Dr. O'Shay looked up from the documents that Inspector Tawashi had placed in his hands with a look of bewilderment on his face. "This can't be right," he gasped.
"I wouldn't have believed it either," the inspector replied. "We only discovered this because of some wild claims made by an anonymous party during a routine investigation prior to Dr. Tenma's parole hearings."
Yuko Kisaragi took that moment to enter the office. "What's so unbelievable?" she asked.
"It seems that Tobio Tenma's grave is empty," the doctor explained. "The inspector here now believes that his death was actually faked."
"That's not possible," Yuko blurted out. "We all know how broken up Tenma Sensei was after his son was involved in that accident, he locked himself in the laboratory for almost a year designing and building Astro."
"I agree," Dr. O'Shay added, "I genuinely think that Umataro believed his son was killed in the accident".
"That's the theory that I'm going with at the moment," Tawashi injected. "I think that the empty casket funeral ceremony was performed for the doctor's benefit. According to my investigation, and you can read that in the reports I've handed to the professor, a boy about Tobio's age was in the hospital on the day that the accident had taken place. A patient that might have matched his description checked himself out under the name 'John Doe'."
"How can a nine year old boy check himself out of a hospital on his OR?" Yuko asked.
"With the help from an orderly perhaps," the inspector replied. "It seems that there was a temporary employee at that hospital who disappeared also on the very same day. He'd only been working there for a few weeks."
"Any description of this character?" Yuko inquired"
"There was one person on the staff that remembered him," the inspector replied. "According to his description this employee was a dead ringer for Hamegg."
"This is getting even weirder," Dr. O'Shay said, face palming.
"Hakase, perhaps you and Kisaragi-San wouldn't mind coming down to the station with me." Tawashi asked. "I've got the slimy weasel on ice for questioning, and I'd like you on hand while I grill him."
Hamegg sat in the bare room on an uncushioned chair. He took a sip from the glass of water left for him on a rough hewn table, which he nervously drummed his fingers on. Tawashi, O'Shay and Yuko watched him through the one way mirror set in a wall. The inspector opened the door and motioned for the professor and Yuko to follow him inside. The former circus owner jumped out of the chair when the door opened.
"Sit back down, Hamegg." Tawashi said. "If you cooperate this won't take long, and I might be able to let you go."
The slender thief again took his seat. "I've done nothing!" he yelled.
"What were you doing posing as an orderly at Metro City Hospital back in '03?" the inspector asked.
"What?" Hamegg blurted out. "I never did no such thing!"
"I've got a witness who ID'ed you." the inspector barked back. "Now spill it!"
"Hey, it was just a job," Hamegg squirmed. "I actually do have some pre-med training."
"Explain this," the inspector said, handing the weasel looking man a yellowed slip of paper, "It's got your signature on it."
Hamegg's face turned a shade of green. "Hey, the kid had lost his memory, and was badly banged up. He needed plastic surgery on the face, and his burned scalp needed some skin grafts. There was an intern at the hospital that owed me a lot of Yen, and he did the work on the kid."
"You being a good Samaritan?" Tawashi laughed. "What was in it for you?"
"I had inherited this circus from someone that had gone bad on a loan," Hamegg said. "At the time it had both robot and human performers, and I figured I could use the kid. Turned out he was quite useful too."
"Humph!" O'Shay snorted, "We know how that turned out, the circus was taken away from you after you were convicted of maltreating the robots."
"I've never forgiven you for that, O'Shay!" Hamegg sneered. "The robots started to run that circus themselves after that!"
"Yeah, and they did a much better job of it than you ever did!" Tawashi barked. "Most famous robot circus ever, once it was free of your mismanagement!"
"Who was this doctor that worked on the kid?" O'Shay asked.
"Kuro Hazama," Hamegg said, "but I think he goes by another name these days."
"That would be Black Jack," the inspector told O'Shay. "We'll go see him next."
"What about me?" Hamegg wined.
"I've got some more investigating to do into your background," Tawashi said. "You're free to go for now, but you better not leave town!"
