Title: When a Curse is Not a Curse
Summary: Miwako Satou, the orphan woman officer in the Tokyo Police Division 1, is well-known for her high degree of physical fitness, her low tolerance of drink, and her lack of feminine modesty. What is less known is her curse-filled childhood, and how it made her uniquely qualified to understand the equally mysterious Conan Edogawa. A crossover between "Detective Conan" and "Ranma 1/2."
Chapter 1: Question
Conan Edogawa followed behind Wataru Takagi on the long walk through the Tokyo police headquarters to the Division 1 section. He had been summoned, along with the other Detective Boys and Hiroshi Agasa, to provide some extra details about the recently solved Castle Case. Back when he had been a seven-year-old in reality and not merely in appearance, a visit to the Tokyo police headquarters was an eye-opening once-in-a-lifetime event. Now, on his involuntary second trip through childhood, he had already visited the building so often in the past that it would have been difficult for him to care less about the sites. What he really wanted to do was to sneak a peek at the files of unsolved cases undoubtedly scattered throughout the offices. As that wasn't possible, he had to content himself with listening to the deductions that Ayumi Yoshida, Mitsuhiko Tsuburaya, and Genta Kojima made regarding the junior police inspector who was leading them around.
Each of the genuine children's observations, and the natural conclusions they led to, gave Conan a surprising stab of pride. He knew Ai Haibara had figured things out. She might have been a scientist by trade, rather than being a detective, but she was also a very observant and smart teenager-turned-child like Conan himself was. However, Ayumi, Genta, and Mitsuhiko were ordinary elementary school children. The fact that they had been able to make such deductions was quite impressive, and proof that Conan's tutelage was actually bearing results. With some time and experience, they could possibly become passable teenage detectives.
Conan's mind shied away from the thought that he and Haibara might need to join them on that path to adulthood. He earnestly longed for the chance to regain his true form. Haibara was still searching for a cure for the ATPX-4869 poison, but thus far she had had very little success in her experiments. Conan consoled himself that she had only been working on a cure for a few weeks so her lack of results was to be expected, but in the darker nights, he feared that she might never succeed; that he'd be stuck going through a decade of dull classes and adults supervising his every move; that he'd have to experience the miseries of puberty all over again; that Ran Mouri would one day forget about the ever-missing Shinichi Kudo and move on with her life, completely ignorant of the fact that he was right under her nose, forever out of reach.
Agasa, completely ignorant of Conan's brooding, was in the middle of offering to setup Takagi with one of his cousins when Miwako Satou entered. Conan recognized her immediately. She was the female detective from the Stadium Case they had recently solved, wherein somebody had taken an entire soccer stadium hostage. Meeting her here was not at all surprising. They were in the middle of the Division 1 office, so meeting any member of that group would be entirely expected.
The weeks since their first meeting had done nothing to change the woman. She was just as strange as the first time Conan had seen her.
Satou's physical appearance was almost unique in a country like Japan. Her vivid red hair, cut in a very functional pixie cut, suggested a potential Irish background, although that supposition was clearly in conflict with her decidedly Japanese name. Beyond her physical appearance, though, was her profession. She was working in Division 1 as an Assistant Police Inspector, rather than as a more traditional Office Lady. It was downright rare for a woman to be both interested in as well as capable of handling direct confrontations with armed and violent criminals. If Satou's appearances were anything to go by, though, she was more than prepared for the challenge. Her athletic physique and graceful movements were more than slightly reminiscent of Ran and her fellow karate students.
"Takagi-san, who are these people?" Satou asked. "If they're lost, you should bring them to the normal investigation bureau."
Takagi's reaction to Satou's entrance was almost comically dramatic. It was another piece of evidence, which Conan automatically classified and combined with the expansive body of knowledge he had already gathered. Takagi's reaction, plus his earlier protests to Agasa that he already liked somebody, led Conan to the natural conclusion. Barring further evidence, it was safe to suppose that the woman Takagi liked was Satou.
"They're not lost," Takagi tried to say. However, he was immediately overridden by the babbling of the children.
"Who's the lady?"
"Why are you blushing?"
"I get it, she's Takagi-keibu's girlfriend." The last point had been said by Mitsuhiko. He had come to the same conclusion as Conan, but had not yet developed the tact to keep the observation to himself. Learning discretion was another important trait for a detective. People revealed themselves in countless ways every day, and it was the height of cruelty to unnecessarily expose them.
"You're allowed to bring your girlfriend to work?"
Satou interrupted them all by saying, "I'm Miwako Satou! I'm an inspector for Division 1." She then turned to Takagi, and asked "Who are they?"
