Case Closed Fan Fiction ❯ Reflections and Realizations ( Chapter 23 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Chapter Twenty-Three
Reflections and Realizations
“No luck?” Shinichi asked as his father emerged from Haido Central Hospital. Yuusaku shook his head.
“They’re not supposed to be letting anyone except family in yet,” he said, “although they don’t seem to have many takers there except an old man who I think was a friend of Toichi-kun’s and whom I believe has told them he’s Kuroba-kun’s grandfather. I got the gist of the situation from Nakamori-kun, however.”
“Wait, how’d Nakamori-keibu get in?” Shinichi asked. “He’s not related to them, is he?”
“No, but he shouts louder and more readily than I do,” Yuusaku said. “Besides, he’s the head of an important police unit, so I believe he gets some access priority to any admission that has drawn the notice of the police, even if it’s not his case.”
“So?” Shinichi asked as they began to walk away from the hospital. “How are they?”
“Kaito-kun doesn’t have overly serious injuries,” Yuusaku said, “just a broken right wrist- it’s a clean snap, it should heal all right- a minor head injury, which they still need to do some scans for though Nakamori-kun insists that they won’t be able to notice any difference. Aside from that, just scrapes and bruises. Minami-san’s another story entirely, i’m afraid. She was hit by one of the cars and she has multiple broken bones and serious head trauma. She hasn’t woken since the “accident” and doesn’t seem set to any time soon.”
“Bastards,” Shinichi growled as he climbed into the passenger seat of the rental car. They both knew well that this was no accident, any more than Kuroba Toichi’s death was. This also, due to stupid hospital visitor policies, was going to make it difficult for Shinichi to contact Kuroba for some time. More than that… “The biggest problem right now is that the Organization will know they survived,” he pointed out. “Kuroba’s tough, but with his arm in a sling, a head full of painkillers and none of his stuff, he and his mother are going to be easy targets if They decide to finish him.”
“Should we turn back?” Yuusaku asked. Shinichi shook his head.
“They already saw you ask about Kuroba and leave,” Shinichi said, “and anyway, they’re going to be swamped with doctors and cops for a couple of days to come. Unless They’ve finally developed as good a grasp of “subtle” as they have of “untraceable”, They won’t try anything for a couple of days. I’ll go back for a look-in tomorrow, though. Just to make sure there’s nobody watching them.”
“I have little doubt that They will be watching them,” Yuusaku said, “and to that end, be careful. They know your face due to Gin’s suspicion of Kogoro-kun, don’t they? And they may have seen you at the case at the hospital before. If they spot you here too, Edogawa Conan will become just as suspicious to them as Kudo Shinichi.”
“I know,” Shinichi said darkly, twisting his watch unconsciously. “And if that happens… I’m getting as far away from Ran and Occhan as humanly possible. I’m not dragging them down with me.”
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I’m certain of it now,” Saguru thought, closing the last of the old case files that he’d obtained with his father’s influence. “The dates match.
After reading Jody Hopper’s testimony and ascertaining that the mysterious trenchcoated man who’d attempted to steal the Red Tear had never been caught, Saguru had gone over the case files again and a few odd reports about Kid’s escapes. More than once, people had reported hearing strange noises, often something that could well have been the crack of silenced sniper fire, and on each of these heists people had claimed to have found white fragments of Kid’s cape. A shattered hanglider had even been found once, after the theft of a jewel known as “Blue Birthday”. As Saguru remembered, that heist had in fact been the night of Aoko’s birthday- which Kaito had not attended, even though the heist hadn’t been too far away and had ended over an hour before the party had. In fact, some digging through his memory banks had brought up the somewhat disturbing revelation that Kuroba had missed a day or two of school after most of the heists that he’d reinvestigated, claiming a cold or fever. One such heist had been followed by an entire weeks’ absence. Saguru was now sure that it wasn’t the flu that he’d been recovering from at the time. The thought made him unaccountably sick.
