on this ship by accident? I might not have been entirely honest."
 
Damian crossed his arms over his chest. "Didn't I tell you I didn't care why or how you ended up on thi-"
 
"There's a dead body in the storage room." Mitsuhiko jumped straight to the point. "And if what I heard earlier is true, someone aboard this ship is going to be killed before this cruise is over."
 
Damian's eyes widened as his arms dropped down to his side in disbelief. The uncertain look on his face turned to one of determination just as fast. "Tsuburaya… tell me everything."
 
….
 
Traffic was light at the given moment. How much time had passed since either had spoken a word? He blinked an eye, the urge to close his eyes completely weighed heavily. It had been a long day to say the least. Passing another street light his eyes peered off to the right side, he was familiar with the area and knew a coffee shop would soon be reached. When that time came he took a right, pulling into the parking lot of the desired location.
 
The man sitting in the passenger seat was confused by this action. "Gin, what are we doing here?"
 
"To get a drink, why else would I stop here?" questioned Gin who pulled into an empty parking space. After bringing the vehicle to a halt he looked to his comrade. "You coming?"
 
Vodka shrugged. "Why not?" The two exited the vehicle to be met by a passing breeze. "Finally a chance to stretch my legs."
 
Gin said nothing as he advanced toward the coffee shop. "Bro, hold on," Vodka called. "What about the meeting, is it still going down Saturday?"
 
Gin stopped before turning to match his eyes. "The meeting has been pushed back due to that side show being pushed to Sunday," informed Gin. "In other words our meeting will occur Sunday night to coincide as we originally planned."
 
"No doubt all because of that Riddler fiasco," Vodka assumed. "I still don't see why it's so important for our meeting to fall in line with that Kamen Yaiba showing."
 
"Complaining isn't going to change that."
 
"I'm aware." Moments of filled silence passed between the pair. ".. Gin, tell me. What have you heard about the newcomer, Horilka? You never specified to me what they're bringing to the table."
 
"… They have a special background for hunting."
 
"Hunting? Doesn't sound all that special to me," Vodka remarked. "Last I checked we're not an organization of poachers."
 
"Horilka hunting is for a special kind of people."
 
"Oh yah, and what kind of people are we talking?"
 
"Mercenaries."
 
Vodka was now intrigued. "Mercenaries? Since when do we go after mercenari-"
 
"The moment one foiled not one, or two, but three of our organization's operations within the past four months," relayed Gin.
 
"I never heard that."
 
"I received the news myself earlier today," Gin said. "In regards to the new, Horilka is being brought in to find them, and when that happens.. I will put the pest on ice myself."
 
This was not what Vodka was expecting to hear. "Someone has been screwing with our business?! Who?!"
 
Gin turned for the coffee shop. "We don't have a name, no knowledge of where she or he is from, we don't know who they answers to.. if anyone. We know very little, only that they are skilled in the art of combat and are proficient with firearms."
 
Gin began to walk with Vodka following. "Nothing we can't handle." Vodka was confident in his words. "Bro, this person.. the mercenary, do we at least have a description for what the bastard may look like?"
 
Now halfway across the lot Gin stopped, facing his partner for a final time. "No one has gotten a look at their face, even if they've managed to come within feet of them."
 
"Huh? If people have gotten that close how were they not able to make out their look?"
 
"I'm told this specific mercenary wears a hood over their head," answered Gin who turned to walk once more. "A 'red hood'."
 
To Be Continued

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Lightest of Nights: A Deck of Minds
 
Chapter 28
 
Mystery aboard the Cruiser
 
A mystery man, a truck, a crate, and a dead body. Damian was stunned. Was everything he said true?
 
"And you're certain about all of this?"
 
"I'm not lying," Mitsuhiko assured. "If we go back to the storage room you'll see."
 
"See what?" questioned Damian.
 
"The crate I told you about before, the one where the body was hidden inside," Mitsuhiko began. "It's here on the cruiser. Why else would I sneak onto this ship?"
 
"I don't know.. maybe to get a free cruise out to sea?"
 
"Come on, I'm being serious."
 
Learning this Damian raised a hand to his chin. "So that would explain."
 
"You believe me right?"
 
Of everything that had been learned there was one thing to question. "If all of what you say is true, why not alert the police? Why try and investigate this yourself instead of leaving it to the professionals?"
 
"I was unable to call anyone," Mitsuhiko informed.
 
"Why's that? Do you not have a phone?"
 
"I do." Proving this Mitsuhiko reached into his pocket to reveal just that. "See."
 
"That puts us back at square one. If what you say is true, why didn't you contact the police?" Damian asked. "Your phone ran out of juice or something?"
 
"Over time it did, but not at first," replied Mitsuhiko. "When I was stuck in the back of that truck I was unable to make any calls, there was no service for some reason. It was almost like my phone's signal was blocked."
 
Damian's eyes narrowed. "He's right, his phone's signal must have been jammed while traveling in that truck. That is very telling." Damian looked back at Mitsuhiko. "So the truck finally reaches its destination, and then you manage to escape. What happened next?"
 
"Well.. I." Mitsuhiko began rehashing all that happened following his exit of the truck. "After I escaped I hid behind a large garbage bin, one in the alley the truck was parked in."
 
"Go on."
 
Mitsuhiko nodded. "The driver of the truck returned to the back shortly after."
 
"And what did he do after he came back?"
 
"Nothing," replied Mitsuhiko. This was not the expected answer. "I waited, as did he. A minute passed, then a whole bunch more."
 
"Was he waiting for something?"
 
Mitsuhiko nodded. "Eventually another man showed up, a stevedore."
 
"A stevedore?" It was now all coming together. "And this stevedore transported the body onto this ship right?"
 
"That's right."
 
"I see." Damian turned for the door.
 
"Where are we going?"
 
"To confirm your claims," replied Damian. "Come on."
 
The two stepped past the door leading them back into the hall. The destination was clear, the storage room. Both of them kept an eye out for anyone else roaming the hall. "We're good to go," Damian said.
 
"What's that supposed to mean?" Mitsuhiko asked. "Do you not want us to get seen?"
 
"Anyone sees us heading for the storage room will have questions," Damian replied. "I don't want questions."
 
Continuing onward the pair made a move around the corner. The door to the storage room was now in view. "Almost there."
 
As they neared unexpectedly a door on the opposite wall flew open. The two instinctively stopped as they watched one of the security guards step out. Turning, he immediately noticed the pair. "What are you kids doing down this way, and alone for that matter?"
 
"We were.." Mitsuhiko was at a loss for words.
 
"We are on our way to the pool," Damian stated.
 
"The pool, oh I see!" The security guard laughed.
 
That very moment the door to the storage room opened. Someone exited. Who was it? Due to the security guard standing in his line of sight Damian was uncertain.
 
"If you're looking for the pool you'll find that you'll reach it much sooner if you turn back from where you just came," the security guard pointed. "You'll take a right at the end of the hall, keep going straight from there. No way can you boys miss it."
 
"Thanks," replied Damian who made a move to turn. "We clearly took a wrong turn."
 
"No big deal, it's to be expected. Especially if I am to assume this is your first trip aboard this cruiser."
 
Damian retreated back into the direction they had come with Mitsuhiko following. "What, so that's it? We're not going to go to the storage room?"
 
"Follow my lead," responded Damain.
 
"But the body.. we need to go to the storage roo-"
 
"And we will," Damian promised. He stopped. "Look, I don't want to arise any unwanted attention. If that guard sees a couple of kids going into the storage room unattended he'd surely have questions and that could blow whatever investigation it is you've got going.. what we've got going."
 
Mitsuhiko took a deep breath. "So what are we going to do now?"
 
"What I told the guard we would do," Damian replied. "We go to the pool room."
 
"Then?"
 
"We walk past there and circle around until we reach the storage room again," Damian replied.
 
"Ok."
 
"After we search the storage room for the special box you spoke of we'll adjust from there if need be," Damian continued. "Sound good?"
 
Mitsuhiko nodded. "Works for me."
 
Damian made a move to walk again. "Let's move. Doubtful this case solves itself."
 
Mitsuhiko paced forward, finding his way to Damian's side in no time. "Hey, you still haven't told me."
 
"About?"
 
"Well.. it's clear you're investigating something as well." Mitsuhiko was certain of this. "When do you plan on sharing what that is?"
 
"My answer hasn't changed. The less you know the better."
 
Even though he wouldn't answer it had to be questioned. What had brought Damian to join this cruise? Had someone sent him? Or did he join this cruise by his own choice? And if so, for what reason?
 
….
 
In Gotham
 
The board meeting had reached its conclusion. With his business concluded at Wayne Enterprises for the time being Bruce now walked clear of the premises. He raised a hand, blocking the shine of the sun as he searched the ongoing traffic. "There."
 
Spotting the expected vehicle he pressed on. Alfred drew eye to him as he approached. "And how did the meeting go Master Bruce," Alfred greeted.
 
"Well," replied Bruce who entered the car.
 
Following this Alfred returned to the driver side as he too entered the vehicle. "So everything went as expected? That's good to hear sir."
 
"Not everything."
 
Alfred strapped his seat belt on. "What's that?"
 
"Before the board meeting I was approached by an unexpected visitor."
 
"A politician looking to push an agenda no doubt," Alfred assumed.
 
"Not entirely," Bruce replied. "The man I speak of, his name is Jirokichi Suzuki."
 
Alfred turned the key in the ignition. "Should that name ring a bell?"
 
"Kaitou Kid," Bruce replied. "There is no man on this planet that has a profiled history longer with Kid than him."
 
"So he shows up at Wayne Enterprises, what happened next?"
 
"He held out a hand in suggestion of a partnership," Bruce informed. "Given that Kid hit the Gotham Museum and the art show I set up in Japan, Mr. Suzuki felt I'd be the man for such an arrangement."
 
"And why is that?"
 
"In both cases; the museum and the art show Kaitou Kid managed to get past the Wayne security that had been set up. Mr. Suzuki believes that trend will continue," Bruce explained.
 
"And is that your belief as well?"
 
"I believe Kaitou Kid has an agenda, hitting places that are backed by Wayne security is not it," Bruce replied. "Given what happened in Tokyo involving Kid and the Royal Flush Gang, he might just be caught up in more than I originally thought."
 
"If I may enquire, what do you believe the connection between Kaitou Kid and the Royal Flush Gang is?" Now with an opening Alfred pulled into the active stream of traffic.
 
"I'm not going to jump to a baseless conclusion. We do know that Kaitou Kid's current interest seems to reside on the Revenant Warriors," Bruce noted. "One has to wonder, could this be the connection between Kid and the Royal Flush Gang?"
 
"To answer that we'd need to determine the Revenant Warriors importance. What could possibly be the end game for achieving all?"
 