Her simple declaration of identity was enough to add more fuel to the growing mystery that was Miwako Satou. She not only looked odd and worked in an odd job, she spoke strangely as well. She had introduced herself using the very informal "ore," and Conan was certain that he hadn't heard her say a single "wa" or "kashira" at the end of one of her sentences thus far. For a woman, such speech was flagrantly crass.
It was looking like Satou had not in fact been a child born in Japan, as any girl growing up surrounded by native Japanese speakers would naturally have learned a much more polite vernacular. The most plausible explanation for her sloppy speech was that she was a foreigner who had been taught Japanese by a very odd man.
However, that explanation didn't feel right, either. Satou appeared to have practically a native-level of fluency, and she had no discernible foreign accent in her voice. Conan couldn't imagine how anybody could develop that level of proficiency without years of practice with multiple people. Assuming she was foreign-born and had studied the language rather than being born in to it, standard speech must have come up at some point; it was the most common vernacular to teach foreign students of Japanese. Therefore, it was presumable that Satou had intentionally chosen to learn an informal speech pattern for some unknown reason. However, if it had been a conscious choice of hers, then that re-raised the possibility that Satou was in fact a native-born child of Japan. Additionally, it opened the new question of why she was intentionally speaking in such a distinctive and rude way.
The open thread of inexplicable mystery nagged at Conan's detective instincts like a hangnail which scratched him every time he moved his fingers. He desperately wanted to rip out the annoyance that the unknown question represented. Almost against his will, his thoughts kept looping over and over, rehashing the few concrete details he had and trying to force them together into a deduction which made sense.
Something about the five children struck Miwako as familiar. She was sure that she had seen them before, but that didn't narrow things down very much. Miwako had lost count of the number of children she had seen throughout her career in the Traffic Bureau. If she never had to give another cross-walk safety lecture, it would still be too soon.
"They're the witnesses in the Castle Case," Takagi answered Miwako's question.
The Castle Case was the weird crime which had been the talk of the office for the past few days. The culprit had gone to extraordinary lengths, including getting plastic surgery to disguise his identity, in order to steal an invaluable fortune. Unbeknownst to the would-be thief at the onset, though, that invaluable fortune had ultimately proven to be merely a scenic view.
There had been five children involved with that escapade, and Takagi had been asked to help tie up the loose ends of that case. All of it fit together to explain why the Division 1 office had been invaded by the chatty children.
That didn't do anything to explain why they looked so familiar, though.
"These are those kids who helped in that case?" Miwako asked.
"Yes. They made the suspect give a full confession and everything. There are just a couple more details I needed from them to finish the report," Takagi said.
One of the children, the girl who was the shortest of the five of them, interjected, "Ah! I remember. You were there during that soccer competition case, weren't you?" She wore a striped pink dress, and her yellow hair band kept her moderate-length hair from blocking even a fraction of her face.
It was at that prompting that Miwako finally made the connection as to why the children, and especially the boy with glasses, looked so familiar. She had briefly met them back in that hostage case at the soccer stadium. She said, "That's right. You're those kids who were being all nosy, aren't you?"
"We weren't being nosy. We were helping the inquiry," one of the young boys said. He was by far the largest of the five of them, both in height as well as in girth. His short buzz cut conspired with his stocky build and gray clothing to make him appear not unlike a huge walking artillery shell.
Only three of the five children were actually talking. The two others stood in the back, staying silent and out of the way. It was entirely unlike what Miwako had learned to expect from children. Back when her job had included community outreach assignments and other duties which brought her in frequent contact with the general public, she had met enough children to know how excitable they acted around police officers. They typically acted very much like the two boys and girl clamoring around Takagi did, like a particularly hostile internal affairs investigation panel. They did not act like the silent boy and girl who were quietly observing the scene from the back.
It wasn't just their quiet behavior which stood out and grabbed Miwako's attention, though. Something about them put her on edge and forced her eyes to keep glancing at them for any sign of danger. They weren't a threat in the sense that an incoming dagger was threatening, but it was the same feeling she got before a seemingly ordinary man turned out to be a grandmaster of some ridiculous field like martial arts contract bridge.
The boy with glasses was by far the most ominous. He was only fractionally taller than the girl in the pink dress, but he held himself with a confidence unheard of in most adults, let alone in an elementary school child. It wasn't arrogance, bravado, or any other false emotion. He merely had the unflappable certainty of a master. It was enough that Miwako would have hesitated if he challenged her to do anything.
The brunette girl standing next to him was not to be trifled with, either. Her face had the flawless look of either fantastically lucky genes or a subtle makeup expert, and her trendy clothes gave the impression of a child model. Beneath her careful grooming, though, there was a sharpness in her eyes. It was a bit too similar to the look Nabiki Tendo had whenever she approached with a "little favor to ask." It was as if she knew things you didn't know, and moreover, she knew she knew things you didn't know.