So he’d looked up the old files from what he was now certain were Kuroba Toichi’s days. Kid’s last heist, the one that he had never attended, had been less than a week after the magician’s fatal stage accident. The dates of Kid’s heists becoming focused primarily on Japan matched Kuroba Toichi’s decision to settle in Tokyo. It was the heists from about three years before his death that interested Hakuba. There had been a sudden sharp increase in them, after a long period of decline.
Something changed,” Saguru thought, switching on his laptop and pulling up an old Kuroba Toichi fansite. He set a list of dates, heists that had shown the same almost unnoticeable marks of sniper presence that had appeared at the heists that had injured Kaito, next to the screen. Luckily, the site was an old one- about seventeen years old (which explained the rather basic layout; someone had clearly been very into Kuroba Toichi to be willing to wrestle with the code necessary in such early days of the internet), and still occasionally receiving questions and comments- and had never cleaned out the “Updates and News” blog, the most recent of which was about a tribute show from about four years back. Some searching back to old dates yielded similarly worrying results; shows postponed or shortened due to “illness”, and at least three thoroughly distressing incidents where shows had been stopped entirely for a fortnight as Toichi had “injured himself while practicing a new trick that went wrong”. There had been no heists during those periods either.
Sounds like he ran afoul of some pretty dangerous people,” Saguru thought, “More than happy to put him out of the business for good. But rather than retire, he starts stealing more often. Which means that he was looking for something. And from what Hopper-san said, so were… are they. The “Pandora”. Kuroba must be looking for it too…” as his eyes travelled down the blog entries, he noticed one that had generated several thousand more comments than the others. He opened the thread and read the short, grieving entry. “Oh. And then… a trapdoor did their work for them.
It struck him, as he read some of the comments, that he knew relatively little about Kuroba’s family life. He’d always been so focused on the Kid and Aoko aspects of things. For God’s sake, he hadn’t even known that Kuroba’s father had been the Kuroba Toichi until the heist the other week. It explained a lot about that baka, of course, but…
How did you come to this? Why do you steal?”
“It’s your job to find out, isn’t it, Tantei-san?”
Then if he became Kid to finish his father’s work...” Saguru thought, but the thought was interrupted when something in the responses caught his eye. At this point, the comments had become something of a conversation- no, an argument would be more appropriate. The comments from this point dated to some five years after Kuroba Toichi’s death- evidently, the user “AceOfSpades” had only just come into the details.
AceOfSpades- I for one am feeling disillusioned. No truly great magician would be so stupid as to not even check to see if his trapdoor was working properly. What a baka.
PuffOfSmoke- O.o umm, ever heard of respect for the dead?
WhiteDove- Yeah, Spade. It was just a tragic accident. It wasn’t his fault any more than it was that poor mechanic’s. You call yourself a fan? >:(
AceOfSpades- no trapdoor malfunctions that badly without serious neglect. I bet the baka never even did safety tests.
PokerFace- He always did. Someone could have interfered with the trapdoor and caused it to close. That could have been the “catastrophic mistake” the mechanic referred to in his suicide note.
AceOfSpades- yeah, right. Like anyone’d bump off a stage magician. He may have TOLD people that he always checked his stuff, but I’ll bet anything that he was criminally negligent.
PokerFace- I’ll take that anything, then. He wasn’t negligent, and anyone who says he was can shut the fuck up, `cause they clearly didn’t know him.
WhiteDove- O.o ummm, Forum rules say no swearing. You could get booted for that.
AceOfSpades- And you did?
PokerFace- I think I can be trusted to know my own Tou-san, you stuck-up bastard.
PuffOfSmoke- O.O That’s why you’ve not been blocked. Hey, my consolations, kid. That must have been really rough.
Saguru clicked off of the forum with a disgusted snort. No wonder Kuroba had been pissed. It also left him with two useful pieces of information. One, there were indications- circumstantial and inconclusive, but there- that Kuroba Toichi’s death had been no accident.