"I've asked that question myself, something I'm still investigating," Bruce admitted. "We figure that out, we may be able to determine what Kaitou Kid hopes to achieve. As far as the Royal Flush Gang is concerned it is far too early to draw a conclusion for what their involvement may be."
 
"What end came of you and Mr. Suzuki's little meet?" Alfred was curious. "Did you reach some kind of agreement?"
 
"Yes, a partnership. His knowledge of Kid, my technology." Bruce confirmed. "Though I made it clear to him that I wouldn't be able to maintain a lengthy presence in Japan, and instead let him know I would be sending someone in my stead to oversee any operations involving Kid."
 
"And who will you send on your behalf?"
 
"Someone I trust to unravel this mystery, the one person who thinks the most like me," Bruce answered.
 
Alfred was pretty sure he knew of whom he spoke of. "I see. And when will this overseas operation to apprehend Kid begin?"
 
"Tomorrow," Bruce replied. "He'll arrive in Tokyo tomorrow."
 
…..
 
Aboard the Cruiser
 
In short time Damian and Mitsuhiko spotted a large sign hanging over a door on the left, one reading; 'Pool'. Mitsuhiko looked to Damian. "Should we take a peek inside?"
 
"I'm more interested in what's in the storage room," Damian said. "But with that said, we'll need to check out the pool area at some point, and since we're here now we might as well put in our time now. We'd only waste ground if we go to the storage room only to backtrack this way after we finish."
 
"You make a good point." Mitsuhiko saw the logic behind this.
 
"Listen, we're not staying for long. We give it a quick look, anyone or anything that seems off we'll take note of and go."
 
"Got it," Mitsuhiko nodded.
 
"Alright then," said Damian stepping up to the door. He was the first to step in. Their nostrils were immediately met by a strong scent of chlorine. The room was massive in size. Looking to investigate further the pair advanced.
 
Mitsuhiko initially looked left to find a lap pool. There were five lanes in all, all of which were empty except for one. The second lane in, there was someone swimming from one end of the pool to the other. Outside of the pool was a bench area that also hosted a towel rack. There was no one else to be found on that side of the room. "Everything looks pretty typical." There was nothing out of ordinary from what he could tell.
 
Damian's focus was drawn to the other side; it was here he spotted what was clearly the main pool. "There are two people the pool.. Chiasa and Aoko." Damian recognized them both from the boarding process earlier in the evening. He double checked, there was no one else, only the two of them.
 
It didn't take long before Mitsuhiko noticed the pair. "Damian-kun, should we say anything to them?"
 
Damian shook his head. "Only observe." For many seconds he did just that. The two were standing in the four foot section of the pool. While he was uncertain for what they were discussing, he was able to make out their expressions. It may not be much, but it was enough to tell a story. "They seem eased and focused on the moment. Not something you'd equate with someone who is plotting or scheming something."
 
In those silent filled seconds something else caught Mitsuhiko's sight. "Damian-kun look, over there."
 
Damian's eyes fell in the pointed direction to spot a door clear across the room. "What of it?"
 
"Any guess for what's on the other side?"
 
"That's where the steam room is located."
 
"How do you know that?" Mitsuhiko asked.
 
"If you haven't already forgotten," replied Damian who held up his phone. "I have the blueprints for the entirety of this ship."
 
"I didn't forget," Mitsuhiko said. "So are we going to check it out?"
 
"Later," Damian replied. "Given that neither of us are sporting any water play attire that'd make us the suspicious party if anyone notices."
 
Mitsuhiko understood. "Well you do make a good point. So it's off to the storage room now right?"
 
"Would you have it any other way?"
 
"I guess not."
 
"Then let's go." As he walked Damian noticed the woman in the lap pool. From her figure alone he was uncertain of who she was, and given that she wore a pair of goggles and a swim cap he was unable to make out any defining features. "Never mind it.. she's probably nothing to worry about."
 
The two left in the fashion that they had come. Now back in the hallway they quietly traveled along. While proceeding Mitsuhiko gave eye to the many different works of art that were present along the walls, a majority of which were paintings. They turned right after reaching the end of the hall.
 
Was Mitsuhiko's claim true? Was there really a dead body aboard the cruiser? That begged the question, who was the one responsible? "Bane.." That was the first name to come to Damian's mind. But that would beg the question of why. "If Bane is wrapped in something like this, why would he have the body of someone he killed shipped on a cruiser he is taking part in? That's not his style and above all would make little sense."
 
There fact still stood Bane had surveillance running in the storage room, so any conducted investigation on those grounds would be viewed by him. This was a detail that Damian could not ignore.
 
"Hey Damian-kun," Mitsuhiko spoke.
 
Pulled away from his inner thoughts Damian responded. "What now?"
 
"Earlier you mentioned the steam room and the pool area," Mitsuhiko recalled. "What else is located on this floor besides those and the storage room?"
 
"The recreation center and the armory," Damian reminded. "Both of which are by the storage room."
 
"Are you sure there is nothing else down here?"
 
"I'm sure? Why are you asking?"
 
"Well there was also the security room, and you didn't mention that when we initially agreed we'd be searching every floor," Mitsuhiko noted.
 
"Only because we won't be going into the security room," Damian replied. "We're not authorized to do so after all."
 
Taking another right the two were now back in sight of the door leading to the storage room. Continuing the two immediately passed a door which had a sign reading Recreation Center. Halfway down they passed a second door, one hoisting a sign that read 'Armory'.
 
"Are we not going to search those rooms?"
 
"We'll fall back and check those after you show me this discovery of yours in the storage room."
 
The task was simple, find the body. Damian looked from left to right, the coast was clear. With that accounted for he opened the door to the storage room. Now inside Damian looked to Mitsuhiko. "We're here. Now show me," Damian said. "Show me where the body is supposedly hidden."
 
Sure of where it was Mitsuhiko wasted no time. Marching forward the young detective locked in on the crate he had seen while riding in the truck just a few hours prior. "There," Mitsuhiko pointed. "It should be in that one."
 
Damian came to his side, noting the wall of other packages that was blocking the sought prize. "Well, let's get started."
 
Not another word needed to be said. The both of them began moving objects out of the way that blocked their path to what they sought. Damian moved quickly, knowing if Bane was in fact watching he could arrive at any moment.
 
"That's the last one," said Mitsuhiko as he dragged a bulky barrel off to the side.
 
The lone crate now sat before them. "Now for the moment of truth."
 
Mitsuhiko watched as Damian dropped to a knee, his heart now racing. "This is it. Now he'll see for himself."
 
Tightly grasping the sides of the crate Damian pulled the top off. What he discovered inside was not a body, but rather a large cooler, one at least six feet in length.
 
"I.. I don't recall there being a cooler," voiced Mitsuhiko.
 
Only one step remained. Damian placed a hand atop the cooler, pulling its top off with minimal difficulty. Mitsuhiko gasped in disbelief. There was but one thing to find inside, many cubes of ice sitting in an empty bed of water.
 
"It.. the body's not there!" Mitsuhiko still couldn't believe it. "Where could it have gone?"
 
After placing the top of the cooler back on Damian stood up, looking at Mitsuhiko with a questioning look to display. "There's no body."
 
Words could not describe his disappointment. "You don't believe me, do you?"
 
Damian looked away, dropping focus back to all of the items they had moved out of place. "Let's clean up," Damian stated. "Once we finish, it's off to the Recreation Center followed by the Armory. Our investigation isn't over."
 
Mitsuhiko could see it in his eyes, Damian didn't believe him. He couldn't be any more disappointed. None of it made any sense. He was certain that was the crate the body was inside. "I don't understand.. the body was in there. Where is it now?"
 
 
Kaito had checked the first and second floors and in both cases there was no sign of Aoko. "She said she would be in the cafeteria, yet she wasn't there." He now walked down a staircase that would lead him to the third floor. Halfway down Kaito pulled out his phone, attempting to call his friend once again. "Aoko it's me, Kaito.. trying to call you for like the fifth time. Whenever you decide to pick up would be nice. So if you get this message I'd really appreciate a call me back."
 
Placing the phone back in his pocket Kaito continued down the stairs. "This is the only floor I haven't checked." Kaito then referred to cruiser handbook that he had stashed away. "I wonder what is all down on this level? If Aoko is down here there must be something that would have brought her."
 
Kaito reached a pair of doors which he walked past after reaching the bottom of the stairs. Not taking another step he began looking through the handbook. "An Armory! There's an armory on this ship?! I'll definitely be checking that out." Not stopping there Kaito noted what other rooms were on this floor. "A recreation center.. yah, not my kinda thing. Let's see here, there's also an inside swimming pool. Bam! That has to be it; that has to be where she is!"
 
Tracing his hand over the page Kaito was able to determine where he needed to go.
 
"Need help finding something?"
 
Kaito looked up to find a security guard standing no more than six feet away. It wasn't the same man he had encountered on the upper floor. "Was just looking to see which direction the pool is in," Kaito replied.
 
"There," the security guard pointed. "Head down that way and you'll reach it within the minute."
 
"Thanks a ton," Kaito replied.
 
"Anytime. Hope you enjoy the rest of the cruise." From there the security guard turned for the opposite direction. "Now to get back to fixing these forsaken cameras."
 
After stashing the booklet into his jacket Kaito began walking. "If I go this way and take a right further up that should lead me to where I want to be just like he said." From there Kaito pressed on. As suspected, within a minute Kaito came to spot a sign over a door reading 'Pool'. "Bingo."
 
Entering the room the first thing that came to ear was laughter. At long last he had found her. "Aoko!"
 
Kaito called her name for a second time as he walked forward. Aoko who had her back turned to him shifted after hearing her name called. "Kaito!"
 
"Yo what's up?" a grinning Kaito approached.
 
"Where have you been?! I tried calling you several times."
 
Kaito shrugged. "I was napping for a bit. Besides, in your message you said you'd be in the cafeteria which makes you partially to blame. Plus I called you and you didn't pickup.. I guess I know why."
 
"I should have expected no less from you."
 
"What's that supposed to mean?"
 
Aoko rolled her eyes. "Forget about it." She then turned for the woman who was in the pool across from her. "Look, there is someone I want you to meet."
 
Raising his head the Kid thief came to spot the girl in question. "Chiasa?"
 
Chiasa waved. "Hi Kaito-kun!"
 
Aoko looked from one to the other with a look of surprise. "Hold on, you guys know each other?"
 
"We met just a bit ago," informed Kaito who took another step forward. "It happened shortly after you went into your room. Chiasa-san and her friend were having trouble with their key card so I approached in hopes of fixing their problem."
 
"Turns out we had the right room number but wrong floor," Chiasa laughed. "It was totally Yuriko's fault."
 
"What was my fault?"
 