The Inspector was greeted by Pinoko at the door of the doctor's cliff side clinic. "Hello Inspectur," she said, yelling over her shoulder, "SENSEI!"
The doctor then came to the door, holding a lit pipe in his hand. "What can I do for you gentlemen?" he asked.
"Do you remember treating a nine year old child at Metro City Hospital back in '03 as an intern?" O'Shay asked.
"He'd been in a bad traffic accident, and needed plastic surgery, including skin grafts on his scalp," Tawashi added.
"Vaguely," Black Jack replied.
"Does this help?" Tawashi asked, holding up a photo of Hamegg.
Kuro's eyes opened wider at the sight of the photograph. "Yes, I remember HIM. I owed that loan shark a lot of money that I used to pay off my tuition loans for my medical schooling. He asked me to treat the boy and change his appearance in exchange for the outstanding balance I owed him. The boy had been banged up very badly in a car accident. He had amnesia and a lot of broken bones, but because he was admitted as a 'John Doe', the hospital was only doing the minimal required care on him. I later found out that Hamegg was running a racket right out of a 'Charles Dickens' story, 'adopting' boys to work in his circus. After I fixed the kid up Hamegg checked him out and they disappeared."
"Thank you Sensei," Tawashi said. "Don't worry, this conversation is off the record."
"Thank you, Inspector." Kuro said.
When the professor and Yuko got back to the Ministry, they bumped into Astro and Reno who were just finishing up for the day. "Where have you guys been?" Reno asked.
"Was there some kind of trouble?" Astro added, "And if so, why didn't you call me?"
"Inspector Tawashi has been dragging us all over the place," Yuko answered.
"Yes, he seems to have uncovered a bit of a mystery in the death of Tobio Tenma," the professor replied, "as in the boy seems to have disappeared. His grave was exhumed and it was empty."
"Disappeared?" Astro asked.
"Yes." O'Shay replied. "When we left him the inspector was digging though the records of a robot circus that Hamegg once owned. It's possible that a boy who once worked there may have been Tobio, with his memory gone. It seems that Hamegg had claimed that a certain child admitted to the hospital back then as a 'John Doe' was a relative of his and had him released to come home with him. That occurred just about the same time that Tobio Tenma was in the hospital following that fatal traffic accident."
"The circus where I was imprisoned?" Astro gasped.
"We think so," Yuko said.
"I don't remember any boy who looked like Tobio there," Astro said. "Of course I was kept with the robots, the few human performers left in the circus didn't mix with us."
Reno had been quiet, listening to the conversation. He scratched his head in thought, his scalp itched and his fingers felt a scar that had healed a long time ago.
Astro noticed the look on his buddy's face. "What's wrong Reno?" he asked.
"Hakase," Reno said, "were there any fingerprint or DNA records kept for Tobio before he died?"
"I don't know Reno," the professor answered. "It's possible that the hospital kept some tissue samples of the boy they treated in the hospital the day of his accident, assuming that the patient WAS Tobio. Why?"
"Just a funny feeling, that's all." Reno said, shrugging his shoulders.
Reno sat at his computer, hacking. It was late at night now, and he'd been at his task for a few hours. The hospital's database was not very well organized, and even though he'd been able to easily breach their firewall and gain access to the mainframe, finding the exact data that he wanted was taking forever. After trying many variations of different search keys he finally found the records for the date in question. There were data files for several DNA samples of three different "John Doe" patients during the week that Tobio Tenma had been in the traffic accident and 'died'.
Reno fingered the flash drive in his pocket. On his way out of the Ministry he'd used the access card he'd 'borrowed' from the professor to gain access to the medical facility and had drawn a blood sample from his left hand by pricking his finger with a needle. The flash drive now contained the readout from the computerized DNA scanner that he'd used to analyze his own blood sample. He held his breath and inserted the memory drive into the computer and started the process of comparing his DNA markers with those of the three files he'd stolen from the hospital's computer. The numbers started to roll across the screen, as the palms of Reno's hands began to sweat.