Two, Kaito had seen them long ago, and almost certainly had some more solid evidence that he just couldn’t reveal without spending a good long time in jail.
And if the subtle sniper attacks and those shadowy incidents at the Hopper show and the Osaka Museum are any indication,” Saguru realized, “He can’t risk that… because clipping his wings with handcuffs would simply make him an easier target.
Saguru sat back from the files, resting his elbows on the arms of his chair and pressing his fingertips together in a tent in front of his nose. There were a couple of questions about Kuroba Toichi’s death that he’d have to ask Aoko- he was fairly certain that Kuroba wasn’t going to take searching questions about his father from him– but he was growing increasingly certain that Kuroba Toichi’s “accident” was in fact a well-disguised murder… just like what had happened to Kuroba the night before. It was only through good reflexes on the part of both Kuroba and his mother that it hadn’t succeeded.
There may well be far more to this than the Kaitou Kid,” Saguru thought, blond eyebrows furrowing as he remembered a secretive three-way conversation in Osaka, “and I think there are three people who know exactly what.”
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“I found the information that you sought, Akako-sama,” the youkai informed Akako as she returned home. She had attempted to visit Kuroba at the hospital, to find that hospital policy meant no visitors in except family until the important tests were done, and the young doctor that she’d charmed into letting her in anyway had been stopped by an angry-looking nurse. In a bout of frustration, she had informed them that Konosuke Jii was not even distantly related to Kuroba and left. She knew it wouldn’t score many points with Kaito, but it made her feel a little better.
“Well?” She snapped, waving her hand over her summoning bowl, needing only a name to summon an image of the person in question. “Who was it?”
“Kudo Shinichi, kokosei-tantei,” the servant replied. “Around the same age as you and Kuroba, and far more skilled that Hakuba, I understand.”
“I have little doubt of that, if his aura is any indication,” Akako said, adding “Kudo Shinichi” to the scrying bowl. It blurred uncertainly for a moment, before bringing up an old image of Kuroba.
“Not Kuroba,” Akako growled exasperatedly, “Kudo Shinichi. Kudo Shinichi!”
The image did not change. Akako leaned closer, narrowing her eyes. As she looked closer, she realized that yes, while he bore a striking resemblance to Kuroba Kaito, this was a different person. The difference was subtle, a little difference in the jawline, marginally darker and infinitely better tamed hair, the sparkle in the otherwise identical eyes less mischievous.
Very interesting,” she breathed, leaning over the image. “They are not related, I presume?”
“They are about as closely related to each other as you are to the Queen of Britain, Akako-sama,” her servant answered. She narrowed her eyes.
I have never seen two fates so deeply linked,” she thought, examining the static face of Kudo Shinichi. “It even shows up on their faces…
“Another Kokosei-tantei, eh?” she mused. “Perhaps I should speak to Hakuba-kun and find out a little bit more…” “But I wonder,” she thought with a frown as the image faded, “He looks so young, yet I understand that he’s in High School… I wonder why the scrying bowl did not use a recent image?
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“Rrrrgh!”
Ai thumped her head down onto the keyboard, causing a line of gibberish to appear at the bottom of the annoyingly empty text document. She’d hit a dead end. A major dead end.
I thought I was well on track, but… arrgh!” she hit her head on the desk this time, before yawning widely. “Maybe I just need sleep… I last slept… when…?
She couldn’t remember. She hadn’t slept at all the before Kudo took the new strain of the antidote, and then the trial had gone relatively well and she’d gotten some good data that she’d been working on nonstop ever since, so she’d probably last slept before Christmas Eve…
That had been days ago…
She jerked her head up when the phone rang. Swallowing back the yawns, she reached for the receiver. “Moshi moshi?” she said calmly, her usual mask of stoicism slipping in even though she wasn’t talking to anyone’s face.