Everyone's attention was diverted to the door leading into the room. Now approaching was a young woman wearing a violet colored swimming suit and a pair of black colored cut gloves.
 
"Yuriko, you're finally here!" Chiasa happily jumped.
 
"Don't try to flip it," replied a frowning Yuriko who dropped her hands from the towel around her neck before placing them upon her waist. "You were just talking about me, weren't you?"
 
"I can promise you it was all good," Kaito said.
 
Yuriko shifted her focus. "You.. that's right, you're that guy from earlier. Kitto-kun was it?"
 
Aoko giggled in light of this.
 
"Kaito," he corrected.
 
"Kaito, oh that's right," Yuriko recalled.
 
"Chiasa-chan is she the friend you were talking about earlier?" Aoko asked.
 
"Yep, that's her," Chiasa confirmed. She then looked to her friend. "Hey Yuriko, are you going to come in?"
 
Yuriko reached for the towel around her neck. "Don't mind if I do." Yanking the towel down she looked toward Kaito. "Mind holding this for a bit?"
 
"Auhh, well.." before Kaito had a chance to reply the towel was tossed into his arms. "Sure, why not."
 
Dashing with a run start Yuriko lunged for the pool. "Bon voyage!" She dropped in with a big splash. Ascending from the depths of the water Yuriko looked up at him with a wink. "Thanks Kitto-kun."
 
This brought laughs from both Chiasa and Aoko. Kaito merrily rolled his eyes. "It's not that funny."
 
"Do you plan on joining us at any point?" Yuriko asked.
 
"Unfortunately I didn't bring any swimming garments along for the trip," Kaito replied.
 
"You could just strip down to your underwear," a smiling Chiasa suggested.
 
This caught Kaito by surprise. "That.. umm, sounds like a great idea, it's just."
 
"I get it, you're lady shy," Yuriko assumed.
 
"As if," Aoko stated. "I'd say it's quite the opposite. He seems to take pleasure in tormenting me on a daily basis for example."
 
"Hey, that's not true," Kaito denied.
 
"Is to!" Aoko fired back.
 
This moment brought a realization for Yuriko. "Would I be right to assume you two are heavily acquainted?"
 
"Unfortunately," Kaito muttered under his breath. Subtle movement came from his pocket at that moment. It was the vibration of his phone. Flipping in hand he found it was an incoming call from Konosuke. "I have to take this."
 
"We are, we've known each other since we were little. We currently attend the same high school too," Aoko conveyed.
 
"I'm not surprised in the least."
 
"What about you and Yuriko-chan?" Aoko asked. "How long have you and Chiasa-chan known each other for?"
 
Kaito saw this moment as a window of opportunity. "Now is my chance."
 
"Chiasa and I?" Yuriko looked up as if to surf through her thoughts. "If I'm not mistaken it's coming around to three years since I was brought on as her personal tutor."
 
"Tutor? You're her tutor?" This bit of information caught Aoko by surprise.
 
"A part timer if you will," Yuriko confirmed. "My main job is as a mechanic."
 
"What can I say, my grades in school before Yuriko came on board weren't exactly comparable to what you would see from a model student," Chiasa admitted.
 
"There is no mistake about that," Yuriko said looking toward her friend. "You used to be a class clown of sorts. Thankfully you're past that stage."
 
"That scarily sounds like someone I know," said Aoko who looked to where Kaito once stood to find that he was gone. The only thing that remained was Yuriko's towel that hung over the pool rail. "Kaito! Where did he go?"
 
Yuriko and Chiasa noticed as well. "Gee, someone was in a hurry," Yuriko noted. "Any idea where he might have gone?"
 
Aoko shook her head. "When it comes to Kaito there's no telling."
 
"I wouldn't worry, I'm sure he'll be back shortly." Yuriko seemed sure of this.
 
At that moment Aoko and Yuriko were met by a wave of water that forcefully splashed on them from behind. Their immediate reaction was to spin around, both coming to face a grinning Chiasa. "Oops, my hand might have slipped."
 
Yuriko and Aoko looked to one another. "You thinking what I'm thinking?" Aoko asked.
 
"That retribution is best served in waves?" Yuriko responded.
 
"Let's do it!"
 
….
 
Recreation Center
 
That was what the sign hanging over the door read. Damian's thoughts were clouded. What Mitsuhiko had said about the events leading him to boarding the ship, was any of it true?
 
"So are we going in?" Mitsuhiko questioned.
 
Pressing against the door Damian forced it open. He said nothing as the two entered. The room had a lot of space. There was a basketball court located toward the right. The section was empty, not a person in sight. Shifting their focus to the left they came to spot an area that was filled with a wide variety of equipment for working out. To their delight there were two people to find.
 
The first was a man who was lifting a set of dumbbells who had his back turned to them. Because of this neither was able to tell who he was. The other person to spot was a red haired woman who was pacing herself on a treadmill. Both recognized her, Rosetta Dellmara. Mitsuhiko gave Damian a nudge. "Hey look, it's your dream girl."
 
"I see you're still riding that assumption," replied Damian.
 
"That didn't sound like a denial," Mitsuhiko grinned.
 
The floppy hat and summer dress Rosetta had worn before had been replaced with a sports headband and top along with a pair of sweat pants.
 
"Let's move," Damian said before advancing in the direction of the two.
 
"What?" this was surprising to Mitsuhiko. "I thought you didn't want to talk to anyone, only that we would observe."
 
"I don't intend to, look," Damian pointed as the two proceeded. "There's a staircase. I want to see what's on the second floor of this room."
 
The two reached the bottom of the staircase in little time. "Stay here," Damian instructed. "If you see or hear anything strange take note of it. I promise I won't be long."
 
"Roger that captain." Mitsuhiko gave him the thumbs up.
 
As expected Damian began his journey up the mountain of stairs. Mitsuhiko crossed his arms over his chest. "What legitimate investigation only involves observing?" he shook his head. "At this rate we'll never learn anything and we'll be too late to stop the potential killer."
 
It was now time to act. Now with Damian's back turned to him, Mitsuhiko was ready to make a move. Steering away from what they had agreed upon Mitsuhiko walked toward the man who was still weight lifting. Narrowing the distance between them to where they were now only feet apart Mitsuhiko spoke. "Excuse me sir."
 
Hearing someone speak to him, the man placed the dumbbell weights to the ground before turning around. Now able to see his face Mitsuhiko knew who it was. "He's Taro Toda.. that's right, I crossed his wife while I was in the cafeteria earlier."
 
"Is there something I can do for you young man?" asked Taro who wiped a streak of sweat from his forehead using the towel that was positioned around his neck.
 
Taking a couple seconds to think up a question of response Mitsuhiko responded. "I was just wondering," Mitsuhiko began as he turned in the direction of the stairs. "Do you have any idea what is on the second floor?"
 
"Oh yes," Taro said pleased to inform. "I visited up there a short time ago. There isn't much mind you, just a couple of tracks."
 
"Tracks?"
 
"Yes, for running," Taro replied. "There are four lanes total. The two outside lanes are for those who wish only to walk, while the two inside lanes are for joggers and runners. That's pretty much it and a bag of chips kid. You won't find anything else up there."
 
"Did anyone else besides you go up there?"
 
"Now that you mention it, yes, there was some other guy up there who was running in the lane beside the one I was using. Not sure if he's come down yet," Taro ran down.
 
"Was there anyone else?" Mitsuhiko asked.
 
"Not that I can remem.. hold on, there was another man," Taro recalled. "Yes, that's right. On my way down he was walking up the stairs."
 
"How long ago would that have been?"
 
"About three minutes ago, give or take," Taro noted. "Why do you ask, are you looking for someone?"
 
Playing it off as that Mitsuhiko nodded. "I knew he would be in this room somewhere."
 
Taro smiled. "Glad I could be of service." Feeling there was nothing more to say Taro diverted his attention back to the weights that lied before him.
 
Mitsuhiko then looked in the direction of Rosetta who was still running on the active treadmill. Given that she had earplugs on as well Mitsuhiko decided against approaching her, instead opting to reverse his tracks. Once he reached the bottom of the stairs he stopped. "I'll wait here, it shouldn't be too long before Damian-kun returns."
 
Marching up the long fleet of stairs Damian managed to finally reach the top. Now standing before a large door he attempted to open it. The door knob wouldn't turn. "It's locked." He attempted to open it for a second time only to receive the same results. "Looks like this little tour is over."
 
As he turned to walk away Damian heard a voice, one that had carried from the other side of the door. "Someone is in there." Returning to the door Damian curiously placed his ear against the door in hopes of hearing what was being said.
 
"That is one crazy conspiracy theory you've got wrapped in that head of yours," the voice of a man spoke. "I don't even know how you could come to a conclusion like that."
 
"Theory? Try fact," another responded. It was a woman, Damian was sure of this. "I don't believe in coincidence Neo."
 
"Whether you want to believe it or not, sometimes things just happen to line up by chance," the man replied. "This just so happens to be one of those cases. There is nothing more to it."
 
"You, me, Mar-kun, and Naba. There is no way we all ended up on the same cruise by chance."
 
"Oh come on, do you really believe us being here has something to do with what happened that night seven years ago? Don't be ridiculous."
 
Damian's interest began to rise. "This sounds promissing," he softly spoke. Anticipating what would be said next another sound echoed from the grounds, one of agony. Damian immediately pushed away from the door. "Someone screamed."
 
Turning, Damian raced down the stairs as adrenaline began to rise. He reached Mitsuhiko who had a look of concern on his face. "Tsuburaya, what happened?!"
 
"I'm not sure, I heard someone scream," Mitsuhiko replied.
 
Taro who wasn't far away walked up on the two from behind. "It sounded like it came from the hall somewhere," Taro said as he reached into his pocket. Pulling out a pair of glasses he placed them over his eyes. "We better hurry, if someone is in trouble they may need our help."
 
Mitsuhiko nodded. "He's right."
 
They wouldn't waste another second. Charging toward the door the three of them pushed past it which brought them back into the hall. It was there that they saw her, sitting on the ground just feet away.
 
"That woman, she's Freya Hepperway." Damian instantly recognized her seeing her earlier.
 
"Ma'm, are you ok?" Taro called to her as they closed in.
 
She raised a hand, pointing to the door she sat before. "There, in.. inside," Freya fretted.
 
Taro who stood to the front of the pack made a move for the door, swinging it open to have an instant fright over take him. He stepped back as he screamed out in fear. "What the hell happened?!"
 
Damian and Mitsuhiko took to the front, both witnessing what the others had with their own eyes. No more than ten feet into the room a man dressed in a clown suit hung from the ceiling by the rope that was tied around his neck. Drilled into the hanging man's abdomen was what appeared to be a dagger. Narrowing his eyes Damian stepped into the room.
 