"Look at me Astro!" Reno demanded. "Analyze my face and compare it with every face in your memory."
"Why?" Astro asked.
"I've got to know for sure." Reno said. "I think we were briefly in the same circus years ago!"
"You mean that the robots that adopted you as a kid were the same ones that were once in Hamegg's circus?" Astro asked. "No, I don't have any memory of you and I couldn't forget a face. Anyway, it can't be, the timing isn't right, you were adopted as a baby."
"That's what I always thought, it's what the robots told me," Reno said. "Only, it isn't true!" He handed the boy robot a computer printout. "I hacked into the hospital's records and found this," he said.
Astro looked at the printout, his electronic brain quickly compared the numbers. "The samples are identical." he said.
"Exactly!" Reno explained. "The first one is my own DNA scan. The second one is from a John Doe patient that was in the hospital on the same day that Tobio Tenma was in the accident. Now look at the second printout."
"That's from Tobio's birth certificate." Astro said.
"It's got prints from his feet on it," Reno said. "Toe prints are like fingerprints. Compare them to mine," he said, handing Astro a second page with a fresh inked impression on it.
Astro's eyes coupled to his electronic brain quickly matched the critical areas in the same manor that the police did. "You're not going to believe this Reno," he said.
Dr. O'Shay examined the printouts that Reno handed him. "I don't quite understand what you're trying to show me," he told the boys.
"It's a strange story Hakase," Reno replied. "I've only just started to fit the pieces together in my own mind and to accept the facts. Perhaps you'd better sit down with a glass of strong tea!"
"Very well," The professor sighed. He sat down behind his desk and got comfortable. "I'm all ears. Yuko, would you please pour me a cup of tea?"
"You and Astro found me in the traveling robot circus a few years ago," Reno started. "The robots running the circus told me that they had found me abandoned as a child and had raised me. The fact is that I don't remember any of my youth before my ninth birthday. The ringmaster had told me that I had an accident and had fallen from great height and had lost my memory. I do remember removing the bandages from my head and seeing my face for the first time and not recognizing myself in the mirror."
"So whatever you've told us about your youth was what the robots had told you?"
"That's correct Hakase," Reno admitted. "I always assumed that I had been with them since I was only a few months old, but I have no memories of anything that happened before I was about nine. I simply believed what my robot step-parents had told me."
"You know Hakase," Yuko said. "After we took Reno back with us from the circus, Momo and I searched databases throughout Japan looking for a possible link to his birth parents. We never found anything."
"Meaning?" the professor asked.
"Meaning, I'd like to know what does this have to do with these?" Yuko asked, pointing to the printouts.
"Well, the other day when you told Astro and I about your encounter with Tawashi and Hamegg, a small bit of my suppressed memory may have come back," Reno replied. "I suddenly had a vision of Hamegg looking a lot younger than his current mug photo, and I thought I knew where I'd seen him before. I had this strange feeling after hearing your story, so I decided to do some hacking and prove or disprove the bizarre idea that had just entered my mind. I broke into the hospital's computer system and searched their records for any John Doe patients matching the description of an eight to ten year old boy. I found a few matches and found DNA records of tissue samples for them. I then ran my own DNA analysis from a blood sample I took from myself in the Ministry's medical section. I'm a match for one of those patents."
The empty china teacup fell from the professor's hand and shattered on the floor as he lost his grip on it.
"I also searched for, and found Tobio Tenma's birth certificate in the hospital's database," Reno added, "It seems he was born there. His footprints were part of the record, so I made an impression of my own and had Astro's camera eyes and electronic brain check for a match."
Astro leaned forward and placed his hand on the professor's shoulder. "There isn't any doubt about it, Hakase, Reno and Tobio Tenma are the same person!"
"You know, Astro," Reno said with tears in his eyes. "I always wondered why we got along so well together. We're more than just best buddies, we're brothers!"
"I wonder how Tenma Sensei is going to take this if we tell him?" O'Shay gasped, as he stared at the two boys.
"That is going to be interesting!" Astro laughed.