A.N.: This was done for the "Alone" competition at the Poirot Cafe Forums. Also, I've taken some pretty serious liberties with the Detective Samonji series, so apologies for that. Enjoy!
Edogawa Conan had been waiting for this moment for a long time.
From a seven-year-old's perspective, it probably could've been called forever, and from a seventeen-year-old's perspective it felt about the same. Edogawa Conan had been waiting for this since before he'd been Edogawa Conan, since back when he was Kudo Shinichi and could buy his own books without being steered into the kiddie section.
But the latest Detective Samonji novel was finally out.
And not just any old Detective Samonji novel; this was Detective Samonji: The Shadow Confrontation. Samonji would this time be facing off against the mysterious antagonist from way back in book three, whose shadowy tendrils had influenced every corner of the criminal world and... ...Okay, maybe Conan was projecting a little bit.
But he'd first read the series when he was only a little older than he appeared to be now. Readers had been waiting a long time for this final (hopefully) confrontation. He'd had years to speculate.
But now – with the mint copy of the hardback in his hands and the bookstore clerk's condescending smile – he was at last going to see how it all turned out.
"Is this for your Dad?" asked the clerk. "This kind of story might be a little mature for someone your age."
"Yep!" Lies; Yuusaku could get his own copy. "Tou-san loves mysteries! This is gonna be the best birthday present he gets!"
She laughed. "Yes it will," and handed him his change.
Conan couldn't stop grinning as he made his way out of the store. He'd made no plans for the weekend, and had everything he needed to pretend to be sick if it came to that; he was not going to let anything keep him from reading this as soon as possible.
And on that note... He settled down in a corner seat of the train, and cracked the book open. He inhaled deeply, breathing in the smell of paper and ink.
It smelled like mystery.
Samonji crouched in the darkened alleyway, the book began, gunfire echoing off the high brick walls. He tightened his grip around the cold metal of the gun in his hand – it was the only thing that hadn't betrayed him yet. In the distance, he could hear the yelling voices of his enemy's henchmen – dark shadows on the horizon of the street. The staccato footsteps of a woman in heels began to approach, and Samonji's breath caught in his throat – he hadn't expected her. He raised his gun in shaking hands, and...
A real-life gunshot jerked Conan out of the story. Around him, people screamed and fell away from the center of the train, where a man had just fallen, dead, with a bullet hole in his forehead. The gun lay abandoned on the floor in front of him. Conan tucked the book back into his bag and pressed forward towards the crime scene – the book could wait.
...Or not. No burn around the wound, but thin black (silk? No, polyester) threads caught in the trigger of the gun, and only one person on the train wearing gloves. Very unseasonal gloves, at that. And... ah, yes. Witnesses. There were those too.
This wasn't even worth his time.
Still though. He kept people away from the body until the police took the woman into custody at the next stop, then stuck around to tell Takagi-keiji the full story.
That was when Takagi noticed the book in his bag.
"Conan, is that book for Mouri-san?" Takagi asked. "That might not be ah... a little more mature than you should be reading."
"No, it's for... Shinichi-niichan!" Conan said, turning the knob on his childish-meter up a few notches. "He really likes Detective Samonji! But I think... even if I did want to read it, Detective Samonji's a good guy, right? I should read about good guys."
"...That's not really the problem," Takagi said, laughing nervously. "Just... Well, I'm glad you got Kudo-kun a book. He'll enjoy it."
Kudo certainly would.
The next train wouldn't be by for an hour, so Takagi gave Conan a ride back to the detective agency. Which was nice – he didn't want to walk – but also meant he couldn't read on the way.
And the book was positively itching in his hands.
With a quick Bye Takagi-keiji, thanks for the ride he catapulted up the stairs to the living area above the agency. Ran should still be out with Sonoko, and Kogoro was still working (or drinking, one of the two). He should have at least two hours alone, just him and Detective Samonji. He opened the door and darted in.
And collided with Ran's knees.
"Conan-kun!" Ran said, surprised. "Haven't I told you not to run inside?"