"Hey kid, what are you doing?!" Taro yelled.
 
Now closer Damian stared up at the man who hung, it didn't take long for him to ID the victim. "Lukmar Xiene, he was the first person I witnessed board this ship." Damian then turned to his side to find Mitsuhiko, there was a dumbfounding look on his face. "What's wrong?"
 
"D..Damian-kun, that's him."
 
"Him? What the heck are you talking about?"
 
"The body that I told you about, the one that was in the back of that truck.. this is him!"
 
Damian's eyes widened. "What? That can't be so! I saw this man board the ship myself," Damian declared.
 
Mitsuhiko faced him. "I know what I saw, you have to believe me!"
 
The two would then be joined. "What the hell happened in HERE?! The two spun around to spot one of the security guards. "Well.. are any of you going to answer?!"
 
"We just got here," Damian explained. "He was already here."
 
The security guard moved deeper into the room. "Then step aside! We need to cut him down, there's a chance he could still be alive!"
 
Making a move toward the body the security guard would be stopped by the voice of another. "I wouldn't bother, he's already dead."
 
Mitsuhiko, Damian, and the security guard all turned around to now find a man wearing a sports cap standing in the doorway.
 
"Are you the one responsible for this?" the security guard questioned.
 
"Of course not," the newcomer responded.
 
"Then how the hell would you know?!"
 
"The evidence is all there, he's gone I'm afraid."
 
"Just who are you?! I command that you identify yourself!" The security guard yelled before pulling out a stun gun which he then aimed at him.
 
He held up his hands to showcase he wasn't a threat. "I am a detective," replied the young man who stepped forward. "Heiji Hattori."
 
To Be Continued

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Lightest of Nights: A Deck of Minds
 
Chapter 29
 
Mystery aboard the Cruiser: Part Two
 
The guard's eyes drifted wide. "You.. I've heard of you. That's right! You're that up and coming detective from Osaka! My niece talks about you all the time!"
 
The young detective advanced forward. Damian's eyes sharpened, following each and every move made by the newcomer. "Him… this must be the guy Inaba mentioned earlier," Damian figured. "Clearly he boarded before the rest of us."
 
As he neared the body himself Heiji took notice of Mitsuhiko. "You're that kid! Hey, is Kud.." Heiji managed to stop himself in mid-sentence. "I mean.. is Conan-kun with you?"
 
Mitsuhiko shook his head. "No, it's just me." He proudly pointed to himself. "The lone Detective Boy ready to solve this case."
 
Heiji was a bit disappointed to learn he was alone. Either way that was of small concern, what mattered was finding out the mystery behind the hanged man.
 
While he hadn't paid it much mind before the detail of it was very prevalent. "This room.. it is notably warm in comparison to the other rooms I've visited thus far," Damian took mental note of that very detail. "Is there a reason for that?"
 
"Hey!" the security guard spoke. "You seemed positive this man was dead, what made you so certain about that?"
 
Heiji raised a hand. "There."
 
Everyone looked to the directed, the placement of the dagger that had been driven into the victims abdomen. The security guard didn't quite understand. "That confirms nothing. Many people can and have survived being stabbed."
 
While he hadn't realized at first, Damian too noted the undeniable evidence. "Blood."
 
Both the security guard and Mitsuhiko looked over at Damian. "What are you talking about?" Mitsuhiko asked.
 
"There is no blood, look," instructed Damian who nodded in the direction of the body. "Think about it, when someone is stabbed, especially in the place our vic' here was wouldn't there be-"
 
It was now becoming clear. "Blood! Yes, there should be blood. Since there isn't that can only mean.."
 
"That's right," Heiji said. "The insertion of the blade occurred postmortem."
 
The question now, why?
 
"Well there's that, that also raises the question for how long he has been dead," the security guard said.
 
"That's quite the question isn't it?" That was something he hoped to determine. Heiji pressed on once more. After only taking two steps he heard a splash under foot. He looked down to spot a puddle. "Water?"
 
Where had it come from? Focus then trailed to the main attraction, the body. Moving another inch forward he held out a hand, placing it upon the deceased's neck as he examined further. The neck was the main area of emphasis; it took little time for him to note something of importance. "So that's how it is."
 
In those quiet filled moments the security guard crossed his arms across his chest. ".. Well?"
 
Heiji lowered his hand back to his side as he turned to face everyone. "He's been dead for at least a day."
 
"AT LEAST A DAY!" both the security guard and Mitsuhiko shouted at once.
 
Damian instinctively narrowed his eyes. "An entire day? Then who the hell was the man I saw board earlier?" Could things be any more sophisticated? "Just what the hell is going on?"
 
There was one more alarming detail yet to be revealed. "From the feel of his body and the fact there is not a single trace of blood on the knife, I'd say our dead man was drained of his blood," Heiji added.
 
Mitsuhiko's eyes widened as he gulped. "Blood drained as in.. like he encountered a vampire?!"
 
"Well.. something like that," Heiji said in short. "Though, that does beg the question of why?"
 
"Try that for this entire situation. Why kill a guy by hanging, and then drain his blood with the finishing touch of planting a dagger in him," the security guard questioned. "This is all so bizarre."
 
"About that," Heiji began as he looked back at the body. "This man did not meet his end by hanging. I checked the marks on his neck, like the dagger they too came postmortem."
 
The surprises just kept pilling. "What?! Then if he didn't die from hanging or being stabbed, then what is the cause of his death?" The security guard questioned.
 
Heiji looked hard and long at the body. "I honestly can't say at the moment."
 
"None of this makes any sense," Damian said aloud. "I saw that man board just like everyone else."
 
"Looks can be deceiving," Heiji spoke in response. "Someone clearly must have disguised their self as this individual."
 
Heiji couldn't help but raise a hand to his chin. "The question is.. why?" Focus drew back to the hanging man. "Looking at it as pieces, rather than as a whole there seems to be some kind of .."
 
"What are you talking about?" the security guard did not understand.
 
Heiji began breaking it down. "A man is killed, then hanged.. stabbed, left for us to find. There is no mistaking it."
 
"Mistaking what?" Mitsuhiko asked.
 
"A hidden message," Heiji conveyed. He lowered his hand, reaching into his pocket to grab hold of something. "Furthermore the victim's apparel seems to give further credibility to what I believe."
 
"What the victim is wearing?" the security guard questioned. The lighting in the room was notably dim, making it hard to make out the fine details from where he stood.
 
Surfing through his pocket Heiji finally made contact with what he was searching for. "Here, have a look for yourselves." Pulling out a miniature flashlight, he pointed its ray of light upon the hanging man.
 
Damian looked over every detail. The victim had on a three piece suit of white and black, the two colors split directly down the center. This was the same for his shoes, one shoe was white, the other.. black in correlation with the black half of the suit. Damian then took note of the placement of the dagger. "He was stabbed directly where the black and white meet." All doubt had withered away. "This detective from Osaka is right, there's definitely a hidden message within all of this. That now leads to.. who is the message meant for? I decipher that; I should be able to figure out who is behind this."
 
If there was anything Damian was certain of, whoever did this was aboard the ship. "I have a feeling our display dead body killer is not done yet. I need to find out who it is before they're able to make another move." One name stood above all others, Bane. Could it truly be him who is behind this all?
 
"Yin, Yang." Those were the words that escaped Heiji's lips as he looked the body up and down. "Dark.. light, the two sides meet at the destination of the blade. Then there's the hanging and the drained blood… only one detail is left unsolved, how did he truly succumb to death?"
 
"So you can't tell what that may be just by looking at him?"
 
Heiji turned to face the security guard, shaking his head as he did. "Unfortunately that's not the case with this one."
 
He nodded, understanding there would be occurrences such as the one they now faced. "By the way, my name is Aellun."
 
"Aellun?" Heiji paused. "That certainly is an unusual name."
 
"My father was never one for the norm, so we'll chop it up as that," Aellun concluded. "Given the circumstance I'm going to need you all to stand outside the room."
 
"Fair enough."
 
Leading the way Aellun, Heiji, Mitsuhiko, and Damian all stepped out of the room to rejoin Taro in the hallway. There was an immediate difference to notice.
 
"Hepperway," Damian said looking from one end of the hall to the other. "Where is she?"
 
"Who?" enquired Heiji who was clueless for whom he spoke of.
 
"She was the woman who was the first to discover the body," Mitsuhiko informed.
 
Aellun looked at Taro. "Did you see which way she went?"
 
Taro nodded. "After you bunch entered the room she strolled that way." He pointed to the left.
 
"Did she say where she was going?" Heiji was hopeful.
 
Taro shook his head. "She said nothing. Though it was clear she was in distress as she walked away."
 
"Understandably so. It's not every day you come across a dead body." Aellun then reached down to grab hold of his walkie-talkie.
 
"What are you doing?" Taro asked.
 
"Contacting Yumin," Aellun replied.
 
"Yumin?"
 
"He's the other guy working security with me for this cruise," Aellun relayed. "I wish for you to all remain here with me. I will have Yumin gather the remaining guests and bring them here. Everyone will need to be questioned regarding this situation."
 
"What about Hepperway-san?" Taro questioned.
 
"I'll leave it to Yumin to track her down and bring her back as well," Aellun responded. "Like everyone else she too will need to be questioned about her whereabouts leading up to the discovery of the body."
 
Aellun raised the walkie-talkie in hand, making the expected call. "Yumin, emergency red, third floor."
 
"Aellun-san, if I may, I feel this is the wrong action to take," Heiji voiced.
 
"I beg your pardon?" Aellun lowered the phone in hand.
 
"If you elect to bring everyone down here and question them about the body it will only bring panic," Heiji stated.
 
"Then what do you propose I do? I can't let this go-"
 
"Call for a roll call," Heiji suggested. "Gather everyone in the cafeteria."
 
"And then what? Getting everyone together isn't going to magically unravel who killed and left this man hanging in the armory, not without questioning everyone directly."
 
"He makes a good point," Taro agreed.
 
"You will question everyone; the key is not to present it as an interrogation. Nor can they know about the murder," Heiji ran down. "Instead you'll simply pass it off as one of the guests aboard the ship has gone missing, which in turn will give you a legitimate reason to question everyone about their whereabouts within the past hour or so. Anyone who comes off as nervous or frazzled during the gathering or questioning process will be our prime suspect, or suspects."
 
"That's genius!" Aellun was fully on board. "So we'll simply say the victim is missing and from there we can-"
 
"No, that won't work." Heiji shot down.
 
This caught most of them by surprise. "What do you mean it won't work, this was your idea after all," Taro felt the need to remind.
 
Of the bunch there was one who agreed with the detective from the west. "Hattori is correct," Damian backed.
 
Mitsuhiko's instant reaction was to look over at him. "He is?"
 