Ai-chan! Do you know when Conan-kun’s coming back? I was thinking that we all need to get together and celebrate when he does!
Ai couldn’t help a smile at Ayumi’s chirpy voice. “He gets back tomorrow, Agasa-Hakase said, although not until the evening. He’ll probably have serious jetlag.”
Oh… well, maybe we should just all play games together at Agasa-Hakase’s, then. He made a new one, right?
“A racing game, yes.”
Good! I’ll bring snacks and stuff. Or maybe we can get Ran-neechan to make stuff, she’s such a great cook...
“I’ll ask her,” Ai offered without thinking.
Yay! Arigato, Ai-chan! I’ll see you then!
“Bye, Ayumi-chan,” Ai said quietly as the other girl hung up. She set the phone down, wondering what had possessed her to make that offer. She dreaded any face-to-face with the older (physically, at least) girl. There were too many awkward, hidden feelings on her own behalf. Besides, she didn’t really want to see how Ran was doing now that Kudo had left and “Conan” hadn’t returned yet. She knew just how strong their feelings were for each other, how lonely Ran would be, not knowing when she’d see him again. And she’d pretend that she wasn’t, and smile. But then, she would hide it, wouldn’t she? All of her fears and pains and anxieties… she’d lock them away, act as if they weren’t there, just to protect others…
“I’m fine! You should worry more about yourself! Get out of that lab… get a boyfriend!
Ai stared at the computer screen, holding down the backspace key until the gibberish that her head had typed disappeared.
I couldn’t save Akemi,” she thought, glad that Agasa never came down into this lab, glad that she was assured of privacy as the tears that she always hid began to surface. “People like her… they let themselves be destroyed for the sake of others. I don’t want to see it happen to her, too… no matter what…
Suppressing a yawn, she got up and put a pot of coffee on.
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Nakamori Ginzo sipped at his sake dejectedly. He liked this bar. It was almost across the road from the station, so it was a common police decompression spot, and as such the owner had quickly adjusted to the needs of his clientele and served some of the strongest coffee and sake in the city, as well as being probably the only bar in Tokyo to offer bulk discounts for drinks, and was very good about quietly refilling empty glasses without having to be flagged down. The owner, for his part, made a small fortune from night-shift cops and cops that needed to forget something horrible- which was all of them at one time or another- and never got robbed or had to clean up after fights.
He’d been investigating all day on the accident and there was still no-one to blame, prosecute or yell at.
“Do you know what’s even worse, Koichi-kun?” he complained to his drinking partner, “My superiors got wind of it and read me the riot act. Said it wasn’t my case, even if they are my friends. They were like this about Toichi-kun’s death, too. “It’s not your department. Your case is Kid.” Hah, he went and vanished afterwards anyway, so I had plenty of time on my hands to double-check the details of Toichi-kun’s accident- I remember something was bugging me then, Kudo-kun too, although I can’t of the life of me figure out what now- but they closed the case! Without a proper investigation or anything! Damn idiots…”
“I know what you mean,” his friend sighed. “You just wish they’d get their fat asses out from behind their desks and do some real work, so they’d know what it’s like. They were like that about that damn counterfeiting case…” Ginzo normally drank alone or with his unit, but this was a friend who travelled a lot, so he hadn’t seen him in a while. Besides, they had similar areas of expertise, so they always had a lot of common ground for drunken rants.
“Oh yeah,” Ginzo agreed. “And then do you know what they said? Maybe I shouldn’t work on the Kid case anymore. I’m getting older, they say, so maybe it’s time for my experience to be used elsewhere. Read: I’ve been chasing the Kaitou Kid for twenty years and I haven’t caught him, and now I’m poking into others’ cases, so clearly I should let someone else do it right. Hah! Like a new inspector’s going to have any better luck with the Kaitou Kid than me! He doesn’t walk free because I’m incompetent, it’s because he’s good, dammit, I don’t mind saying it; he’s good, and it’s only because I’ve been chasing him for twenty years and I know how he thinks- as well as you can about someone who’s so far around the bend that he’s snuck up behind you, anyway- that I’ve been able to save some of his targets, if nothing else! Someone new, someone with no experience of the Kid, he’d be lost!”