"Sorry Ran-neechan!" He chirped, arms tightening around the bookstore bag in his arms. "Hi! I have some homework I forgot to do before so I'm gonna go over there and..."
...Unfortuately, Ran wasn't as unobservant as he'd hoped, and she caught him before he darted off. The lettering was showing clearly through the white plastic of the bookstore bag, and she narrowed her eyes at it.
"Shinichi loves those. I didn't know there was a new one out. May I?"
He couldn't think of a non-suspicious reason not to, so he handed it over. She turned it over in her hands, then opened it to a spot partway through.
He squawked in protest. You couldn't just do that with a Detective Samonji novel – what if she opened to a deduction? It'd spoil half the book – and she was bending the spine!
...And her face was slowly turning tomato red. What?
"...Conan?" she asked, in a strained sort of voice. "You weren't reading this, were you?"
"Uh. Not yet..."
"Oh. Oh, good. I think... I think maybe I should talk to Shinichi, if this is what he's been reading."
"Don't read this, okay, Conan-kun?"
"But why not? It's Detective Samonji!" he whined, doing his absolute best first-grader puppy eyes. "The others were okay for me to read, remember?"
"I... I remember, but I think if you want to read this one... I need to talk with Shinichi. Or... or your mom." She turned the page, and her blush spread to her ears.
...Yeah, he wasn't getting that book back.
He watched Ran read for a moment longer, before she finally squeaked and snapped the book shut. "No – no no no, you're not reading that." She shoved it into the bookshelf, way above where he could reach it. "Go do your homework, okay, Conan-kun? And I'll get you a different book tomorrow."
"Okay..." he said, sulking off. He made a show of getting out one of his schoolbooks and reading through information he already knew – clouds are made of water, fascinating, tell me more about this mysterious water cycle. He watched Ran out of the corner of his eye. She stood breathing deeply for a moment until her face had returned to a near-normal color, then with one last glance at the offending book she disappeared into the kitchen.
The first grade science book snapped shut. Conan stared at the forbidden book with longing. He couldn't climb the bookshelf; it wasn't sturdy enough. Maybe he could drag a chair over? No, she'd hear that. Maybe if he got a long pole, he could knock it off... if he could find a long pole. Or he could make a grappling hook out of paperclips and string, and... No.
Eventually, the thick, out-of-date encyclopedias on the bottom shelf became a stepstool, and Conan was once again in possession of Detective Samonji.
And he could absolutely not get caught with it.
He put it in his backpack and buried it underneath a Kamen Yaiba manga and a plastic action figure. "Ran-neechan, I finished my homework! I'm gonna go to the park!"
"Alright, be back for dinner," she called back, and Conan was out the door in a flash.
Beika park wasn't particularly busy today, thankfully, and he was able to find a secluded bench with decent lighting. Alone at last. Detective Samonji had waited long enough.
...and shot, taking out the streetlight down the block. The silencer on his gun was heavy, but worth the trouble; the dark shadows turned away from his position rather than towards. She, on the other hand, was not so easy to fool, and he could see her cherry-red smirk in his minds eye.
He made it through a series of extended flashbacks, explaining how Samonji had ended in such dire straits, and well into chapter three before he was interrupted again. The bright jangle of his cell phone made him jump and curse, and he quickly checked the Conan phone before he realized the call was coming on the Shinichi one.
Hattori, read the screen. He picked up reluctantly.
"Oi, Kudo!" came Hattori's typical lack of volume control. "How you doing?"
"Better before you called," he grumbled.
Hattori laughed. "Okay, so you know that Detective Samonji book that just came out?"
"I just got to the end, and I was wondering what you thought about the part with the antique pistol and the..."
"Don't tell me!" Conan nearly shouted.
"What, you ain't finished yet? Well, okay, are you to the part with the cyanide and the..."
Conan hung up.
Dangit. He'd been hoping the cyanide was just a red herring. Hattori was officially blacklisted for a month, and he sent him a text to that extent before silencing the Shinichi phone.
He started reading again.