Damian went on to clarify. "That plan would fail for one reason, whoever placed the body there would know Lukmar Xiene has been dead for over twenty four hours," Damian noted. "Thus leading them to determine the whole gathering would be for determining who killed Xiene."
 
Heiji finished. "Exactly. We won't name Lukmar Xiene as the missing party, but rather.." A grin formed across the young detectives lips. "Me."
 
Aellun gasped. "What?! You?!"
 
"Yes," Heiji responded. "If the killer believes you're simply looking for a passenger that is unrelated to their scheme there is a chance they will be far more forthcoming with handing out details about their activities within the past hour, as opposed to knowing they're being set up to give that information."
 
"You know.. you make a really good point." Aellun could not deny this. "Let's say we go through with this, where will you be stationed while everyone is being questioned?"
 
"Would I be right in assuming there is a security room on this cruiser somewhere?"
 
"That would be correct."
 
"Then I'll observe all interactions from there, giving me the option to watch over everyone without anyone being aware." Heiji replied. "Of course if that's ok with you?"
 
Aellun gave it a seconds thought. "That may very well be the wisest action to take."
 
Heiji was pleased to hear this. "Then it is settled."
 
Taro was in full agreement. "The rest of us can study each and everyone's reactions front and center. The guilty person will no doubt reveal themselves in one way or another."
 
It was now time to take action. "I'll call it in," said Aellun who raised his walkie-talkie in hand. "Yumin, do you copy?"
 
Damian and Mitsuhiko looked to one another, both sharing the same thought, would this strategy work in reeling in the killer?
 
"Who would have thought your dead man in the back of a truck finding would have led to this?" Damian said. "To think, you running into that man on the street all happened by chance."
 
Mitsuhiko's mind immediately reverted back to the trials leading to this point. His eyes popped. Damian noticed this.
 
"Something wrong?"
 
"My friends.. my parents!" Mitsuhiko yelped. "I almost forgot, no one knows I'm here! They must be really worried."
 
Damian didn't see the problem. "Then why don't you call them?"
 
"My phone's battery ran out," Mitsuhiko reminded.
 
Overhearing their conversation Heiji stepped up. "Here, you're free to use mine," the detective offered.
 
Mitsuhiko's face lit up. "What? Really?! Thanks a lot!" Mitsuhiko happily accepted the phone in hand.
 
Damian who now stood off to the side had only two things on his mind. "Who killed that man? And what is their end game?"
 
The same thought sat at the top of Heiji's mind. "No matter what, I will find out who is behind this."
 
 
The details of it all weighed heavily on Miwako's mind. Who was Aldor Sunshine? The house that had been discovered in his name… Fun Entertainment Inc, a jug of expired milk, a deck of playing cards, and a receipt for a Kamen Yaiba show. What did it all mean?
 
Who is Aldor Sunshine? Is he truly the one behind the spread of the toxin that had been unleashed on Japan? Miwako tightened her grip around the steering wheel as she came upon a stop sign. Yielding to a couple of pedestrians who walked across she continued onward after they cleared. It was now all fogging into a cloud of clutter. Everything was there; all that remained was to piece it together.
 
"I have a feeling Aldor-san will act again soon. I need to find out what that may be before he can act." The thought of it finally slid to mind. "If there is anyone who can figure it out it's Mouri-san.. yes, I'll bring all I know to him."
 
 
Fifteen minutes passed. Many now stood gathered in the cafeteria. Damian's immediate focus turned on Bane who stood a number of feet away. If there was someone to suspect it was him. The boy wonders eyes then drifted to those who stood at the giant man's side. Trogg and Bird, there was no mistaking who they were; the third, a long brown haired woman wearing a white dress shirt and a pair of grey khaki pants.
 
"Who is she?" Damian didn't recognize her. Taking a couple moments to look the woman over he noted her hair was in the process of drying. "Could it be she was the person I spotted in the lap pool earlier?"
 
The door leading into the cafeteria swung open in the following moments. Aellun and the captain of the ship who stood beside him both looked over to spot Yumin, to their dissatisfaction he was alone. Yumin shook his head as he stepped in range of them, looking from one to the other.
 
"Aellun-kun.. Hirata-sama, there was no sign of the remaining two," Yumin conveyed to the pair. "Wherever Hepperway-chan went after discovering the body is a mystery, and Manabu Yoneda has not been seen since he boarded the ship initially."
 
Damian batted an eye upon hearing this. "Yoneda.. that was the suspicious man who was one of the first to board."
 
"Their rooms, did you check their rooms?" Aellun questioned.
 
"Of course," to which Yumin replied. "There was no sign of either of them in their respective rooms."
 
"I see.."
 
Yumin went on to give his full focus to the captain. "Captain Hirata, has Aellun-kun gotten you up to speed on what's going on?"
 
Hirata nodded. "He has; every important detail there is to know. It all makes no sense though, there's still so much we don't know."
 
"How do you mean?" Yumin asked.
 
"The man who was found hanging is someone who apparently boarded my ship just hours ago, yet.. he's been dead for at least a day?" Hirata shook his head in ultimate confusion.
 
"It's a mystery that clouds us all," Aellun said.
 
Those who had been gathered to the room and had no idea why were now becoming impatient.
 
"Hey! What's the big idea?!" Anna called. "Why have you gathered us all here?"
 
"Yah, we deserve an explanation!" Saburo added from another side of the room.
 
Clearing his throat Captain Hirata stepped forward. "Yes, I'd say an explanation is well in order. Listen up, here is the deal," Hirata began. "We have a passenger that has gone missing aboard this ship. His name is Heiji-san, he is traveling with a young boy who wants nothing more than to be reunited with his travel mate."
 
Hirata then went on to point in the direction of Mitsuhiko who sniffled, giving off a display of sadness in his face.
 
Damian was impressed. "Tsuburaya sure is playing his role rather convincingly."
 
"In attempt to find Heiji-san you all have been gathered here for questioning in regards to your activities for the past hour," Hirata relayed. "The safety of everyone aboard this ship is my top concern. Each of you will individually be questioned by either officer Yumin or Aellun, anything you may have heard or seen over the past hour, whether it may seem important or not could be key in finding the missing passenger."
 
"That's all well and said," Anna spoke. "But what's the point? Doesn't this cruiser have surveillance? Couldn't you find out where this Hej guy is by simply checking that?"
 
"A great question, but it is unfortunate for me to inform that our security has been.. sustaining some difficulties in certain areas of the ship," Yumin informed.
 
"That's right, that was mentioned to me earlier when I crossed the security guards," Kaito recalled internally.
 
A couple feet behind Yuriko pulled out a small bottle before going on to spray something.
 
"Uhmmmm.. that smells so good," Chiasa commented. "What is that flavor? It gives off a, I don't know.. variety apple, grape, berry scent?"
 
"Not entirely sure," Yuriko admitted. "Saw it on sale and decided to give it a try."
 
"Hey! Watch where you're spraying that stuff!" Neour angrily grunted. "Not all of us are interested in smelling like a pile of fruit."
 
"Well please do forgive me," apologized Yuriko who rolled her eyes in the process.
 
Neour went on to clutch his fists. "Forget all this. I've yet to finish my reputations for the weight lifting." Neour made an immediate move for the door. "If y'all want me, you know where to find me."
 
"Hey, you can't just leave," Reira stated from where she sat.
 
"Watch me," Neour venomously responded. In short he found his way out of the room.
 
Captain Hirata turned to Yumin who stood right of him. "Yumin-kun, follow him. There's no doubt he's heading to the recreation center."
 
Yumin nodded. "I'll question him in there."
 
From there Yumin followed after the man who had excused himself.
 
Aellun moved to his captain's side. "Shall we get started Captain Hirata?"
 
He nodded in response. "Yes, it is time."
 
Unknown to most Heiji watched on from the security control room through the surveillance feed, intrigued for what he would discover from what was to come. "And so it begins."
 
To Be Continued

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Lightest of Nights: A Deck of Minds
 
Chapter 30
 
Mystery aboard the Cruiser: Part Three
 
The grounds covering the school, the park, and even the arcade; no matter where they searched there was no sign of their friend. Conan's concern was now on the edge of its peek. Where was Mitsuhiko?
 
"We've looked everywhere you guys," said Genta. "Where could he be?"
 
"I dunno."" Ayumi was just as worried.
 
Verbal input was unneeded. It was clear Conan felt the same. "He's not at home and failed to meet up with the rest of us like we planned hours ago. We've accounted for all places Mitsuhiko would have likely gone." Now juggling with his inner thoughts Conan brought a hand to his chin. "As much as I hate to admit it, other possibilities have to be considered."
 
The scenario that stood at the top of his mind, kidnapping. If that were the case at the very least they had a set timeline for when it could have occurred along with an idea of where it would have to of occurred. "At some point Mitsuhiko left his house with the intent of meeting us at Agasa's. That's a twenty minute time window, since it would have taken around that time for him to reach the Doc's place."
 
"Hey Conan, what-cha thinking about?" Ayumi asked.
 
Knocked off of his mark Conan responded. "I was just considering the possibility that-"
 
"Guys, standing here won't get us anywhere," interjected Genta. "We need to keep looking!"
 
"But where do we go from here?" asked Ayumi.
 
Genta responded by rubbing the top of his head. "Well.. I hadn't thought that far ahead yet."
 
While Conan hadn't realized it before he noticed that there was one missing from their ranks. "Haibara.." Taking a half step back he turned to spot Ai who stood alone a number of feet away next to a tree. "She's on the phone, who is she talking to?"
 
Curious, Conan walked over.
 
"Conan, where you going?" Genta enquired.
 
Ayumi wasted no time in trailing him. "Let's follow."
 
Finding no reason to object Genta too tagged along. The trio soon reached the large tree in the clear, joining Haibara who had since placed the phone away.
 
Conan asked the questioned that loomed. "Who were you speaking with?"
 
"Dr. Agasa," replied Haibara. "It would seem he received a call from Mitsuhiko's mother."
 
"And?"
 
"Mitsuhiko is fine," replied Haibara pleased to convey.
 
Both Genta and Ayumi cheered in happiness while Conan sighed in relief. "Where was he?"
 
"Well according to Agasa he is currently aboard a cruiser," Haibara relayed.
 
This was not what any of them were expecting to hear. "A cruiser? Like a ship?!" Genta asked.
 
Haibara nodded. "Um hm."
 
This brought yet another question. "What is Mitsuhiko doing on a cruiser?" Conan questioned. In no way was he expecting to get an answer. "There has to be a reason why he didn't tell anyone."
 
"The details of that weren't completely given, at least not to Agasa," Hairbara responded. "The reason we didn't hear from him sooner was because the battery on his phone burned out."
 