“Tell me about it,” the other sighed, sipping more of his sake. “Thieves this good… Honestly, I suppose there’s little chance that we can ever catch them; you just have to make the job as difficult as you can for them and hope you get lucky.”
“It’s not like he’s bad or anything, anyway,” Ginzo muttered, draining his glass. “He doesn’t hurt anyone and he always returns the stuff.”
“And count your blessings for that one, Ginzo-kun,” Zenigata said consolingly as they both held out their glasses for the bartender to refill.
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Lupin III isn’t going to appear (at least, I’m not planning for him to at this point, but if the plot bunnies get their way… *sets up rabbit traps*), I just needed a drinking buddy for Nakamori and I figured that he and poor old Zenigata would be a good match.
I don’t know if the thing about hospital visitor policies is accurate, but it always crops up in manga where a head injury’s involved, and since Kaito and Minami both banged their heads, I’m going with the assumption that no-one except family gets in until tests are done.
Hyper-Kudos(take it as a pun if you like) to HaibaraDaiFan for being my first ever CartoonMiner reviewer! Arigato Gozaimasu for your wonderful comments! Glad you love the fic! I hope it stays that way! Aww, and you reviewed on FFnet too! *hugs and cookies* I hope you do put up your story, by the way. I thought mine was rubbish too compared to some of the stuff I’ve read… It took a lot of coaxing from forum buddies to put it up, and even then I was scared to death that nobody would like it. Well, I’ve been proved wrong, and I bet you will be too. ^_-
Us sadists need to stick together, Pretztailfan95! 😛 You were right about Akako, BTW. 🙂 I feel mean for hurting poor Minami, but then I remember that in my first draft, she died in a fire, and then I feel less mean. 😛 But to set off a necessary chain of events, Kaito needed to get a harsh shock, and (almost) losing his remaining parent was right on the money for what I needed.
Good luck with the exams, Mel72000! I have mine at the moment too, so I can sympathize with the stress-out. At least there’s no way in hell or earth that you could do worse at maths than I did… ^_^;
I have to agree, AngelRoy, which is why I let her live. I needed Kaito to be broken so he could be fixed, but becoming an orphan while he’s still so emotionally fragile would just have put him beyond repair. I don’t want to do that to him. This fic isn’t going to be THAT angsty. The next one, though…
I’m not out to destroy him COMPLETELY, Sable Katze! He just needs to get a little cracked up so someone’ll fix him. Stick-up-arse? I’ve never really seen that in Shinichi… he’s flexible where necessary, and anything involving the Syndicate is certainly necessary. He’s not getting all dolled up and joining Kaito on heists, though. 😛 Not ever.
COOKIES! *Jumps on Ebil Stasia* Here’s more… now COOKIES! XD Heiji’s my second after Kaito, Shinichi third. I’m not that fond of Hakuba even now… but I’m not going to write him as an OOC asshole because of that. ^_^; *remembers how she tortured Koga in her IY fic*
I do not claim to own any of the characters in Meitantei Conan. They are the intellectual property of Aoyama Gosho. All characters, couples and locations, if Canon, will be faithful to the manga, so if you’re into fics with weird pairings like Shinichi and Heiji, the back button is at the top there. The fic may not make sense if you have not read up to chapter 692, which you can do at a site called (read between the lines) O/n/e/ma/n/g/a, but I advise you to buy the official Tankoban novels (up to volume 29 are out in English at the time of writing) so that Aoyama-sensei can afford to continue gracing us with his imagination. Now, I hope you enjoy the fic! (If you don’t, please see my previous comments re the back button).
 
The Gathering Storm
Confrontations