It couldn't have been cyanide, thought Samonji. The silver teapot was still tarnished. But then... what if the poison hadn't been in the tea?
He was two pages into chapter five when he got to the part Ran had opened the book to. And... yeah, okay, he could see how she might've freaked out. Out of context it might have looked pretty bad, but knowing the whole plot... Okay, it still looked pretty bad. But it was a gritty noir detective story; of course there was going to be some suggestive material. It wasn't like it was giving any kind of explicit detail.
It was just... implying things. A lot.
The thin dress flowed around her hips, smooth and liquid like a fine red wine, cascading from her body to pool on the wood of his desk. The light on her skin made her glow in the darkness of his office, like the angel she was anything but. She purred out his name, and he grinned behind his cigarette. She was a seductress, pure and simple – but that didn't mean he wasn't going to give her what she was asking for.
"What's a seductress?" a childish voice asked from behind him.
Conan nearly fell off the bench. Ayumi was hanging off the bench next to him, with Genta and Misuhiko standing behind.
"I know that one!" Genta said quickly. "That's what my Mom says the ladies my Dad talks to are!" He paused. "I don't think it's a good thing."
"So what's she asking for? Come on, turn the page!" Mitsuhiko, normally calm and composed, was bouncing up and down on his toes. "She wants him to solve a mystery, right?"
Conan snapped the book shut, triggering a chorus of "Aww, come on!" from the three children.
"Don't sneak up on me like that!" he scolded.
"We didn't," said Genta defensively. "We called your name three times!"
"But you were involved in your book," continued Mitsuhiko, "so we thought we'd see what you were reading!"
"Detective... Saa...Samonji?" Ayumi struggled to read the kanji in the title. "The... shadow... con... concentration."
"Confrontation," Conan corrected out of habit. "You guys shouldn't be reading stuff like this!"
"Then why are you reading it?"
"Yeah, that's not fair."
"Why can't we read it?"
"I... I'm leaving, bye!" He practically threw the book back into his bag, and sprinted away from the park.
"Hey, wait!" Genta called.
"Tell us what happens, Conan-kun!"
There weren't many places a first grader could go alone without seeming out of place. The arcade – no. Far too loud. The aquarium? Sure – except they were closing in an hour. The library – he tried that, but the librarian noticed the book he was reading and tried (rather forcibly) to get him set up with something more age appropriate.
So for now, he was in the corner of a cafe, as the child sized cup of coffee he'd bought got cold.
The wind howled through the street, bitter chill following the detective like a wolf at his heels. But the machinations of the master puppeteer held his attention more than the dancing of leaves. First the murder of Inspector Hamato, then the twin arson cases, the kidnapping of the CEOs wife, and now – now the theft of the files. They were related; he knew it deep in his bones, burning in his scar. But there was no proof. Or... was there?
Conan's phone rang.
"Hello?" he said quickly, without looking at the display.
"Conan-kun, did you forget about dinner?"
"Oh! Ran-neechan! I..." He checked the time on his phone. Yes, apparently he had forgotten about dinner – for quite a while. "I'm sorry! I was... I lost track of time!"
There was a pause. "You took the Detective Samonji book," she said quietly. "I told you not to read that."
"I... I'm sorry! But I skipped the part you were reading," he lied quickly. Think childish, think childish... "It was really boring, he was just talking about her dress and her legs and I didn't really understand so I skipped ahead to when a different lady got kidnapped." He paused. "He hasn't rescued her yet. I think he's going to, though."
Ran just sighed. "Conan, you shouldn't be reading things like that."
"I promise I'll skip if he starts talking about legs again," he chirped, feeling his dignity dying a slow death.
"That's good, but... Where are you?"
"I'm..." he glanced around. "I'm at a cafe. I was gonna have dinner here – I brought my wallet with my allowance and I think I have enough. Can I get ramen?"
Another long sigh. "You're not supposed to be out on your own."
"I promise to get vegetables in it."
"...Fine, but come straight home afterwards, okay?"
He hung up quickly. He would've felt bad for it, on any other day; he knew she worried, after all. But at the moment Detective Samonji was all that mattered.