"How was he able to contact his parents then?" asked Genta.
 
"He borrowed a phone from someone who was also on that cruiser, someone of familiarity to us all."
 
Conan blinked an eye. "Who?"
 
Haibara revealed the name in question. "Our detective friend from the west."
 
There was no mistaking whom she spoke of. Conan knew exactly who it was. "Hattori.."
 
"I wish I was on a cruiser," Ayumi spoke.
 
"Me too," Genta backed. "He's probably having the time of his life."
 
Haibara looked to the sky. "It's dark. I think it would be best if we all headed home. The last thing we want is for the rest of your folks to start worrying."
 
"You're right about that," said Genta who looked down at his watch. "My dad will probably call to check up on me anytime now."
 
"We've had enough excitement for one evening. We'll all head home, we can meet back sometime tomorrow," Conan said.
 
Genta was the first to take off. "I'll see you guys tomorrow."
 
Haibara stayed at Ayumi's side as the two strolled along. "I'll walk you home," Haibara accompanied.
 
This left Conan who went his separate way. While relieved, he still had multiple questions for how and why his friend was on a cruiser, and with Heiji Hattori of all people. "Just what is going on?"
 
 
The process was soon to begin. Holding a picture high into the air Aellun made an announcement for all to hear. "This here is a photo of the missing passenger. I will now call each of you up individually for you to take a closer look."
 
Aellun wasted no time in signaling for the first person to join him at his position in the room. "And you are?" began Aellun as he looked over the listed names in hand.
 
"Inaba Shou," the man relayed.
 
Gaining that bit of information Aellun pressed to the matter at hand, starting off by holding out the mentioned photo for him to take a look at. "You see this man?"
 
Shou responded with an immediate nod. "After boarding myself, he was the first guest I encountered."
 
"And did the two of you exchange words at any point?"
 
"That would be a no sir."
 
"And by any chance did you happen spot him anytime tonight after the initial time the two of you crossed?"
 
Shou shook his head. "Outside of my first ten minutes on this ship, haven't seen the kid since."
 
"I see." Aellun was now ready to press for the real topic of interest. "Tell me Inaba-san, I'd like a rundown of how your evening has gone since this cruise launched."
 
"If you're looking for an exciting story then you have definitely come to the wrong guy," Shou said as he leaned his head into the cushion of his hands behind. "While everyone else headed for the lower levels for activity I remained at top deck, doing what I do every year when I ride the Sunshine, observing the sea."
 
One line interested Aellun. "Excuse me, every year you said?"
 
Shou nodded. "Ehm hm. For the past eleven years I have made it a priority to ride this ship at this time of year."
 
"Why's that?"
 
"It started with my uncle when I was just a boy, he brought me along for a cruise, told me every ride out at sea is a unique adventure in itself.. just to watch the stream of the fish below, the waves of the sea even." Shou paused, looking to the ceiling in those silent filled moments before facing him once more. "He passed eight years ago unfortunately. Even with him gone, this is something I have chosen to continue. Call it tradition if you will."
 
"I imagine you two were close. Sorry for your loss."
 
"No one lives forever."
 
".. So, at no point did you leave the main deck?"
 
"Not until this gathering."
 
"I see. Tell me, you hear or see anything up top you would have deemed out of place or unexpected?"
 
Shou shook his head. "No, I can't say that I did."
 
Having nothing more to ask of him Aellun cut him loose. "You can go and stand back where you were before. I have no further questions for you."
 
Understanding the situation Shou nodded before doing just that. Aellun wasted no time in waving over the next person to question.
 
"Your name.. you're Kiyoshi-san correct?"
 
The man now standing across from him would nod in confirmation. "Ya, that's right. So what it be? You have some questions for me or somethin'?"
 
"Yes, that's why we're here."
 
"Then what do ya say we get to it? The faster I can get outta here the better." Kiyoshi was anxious.
 
"You cross this guy anytime in the past couple hours?"
 
Kiyoshi looked over the picture of Heiji. "Nope, never seen em in my life."
 
Placing his pen upon the paper in hand Aellun continued. "Tell me, do you recall the very first thing you did after boarding?"
 
"Well obviously I went to the room linked to my key card," replied Kiyoshi. "After setting my belongings down I headed straight to the arcade room where my buddy was already waitin'."
 
After writing that bit of information down Aellun referred to the last given detail. "Your buddy? And who is that, if you don't mind me asking?"
 
"Over there." Kiyoshi pointed over his shoulder.
 
Aellun took note of the individual in question. "And your pals name is?"
 
"Saburo," Kiyoshi answered.
 
After jotting down that bit of information Aellun looked to him once more. "So you were in the arcade, what happened after that?"
 
"Well, we were summoned to this room."
 
"So you never left the arcade room until everyone was instructed to the cafeteria, that correct?" Aellun ran down.
 
"That'd be it."
 
"I see."
 
"Got anything else for me, or am I free to go?"
 
"You may rejoin the others, but no one can leave the cafeteria until all have been questioned," Aellun conveyed to him.
 
Kiyoshi shrugged as he turned back for where he had come. "Whatever you say man."
 
Aellun pressed down to the communications device on his ear. "Hattori-san what do you think?"
 
"A bit snappy, but outside of that he seemed genuine with his responses," Heiji radioed in return.
 
"You think he was telling the truth?"
 
"I believe so. We'll know for sure once we review the tape and have everyone's stories to cross reference. Call for the next speaker."
 
"You got it." Whom would he choose to bring forward next? Taking a quick look his eyes fell on the obvious. "Saburo-san, could you please step over here?"
 
Having himself addressed Saburo moved his way. "What's good?"
 
"Listen up; I'm going to ask you the same set of questions as your friend."
 
"Give it to me straight." Saburo was ready.
 
"First off, have you seen this man tonight?"
 
Seeing Heiji's face Saburo was certain he had not seen him. "Nope."
 
Aellun placed the picture away. "According to Kiyoshi-san the two of you spent an extended amount of time in the arcade room?"
 
"That's right."
 
"If you don't mind me asking, of the two of you who was the first to arrive at the arcade?"
 
Lifting a hand Saburo pointed to himself. "That would be me boss."
 
This was an important detail in Aellun's mind. Saburo and Kiyoshi's stories matched thus far, bringing small room for doubt on their behalf. Unexpectedly Heiji chimed in from the ear communicator.
 
"Yo Aellun-san."
 
Turning his head away from the subject Aellun responded. "Kind of busy at the moment."
 
"Ask Saburo-san if he heard or saw anything unusual on his way to or during his time inside the arcade," Heiji passed.
 
Aellun would do just that. "I have something to ask of you Saburo-san. At any time during the duration of this cruise did you see or hear anything you would deem.. out of the ordinary?"
 
Saburo shook his head. "I can't say that I have. Why? I don't see how that would help with someone who is just missing. For all we know this guy could be sleeping, and that's why he hasn't turned up in a while."
 
"Maybe so."
 
"Anything else, or is this interview over?"
 
".. Go ahead. You can return to where you stood before," replied Aellun giving him the clear. Skimming through the list of names in hand he called for the next person to approach. "Rosetta Dellmara, would you please join me?"
 
Removing the single earbud in ear Rosetta complied with the asked. "Well, here I am," said Rosetta who raised her hands to her waist as if to announce herself.
 
"I have a couple questions for you. I promise to keep this brief as possible." Aellun began with the expected. "Mind taking a look at this picture? You see this man?"
 
Laying eyes on the photo of Heiji jilted nothing. "I have not," replied Rosetta shaking her head. "Sorry."
 
He moved onto the important topic of discussion. "Could you give me a quick rundown of your activities for this evening before now?"
 
A questioning look arose. "Is any of that really necessary?"
 
"Please, any detail could help in finding the missing."
 
"Well, what can I really say? I spent about twenty minutes in my service room, after getting situated and a change of clothes I headed straight to the gym."
 
"And?"
 
"That was it. I remained there all the way up until your security guard buddy asked for me to report here."
 
Aellun pushed for more. "While in the gym, did you see anyone else?"
 
While she didn't see how any of this information would be of use she answered. "Wasn't really paying attention to all that was going on around me to be honest," Rosetta admitted. "I did however notice a couple people who entered the gym while I was there."
 
Aellun placed the tip of the pen upon the sheet of paper. "Names?"
 
"You expect me to know a bunch of people's names who I just met?" Rosetta laughed.
 
"If you can at least point them out for me that would be great."
 
"First you had Mr. sunshine, he was already in the gym before I even got there."
 
Aellun was uncertain for whom she spoke of. "Who?"
 
"That man who marched off a short time ago," Rosetta conveyed.
 
"Oh yes, Neour Cheon." Aellun wrote down this bit of information. "Anyone else?"
 
"Ya, leather jacket woman showed up within thirty minutes of me entering the gym." Looking over her shoulder Rosetta pointed in the direction of the person of who she spoke of.
 
"Yasu Oehi." Aellun too added her name to the list. "Were there any others?"
 
Rosetta nodded in confirmation. "The only others to enter the gym in my time there was those two boys and that man over there."
 
"Damian, Mitsuhiko, and Taro. No surprise there, this fits with where they said they were when they heard Hepperway-sans screams initially."
 
"Can I go now?" Rosetta was hopeful.
 
After a brief period of silence Aellun finally nodded. "Yes, I have nothing more to ask of you."
 
Proceeding to reinsert her ear-buds Rosetta turned to walk away. "Thank goodness."
 
Following that Aellun felt a buzz from the device in ear. "Hattori-san?"
 
"At your service," Heiji dispatched in response.
 
"So.. how am I doing?"
 
"Not bad, though I'd advice to tone it down just a bit. Remember this isn't an interrogation, so you don't need to press so much," Heiji replied.
 
"Loud and clear." Communication fell between the two as expected.
 
Unexpectedly Reira Jo made a move toward him. "Excuse me; is there something I can help you with?" Aellun asked.
 
"If you don't mind I need to use the ladies room," replied Reira. "I promise I won't be long."
 
Should he allow it? On one hand there was a potential danger present on the ship. On the flip side people would start to get suspicious of the current circumstances if he didn't allow her to go. Aellun took a deep breath. "Go ahead, I'll question you once you re-"
 
"Make that the two of us," interjected Yasu who motioned forward as well.
 
"What, you too?"
 
Not a second more Issuma Sadow joined the growing group. "If I must, as Jo-sama's body guard I wish to assist her."
 
Aellun sighed. "Why not. Just make sure you all come back once you're all done."
 
Issuma nodded. "You have my word." He then looked to the two beside him. "Ladies, you ready?"
 
From there the three of them walked toward the exit.
 
In the time of this happening Aellun made the obvious call. "Hattori-san listen, I want you to keep an eye on those three. If anything alarming occurs alert me as well as Yumin."
 
"I can do that," assured Heiji.
 
Little by little the scattered pieces to the puzzle were beginning to shape into form. In the end, would it lead to the reveal of the killer?
 
…..
 
The Recreation Center
 
The burning surge in his arms could now be felt. Finding the strength to reel upward for a final time Neour exhaled before placing the bar back into place. Sitting up he reached for the towel positioned on his left. After wiping the sweat from his forehead he took a sip of water from his water bottle that had been set aside.
 
"Mind if I join you?"
 
Neour looked up to find security guard Yumin. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised."
 
"I have a few questions, and then I'll be on my way. Is that ok with you?"
 
Not once dropping eye contact Neour took another sip. "Go on, ask away."
 
"Let's start from when the ship officially left the dock. Between then leading up until now.. you cross him?" Yumin would then go on to hold out a photo.
 
Reluctant at first, Neour would eventually accept the picture into hand. He took one quick look at the photo before handing it back. "Na."
 
"Are you sure?"
 
"Never seen that kid in my life," Neour denied.
 
Yumin studied him closely, he seemed truthful in his words from what he gathered. "Ok, how about this? Have you heard or witnessed anything tonight you would deem strange?"
 
Neour took a moment to think on the posed. "No, I can't say I have."
 
"Positive?"
 
Neour looked at him in a questioning manner. "What is this really about? All these questions, I hardly see how any of them would be relevant to finding that guy in the.." he paused momentarily before taking a deep breath. "The photo."
 
"Something that may seem irrelevant could very well turn out to be the opposite. You seem a little out of breath, you ok?"
 
Neour wiped a spot of sweat from his left cheek. "I'm fine. Now, you got anything else for me? If not I'd gladly appreciate if you'd allow me to resume my routine."
 
No words were spoken for a couple seconds. Yumin nodded as he proceeded to take a step back. "If anything comes up or you remember something that you wish to share, come find me."
 
Neour gave him the thumbs up. "Don't count on it."
 
As Yumin walked toward the exit he grabbed hold of his walkie talkie. "Hattori-kun I had a talk with Cheon-san."
 
"And?"
 
"He wasn't exactly the most forthcoming but he did talk."
 
"Was he believable?"
 
"He gave me no reason to doubt. Even still I'd keep a sharp eye on him," Yumin advised.
 
"That applies to everyone," to which Heiji replied. "As it stands now everyone is a suspect."
 
Yumin was curious by his choice of words. "Even me?"
 
"I'm not ruling anything out at this point. If you are indeed innocent like I suspect, then you have nothing to worry about."
 
"I'd expect nothing less from the superintendent's son."
 
Heiji smiled at the complimented. "What now, will you return to the cafeteria to rejoin the others?"
 
"Not until I run another sweep of all levels," Yumin replied. "Hepperway and Yoneda-san are still unaccounted for, finding them is as important as cracking this case."
 
"Stay alert. Either one of them could be involved with the body that was discovered. There's no guarantee this ordeal has reached its conclusion." Heiji had a feeling this evenings trials had only begun.
 
As precaution Yumin pulled his gun from its holster, preparing himself for anything that could pose as a threat. "You don't have to worry about me. I'm prepared. Just remember to keep an eye on Neour Cheon outside of the others in the process of being interviewed."
 
"Never you worry; I've got this all on lock."
 
"Good, that's what I wanted to hear." With nothing more to add Yumin ended the connection between them. "Now to find the missing passengers."
 
 
Detective Agency
 
Conan waited patiently ring after ring. Leaning against the wall where he sat Conan lowered his phone as the answering machine emerged once more. There was only one thought that resided on his mind.
 
"Heiji.. why aren't you responding? What could possibly be going on, on that cruise?"
 
The thought of it stuck strongly on his mind.
 
 
Aboard the Ship
 
After dousing her hands in soup Reira Jo placed them under the warm shower of water that fell from the faucet. Turning in position Reira spotted Yasu. There appeared to be a look of inquiring intent in her eyes.
 
"Is there something I can help you with?"
 
"Well, if it's not too big of a problem would it be alright if I.. ya know, got your autograph?"
 
Drying her hands Reira tossed the hand of paper towels into the trash near. "Well of course. I see no problem with that." She inched toward her. "Did you have something you wanted me to sign in particular?"
 
Yasu responded by holding up a booklet of sorts. "Yes, I would like for you to sign my school year book." Yasu wasted no time in handing it over. "I left a bookmark in there, you can leave your signature on that specific page."
 
Flipping to the page of choice Reira would then pull out a pen she had stashed away.
 
Yasu's eyes brightened. "Tha.. that's one of your special edition pens! I've been tryna get my hands on one of those for the longest! They're so hard to come by."
 
Reira smiled. "Very well, you can have it."
 
Yasu was speechless. "What, are you serious?!"
 
"It's the least I can do. After all it is fans like you that inspire me to keep pressing forward with my passion." Reira focused back on the book "So is there a specific spot you want me to.."
 
It wasn't until that moment that she realized, a look of shock now present on her face. Reira stared at the page with a blank expression then to Yasu before looking back at the book. "You.. you're Yasu Oehi!"
 
"One and only," replied Yasu proudly pointing to herself. "As to where I want you to sign, that goes without saying."
 
Signing her name Reira handed the book back along with the pen as promised. "I can't believe it's really you. You look so different now Yasu-chan."
 
"And you certainly have made the best out of yourself; strangely you and I aren't the only two on this cruise who went to Pinkelton."
 
Reira was surprised. "What?! Who else?!"
 
"Little Cheon," Yasu conveyed. "As you've probably noticed, he aint so little no more."
 
"You mean that guy who had that outburst back in the cafeteria? That's our Cheon-kun?" Reira was dumbfounded.
 
"Don't feel bad, I didn't recognize him at first either."
 
The bathroom door cracked open seconds later, bringing the appearance of yet another. "Mind if I join you guys?"
 
"Feel free," replied Yasu.
 
Reira nodded her head in Yasu's direction. "Hey, we'll catch up later kay?"
 
"That's a guarantee," Reira replied as she stepped out past the door.
 
Yasu then watched as the woman to enter the room walked toward the sink before placing a purse upon the counter top. "You know, you look kinda familiar. What's your name again?"
 
Pulling out a spray can she aimed upward before releasing it. "Hemmm, much better." She then looked back at Yasu. "You say something?"
 
"I was wondering your name."
 
"Konya, Konya Yuriko," she relayed.
 
"Can't say I've heard that name before. You must just resemble someone I once knew."
 
Yuriko was curious. "And who might that be?"
 
"Can't think of who at the moment."
 
"You're not the only one, it happens to us all." Yuriko would then draw focus back on her purse. Reaching a hand into her bag to grab something the lights throughout the entire bathroom blinked, flickering a number of three times before falling steady once more.
 
"What the hell was that?" Yasu wondered.
 
"You got me," Yuriko said.
 
"Well I'm goanna head back to the cafeteria, see ya'round," conveyed Yasu before going on to leave herself.
 
"Hold up for a min," Yuriko said. "I'm going to come with you."
 
 
Cafeteria
 
Several had been questioned about their whereabouts in the minutes that had passed. Damian stood with a stoic look on face. There was only one man in his sights, Bane. Whoever was behind this, it had to be him.. right? "Just what kind of game are you playing, Bane?"
 
The lights in the room began to flicker, lasting for only a couple of seconds. This bothered captain Aldor. "That's the third time in the past couple minutes with those lights. What the hell?!"
 
Making way toward the captain as he raised a hand was one of the cooks. "Yo captain, I can go and check the light panel if you want to make sure everything is ok."
 
Aldor took a moment to think about it. "Sure, go for it Nenjo-san. Hurry back alright, I want everyone here until we find that missing passenger."
 
Nenjo nodded. "Loud and clear." From there he excused himself from the larger group, exiting the room in short.
 
Aellun now stood in thought, mentally recollecting all that had been conveyed to him from each individual. Kiyoshi and Saburo, both claimed to be in the game room the majority of the cruise leading up to the discovery of the body. Rosetta, like Neour noted she was in the recreation center. There was no evidence to dispute the claim. This lead to the last people he had questioned; Kiku Toda and her father, Katsuo Yanagi.
 
They were already in the cafeteria before everyone else had been assembled. According to them they had been here since the cruise took off, along with Reira Jo and Issuma Sadow. Aellun didn't find this hard to believe since Reira and Issuma were present before the gathering to the cafeteria. There were still a number of names to call. Who would be next? Aellun looked down the list in hand.
 
"Chiasa Waitto, you're up next."
 
Hearing her name called the young woman strolled over. "Ayelo," Chiasa greeted.
 
Aellun started off by holding out a picture of the reported missing. "You happen to spot him during your travels tonight?"
 
Chiasa took a hard look at the photo. "Nope. Never seen that dude in my life."
 
Aellun huffed, placing the photo away he preceded to questioning her. "Ok, let's shift gears a bit. Briefly rundown how your night has gone."
 
"Huh? Why?"
 
"Please, any details that you may have, seemingly unimportant or not could play an integral part in finding him."
 
"Whatever you say." While slightly annoyed she would not deny the requested. "So we boarded, then-"
 
"We?" Aellun questioned.
 
"Ya, me and Yuriko-chan," Chiasa replied.
 
"Your travel mate, yes?"
 
Chiasa confirmed this with the go ahead nod. "After we were given our key card we headed for the room." She stopped in mid thought, chuckling momentarily. "Anyway, Yuriko-chan's silly self took us to the wrong room. Right number, but wrong floor. Obviously we eventually got that figured out."
 
"Go on."
 
"So after getting a change of clothes I went to the pool room, it was there that I met Aoko-chan."
 
"What of Yuriko-san, did she join you as well?"
 
"Not initially, she stopped by the cafeteria first to get some snacks," Chiasa replied. "She eventually showed up though."
 
"Did anyone else make an appearance in the pool area besides you three at any point?"
 
"Well.. there was someone in the lap pool across from the one we were in."
 
"You have a name?"
 
"Sorry, never got a clear look at who it was. Oh yah, there was also Kaito-kun. I first met him when we were on the wrong floor like I mentioned a second ago. He showed up at the pool too," Chiasa informed. "He didn't stay very long however."
 
"Do you know what prompted him to leave?"
 
Chiasa shrugged. "I aint got a clue. One moment he was there, the next gone.. poof. Like magic."
 
"When I arrived at the pool to ask you all to the cafeteria you, Aoko-san, and Yuriko-san were the only ones that were in that room. I must ask, while the three of you were together did any of you leave the room at any time?"
 
Chiasa shook her head. "No way, we were having too much fun," she expressed.
 
"I see," said Aellun taking final note. "Ok Chiasa, you're all good."
 