Maybe he could get dinner at the end of the chapter. Or... maybe the chapter after that.
The cafe closed at nine, and he was only on chapter ten. Out of seventeen. He wouldn't finish tonight. Maybe he could stay at Agasa's house. He probably wouldn't take the book away, and Ran definitely would.
Or maybe he could stay on the streets, a hardboiled detective in a hardboiled world, living in the wells of streetlights, fighting against the shadows no one knows to fear. He'd get an office of his own, with a frosted door and a hardwood desk, and keep a bottle of hard liquor in one of the drawers, and...
Yeah, that was the book talking.
But he wasn't making any choices until at least the end of this chapter. He just wouldn't be able to focus on anything else – yeah, that was totally it. He wanted to be able to think clearly. And until Detective Samonji shot or didn't shoot the captured mob henchman (he wasn't gonna shoot him. Detective Samonji might be hardboiled but he was no murderer) he wouldn't be able to think of anything else. But until he could think clearly he needed to be out of everyone's way. Right?
Which was why he was on a roof.
Roofs didn't close. And nobody would bother him up here. Best of both worlds... Though a little windy.
Samonji had always done his best thinking on his feet. So he walked, slouched, face to the wind and back to the bright moon that shone behind the clouds, watching as his shadow stretched out in monochrome contrast against the dirty street. It couldn't be the Senator's son – the camera footage, if nothing else, proved that. But... who's to say he hadn't paid a man to do it? After all, there was no shortage of desperate men in the world – which meant that even with the Senator's son in Australia, investigating might still be dangerous. He looked back over his shoulder. Nothing there but the moon, cold as his heart.
"Tantei-kun?" asked a familiar voice from behind him.
Oh, no. No. Not today.
"Leave me alone, Kid."
"Are you alright?" Because asking nicely worked so well on international thieves. That is to say, not at all. "It's past your bedtime. Does Ran-san know you're up here?"
"Go away, Kid." What was the thief even doing here? A part of his mind cataloged the little evidence he had – the thief's breathing was strained like he'd been running, but the door hadn't opened, so he must have flown; the wind was the wrong direction for a hang glider to approach from the direction of tonight's heist, and the heist must've ended hours ago anyway – all of which spoke of foul play at or after the heist. Conan normally would've been all over it.
But Detective Samonji was about to deduce something. So all he really wanted was to be left alone so he could read.
"What are you reading?" Kid asked. A caped shadow loomed over Conan, which would've been fine except the thief was in his light. "Oh, that new Samonji thing? Aren't you a little young to be..."
"Yikes, okay! Don't bite my head off." The thief paused. "Though... an acquaintance of mine was reading that today – what did you think of the trick with the antique pistol and the..."
Conan snapped the book shut and whirled in a single motion. "Go away!"
He punctuated it with a soccer ball flying past the thief's head at the speed of sound. The Kid darted away with a strangled noise and tumbled over the edge of the building. The satisfying fwop of a hang glider snapping open followed a second later. The white triangle soared away, and Conan was alone again. He smiled through his glare.
...Until he realized he'd lost his place in the story.
Conan had just found his place when Nakamori-keibu finally caught up to Kid.
The man burst through the door at the top of the stairs with the kind of explosive anger he was known for, making the metal handle bang against the cement like a gunshot. Conan, to his credit, managed not to jump.
"That way," Conan said, pointing before Nakamori had a chance to ask. "Ten minutes ago. Didn't get a good look. Pure coincidence that I was up here."
Nakamori opened his mouth, then shut it again. He whirled, barked a short series of orders to his subordinates, and turned back to Conan.
"He didn't leave the jewel, did he?"
"He still have it?"
"I didn't see it."
Nakamori swore profusely, with no regard for the child in front of him, and stomped over to the edge of the roof. Conan didn't mind, as long as the man stayed out of his light.
"Damn thief," Nakamori muttered halfheartedly. "Holding a heist on tonight, of all nights. I bet he knew it came out today."
"Samonji?" Conan asked, looking up.
"What - you're reading it too?" Nakamori looked to the book in Conan's hands. "Are you to the part with the…"
"No spoilers," Conan interrupted quickly. "And before you ask, I skipped chapter 5."
"Oh. Um. Right. Good job." Nakamori glanced back to his assistant, still standing in the door. "Well, if Kid's gone… You need a ride home? It's late."
"Um…" Conan tried to think of a reason to say no - and couldn't. "Actually I'm going to be staying with a friend tonight - so yeah, if you could have one of your men give me a ride that would be great."
Nakamori nodded. "Right. Oh, by the way… Skip chapter twelve, too."
Casual spoilers not withstanding, Nakamori seemed to be better than any other adult so far. Until someone was available to take him home, he let Conan read peacefully in the corner. Conan wasn't sure whether that spoke of the trust Nakamori had in him in particular, or the utter irresponsibility of Nakamori with children in general. Probably both.
The room was lavishly furnished - heavy velvet curtains framed the windows, casting curved shadows across the persian rug, and the mahogany wood of the desk gleamed in the light. Samonji looked around carefully. Everything was a deep, blood red, but there were no dark stains to speak of actual blood. He couldn't be too careful, though. On the mantle sat a picture, its ornate frame overshadowed by the antique pistol hanging over it. Samonji felt his breath catch in his throat - it wasn't the senator's son.
It was the senator himself, with an arm around the CEO's kidnapped wife.
"Okay, kiddo, time to go home," said an unfamiliar man's voice. Nakamori's assistant smiled down at him. "You shouldn't be reading that, you know."
"I skipped chapter five," he chirped. "And Nakamori-keibu told me to skip twelve, too."
"Well… Okay. But don't read in the car, you'll make yourself carsick."
Conan pouted all the way to Agasa's.
Agasa's house would've been a good idea. Agasa would leave him alone, and even if Haibara would mock him she wouldn't take the book away.
But that had assumed that the detective boys weren't having a freaking sleepover.
He heard them before he saw them, and he saw them before he got anywhere close - Ayumi's high pitched shrieks and Genta's laughter echoed halfway down the street. He spotted them through the window, as Genta chased Mitsuhiko with a pillow in each hand.
It looked fun, by first-grade standards. But he wouldn't get a moments peace if they even spotted him through the windows.
"Is this the house you needed?" asked Nakamori's assistant.
"...Nope!" he chirped, then pointed to his own. "It's that one."
"Really? I could've sworn you said…"
"Sorry, I must've misspoke."
The man gave him a look that wasn't buying it, but Subaru had left the lights on next door, so at least it wasn't completely implausible. "Okay…"
"Thank you for the ride, bye!" He left the man in the dust. The gate to his house was thankfully open, but the main door was still locked. He had to stand on his toes to get the key into the lock, and with all the noise he wasn't surprised to find Subaru crouching in an ambush position on the other side.
"Hi," he said. "Can I crash here?"
Subaru sighed, and stood. "It's your house."
"It's Kudo-niichan's house," Conan corrected.
"That's what I said, isn't it?" he remarked, then walked back into the living room without saying anything else. (Normally Conan would have been suspicious. But book.) There was a glass of bourbon, half empty, on one of the end tables, and next to it was a very familiar book.
"...Detective Samonji?" Conan asked.
"...Me too," he said, pulling the book back out of his bag. "And before you say anything, I skipped chapter five."
"...What happens in chapter five?" Subaru asked. Conan glanced over to where Subaru had opened his own copy.
He was still on chapter two.
"...Sorry! Sorry, sorry. Um… Something that small children should skip. That's all I'm going to say."
Subaru sighed again, and looked back down to the book. "No spoilers. Let Ran-san know you're here."
Ran chewed him out for not calling, but grudgingly accepted that it was too late for him to come home safely. He lied profusely about having eaten anything today, and promised to help Subaru-san dust.
And then he was free. Free to read by himself, with someone who was actively pretending he wasn't there. Free to stay up until three in the morning to finish the book with no further interruptions.
And the part with the antique pistol was amazing.