Upon releasing her the cafeteria door slid open. Expectedly Aellun took a look to find Reira Jo and her body guard; Issuma had returned. "Where are the other two?" Perhaps they were strolling close behind? Regardless the process needed to continue, eyeing the list in hand he called for another. "Kaito Kuroba, can you please step forward?"
 
"It's show time," Kaito voiced.
 
Aoko suspiciously looked him over. "What do you mean it's show time? You better not be planning to do something embarrassing."
 
"What in the world would give you that impression?" questioned a grinning Kaito who marched onward.
 
As they passed one another Chiasa winked over at Kaito who simply maintained a smile. The process would remain the same. Aellun began by displaying the photo for Kaito to see. "Did you cross paths with this gentleman at any time tonight?"
 
Kaito shook his head. "That's going to be a hard no."
 
"No one seemed as certain about that as you appear to be," Aellun said as he once again set the photo aside. "Let's get to the next point to cover, your activities since finding your way onto this ship."
 
"My activities?"
 
"Everyone I've called forward has been asked to give a small rundown of what they have done, seen, or heard since boarding. This of course is to help determine the whereabouts of Hattori-kun," Aellun assured. Preparing himself he placed the tip of the pen upon the paper.
 
"Might want to hold off on the script Sparky, I really don't have much for ya. If I'm to be honest, I actually slept for like twenty minutes. After getting up I went to the pool room for a little, after leaving there I was approached by your partner in crime who asked me to come to the cafeteria," Kaito conveyed.
 
"According to Chiasa-chan you left the pool without so much as a goodbye." Aellun stared him down as if to study him. "There a reason for that?"
 
Kaito kept it simple. "Had an important call to take."
 
"Mind if I ask from who?"
 
"A friend," Kaito simply put. "We're collaborating on a school project, one involving a giant bat and a couple of ghost statues."
 
"Sounds lovely." Aellun jotted the detailed down. "Let us back track a bit. Tell me Kaito-kun, was there any point tonight where you might have seen something that could call for concern?"
 
"You mean like that weirdo man I saw standing outside of the computer room?"
 
This drew Aellun's interest. "What was this man wearing?"
 
"A thick coat with an added mask over his mouth. I wasn't able to make out who he was because of all he was wearing."
 
"When did you see this induvisual?"
 
"Can't remember a specific time. But you're free to ask the other security guy, I ran into him around the time of that occurring."
 
Aellun nodded. "I'll check with Yumin on the matter."
 
Kaito watched as he made some notes. "Anything else you want to ask?"
 
Aellun shook his head. "No. You're good to go my boy." He took the time to look over his notes, cross referencing all statements he had accumulated to this point. While not fully clear, a picture was gradually being painted. "It's only a matter of time before all chips fall into place."
 
There was no time for delay. Knowing this Aellun brought focus back to the list of names in hand. Noting a name that had yet to be crossed off of the list Aellun called for their attention. "Enab-san, could you please join me?"
 
Damian's eyes perked as he watched the giant man proceed forward. "Bane.."
 
Aellun put on a smile. As he had with all others; he held up the photo of Heiji. "As I have asked of everyone before you, at any time since you boarded this ship have you seen this-" Bane would snatch the photo out of his hand, a move which ultimately caught the security guard by surprise. Slightly intimidated Aellun cleared his throat. "So.. have you seen him?"
 
Bane took one quick look at the photo before going on to crumple it in hand. Several gasped, this was most unexpected.
 
"Hey! What is that all about?!" Captain Aldor shouted. "Why did you-"
 
Bane would cut him off. "Let us refrain from playing any further games."
 
Aldor put on a look of confusion. "Games?! What kind of game do you think is being played right now?"
 
Turning, Bane glared in his direction. "You may be able to deceive the others, but you're mistaking if you believe you can make a fool of me."
 
Confusion circulated. "What the heck is he talking about?" Akoko voiced.
 
Chiasa shrugged. "You got me."
 
Kaito on the hand rubbed his hands together in growing anticipation. "Oh man. This is looking to get good."
 
Holding out his hand, Bane let the crumpled photo fall freely to the ground. "Let us be honest, if this was just a case of a missing passenger you wouldn't have gathered us all here in the fashion that you have. Simply showing anyone you crossed the photo of the missing would have sufficed. Instead you elect to not only gather us all in one spot but choose to enquire about the events of our evenings? A soft interrogation is how I see it. The question one would pose; why?" Bane felt he had an answer to this. "You see, I presume the circumstances are far more drastic than what you have relayed. The fact you are hesitant to even let someone leave this room unattended speaks volumes. It almost seems as if you feel there is a threat of some level within these walls."
 
Staring into Aellun's eyes, Bane could see he was on the brink of breaking. "Am I right?"
 
"No, that's not it at all!" Aldor denied. "What we have said is the tru-"
 
The captain's words would be cut short by the cafeteria door flying open. The majority gasped in surprise at who stepped into view.
 
"It's him! The guy from the photo!" Kiku pointed.
 
"What the hell is going on," a dumbfounded Rosetta questioned.
 
A stunned Kaito clapped his hands, intrigued above all things. "What a crazy plot twist!"
 
Bane narrowed his eyes over at the newcomer, softly quivering his name through his teeth. "Hattori.."
 
The young detective allowed the door to shut behind before making a move forward. Aellun wasted no time in marching his way. "Hattori-san what are you doing? The plan was for you to observe from the security room."
 
The secret had been broken. "I want an explanation, and I want it now!" shouted Anna who made her presence known. She directed all focus on Heiji. "You said this boy was missing, yet I heard you just say something about him being in a security room. What is this all about?!"
 
"Well… umm," stuttered Aellun who struggled to find words of explanation.
 
Fortunately for him Heiji would take the honor of answering the sought. "Not to worry, I'll explain everything," Heiji promised.
 
Mitsuhiko seemed uncertain about the decided. "You sure that's the right thing to do? I mean.. there is no telling how everyone will react."
 
Damian felt different on the matter. "Is there really anything else he can say? By revealing himself that puts everything into question, he can't afford to give anything but the truth."
 
Noting that all eyes were drawn upon him Heiji went on to reveal the deadly truth. "I'm going to give it to you straight. You weren't all gathered to this room because someone is missing, no.. it is much more complex than that."
 
"What do you mean by complex?" Kiku questioned.
 
There was a long pause. Clearing his throat Heiji spoke what everyone was waiting to hear. "We found a body, that of a deceased man who was hanging from the armory ceiling."
 
Many gasped. There was disbelief. "Are you being serious right now, a dead body?!" Anna was skeptical. "How do we know you're telling the truth?"
 
"There is no reason to doubt this young man's words," spoke Taro who inserted himself into the fray. "I saw the body myself."
 
Kiku turned to her husband, stunned by his admission. "Is that true?"
 
Taro would not deny the fact. "I was in the gym at the time. Out of nowhere the boys and I heard a loud scream," he said pointing to both Damian and Mitsuhiko in reference. "Naturally the three of us ran to investigate what the uproar was all about, and that's when we found him.. hanging."
 
This begged the obvious question. "If someone was killed, don't you think all of us should have been alerted?! That's not something you keep from everyone."
 
"All that would have done is caused an unnecessary uproar, and besides we didn't believe anyone else would be in danger of being attacked," Heiji stated.
 
The comment interested Bane. "And what lead to that belief?"
 
Facing him Heiji answered. "The man who was discovered hanging, given my expertise I'd say he's been dead for at least twenty four hours."
 
"And what expertise is that?" asked Bane honing his eyes deeper into his.
 
"I'm a detective," replied Heiji who proudly pointed to himself. He would then refocus things back to the matter at hand. "In other words the killing happened before anyone boarded this ship."
 
"If that is the case, couldn't the body have been planted before any of us even boarded?" Rosetta questioned.
 
"Definitely not," Captain Aldor spoke with a bold of confidence. "Before any cruise is to launch there is always a full launch ship inspection."
 
"I was part of that process myself," confirmed Aellun. "When I entered the armory earlier this afternoon there was not such a sight to behold."
 
"Meaning the placement of the body occurred after this cruise began," concluded Heiji.
 
Silence fell upon the room. Everyone knew it just as much as the person standing next to them, whoever was responsible was aboard this ship. This left the obvious to ask.
 
"Why?" Kiku didn't understand. "Why would someone do this? There has to be a reason right?"
 
"That's what we're trying to figure-" In the moment of Heiji speaking the lights in the room completely blanked out. "Wha.. what happened to the lights?"
 
"AugghhhaaHHH!"
 
Everyone listened on in shock. "Someone screamed!" Reira shouted instinctively.
 
"It came from the hallway!" Aldor noted.
 
"Already on it." Aellun took off in the rush of the moment as he snapped on his flashlight.
 
"I'm coming too," stated Heiji who followed after him.
 
"Stay here. There's no telling what's going on out there," said Aellun voicing concern.
 
"No way I'm letting you go it alone," Heiji shot down.
 
Knowing he wouldn't convince him otherwise Aellun conceded, besides there was no time for verbal disagreement. Damian too would not allow himself to wait. "Tsuburaya, keep a look out here. I'll be back." As Damian raced along he locked eyes with Bane momentarily. There was no doubt in his mind who was behind all of this.
 
Strolling out into the hall they found her lying face down. "It's Yuriko-san!" Aellun pointed. Making haste he raced to her side to check her condition.
 
"She ok?" Heiji asked.
 
Felling for a pulse Aellun sighed. "She's alive."
 
Flashing a light in the general area he didn't spot anyone else. This was concerning. "Wasn't Yasu-san with her?"
 
"According to Reira-san, she should have been," Aellun replied.
 
"So… where is she?" Aiming his lights ray around the body Heiji spotted a phone lying nearby. There was no doubt in his mind it belonged to Yuriko. Kneeling down he reached for it to make an alarming discovery. "Uhh.. no signal." Placing her phone aside Heiji checked his own to find he too did not have a signal.
 
"Any idea what happened to her?"
 
Heiji jumped at the sound of someone speaking from his left side. "Geez, when did you get out here?" Heiji said aiming the light up to find Damian standing at his side.
 
"Aellun?" Damian pressed once more all while ignoring Heiji.
 
"Can't really say kid, but if I had to take an educated guess I would say she was knocked over from behind," Aellun replied.
 
"Given she was lying face down, I'd find that scenario to be favorable," agreed Damian.
 
What really happened? Perhaps there would be something in the surrounding area that would give a hint? Looking past the body with the aim of his light it didn't take long for Heiji to spot another object no more than six feet away. "What's that?"
 
Keeping his guard up the detective inched past the three beside him, stopping once he reached the item of interest. There it was, lying on the ground at his feet. "A book?"
 
Could this book be the key to solving the case?
 
To Be Continued

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