However, if either of those strange children were martial artists, they held their skills hidden so well that Miwako could find no trace of them whatsoever, except for the ineffable feeling she got from them.
The odd boy and girl weren't talking, so Miwako was more than happy to leave them be and exchange banter with the three more ordinary children. She also took the opportunity to confirm with Takagi that Yumi Miyamoto hadn't said anything substantial about their visit to the bar last night. Her former partner from the Traffic Bureau had tricked her into having a drink, and the rest of the night after that had been a fuzzy blur. Miwako had the vague feeling she had said something she shouldn't have, but she couldn't quite remember what it might have been.
Miwako's casual chatting continued until a uniformed police officer arrived and announced that the 53-year-old Keizo Masuo was here for Miwako. He was an expected appointment. Much like how Takagi was following up on the Castle Case, Miwako had been tasked with following up on a recent bank robbery case. That was where the similarity ended, though. The bank robbery was an active investigation, and her inquiries were far more than mere formalities.
"Isn't your wife coming too?" Takagi asked the bank manager, putting voice to the question Miwako had just been thinking about.
Masuo was every bit as bulky, formal, and stiff as his bank. The effect was only slightly marred by his anxious checking of his wristwatch. In response to Takagi's question, he said, "She isn't here already? Let me try calling her."
The phone call Masuo made was a bit odd, but it wasn't anything too special, until a scream came through the tinny speaker of the handset. It caught everybody's attention, even the children's.
As the ranking police officer, Miwako took charge of the situation. She ordered, "Takagi-san. Get the mobile unit ready. I'm getting the car."
"Yes," Takagi acknowledged.
The two inspectors broke and went their respective ways. Miwako had retrieved the car keys in a moment, met up with Takagi and Masuo at the entrance of the garage in two, and was speeding along the road with sirens blazing in three.
It was something of a rite of passage for newcomers in Division 1 to survive a trip to an ongoing crime scene with Miwako. She had always loved speed, and that naturally extended to cars as well: the feeling of power under her feet, and that moment of drifting pull as she coaxed the car into an almost-but-not-quite skid around the corners. She did love to drive full-out, but rarely got the chance to do so outside of an emergency. This situation definitely qualified as an emergency, and Miwako took full advantage of the opportunity.
Both Masuo and Takagi clutched at the hand holds of the car as she drove.
Along the way, Miwako and Takagi talked to Masuo to learn what they could of the situation. They were well into a discussion of whether Masuo had any potential enemies or recent suspicious activities to report when the three of them were interrupted. One of the boys from Takagi's Castle Case interview poked his head out between the two front seats, giving them all a jolt of surprise. He was the quiet boy with glasses, although he now spoke up, saying, "I don't think it was a burglar. She was on the phone, and if it was a burglar, she would have said something."
"The kid? When did you..." Takagi exclaimed. He grabbed the boy before he could cause any more trouble. Once the boy was in hand, Takagi asked Miwako, "What should we do with him?"
Miwako wanted to yell at Takagi for letting the boy tag along, but she couldn't really accuse him of doing anything wrong; she had also been distracted enough to not notice the boy sneaking in. Regardless of how they had ended up in this situation, though, the responsibility of what to do now fell to her.
If this were an assault in progress, or worse a murder, seconds could make all the difference. Even if it were a more benign crime, getting to the scene as quickly as possible was critical in an investigation. In mere minutes, potential witnesses would forever vanish from the crime scene, footprints would degrade or be covered, and ignorant civilians would happily remove evidence for the sake of cleaning up the mess.
"There's no time to turn around. We've got to get to that woman," Miwako said.
She settled for channeling her feelings of annoyance into pushing the car's accelerator to the floor and squeezing a bit more speed out of the vehicle. The pale face and whitening knuckles of the boy were a meager consolation for the trouble he caused, but they were something.
The bank director's house did in fact turn out to be a crime scene for a murder. Somebody had broken in and stabbed the director's wife in the back with a knife. The minute Miwako discovered that, she called for reinforcements. She and Takagi then began their preliminary investigations. More senior and experienced detectives would arrive shortly, but there was not a moment to lose. It had only been a few minutes, and the culprit could be running away as they waited.
The reinforcements Miwako summoned took the form of several officers, including Ninzabura Shiratori, one of her coworkers in Division 1 who had just been promoted to the rank of a full Police Inspector. He showed up in short order to take command of the investigation. Miwako was more than satisfied to let him. Shiratori was a better detective than both she and Takagi, and a murder was too important to let something like pride get in the way. Everybody on the team knew that she was the best marksman and the best fighter, anyway.
It was at that point in the investigations that Miwako finally learned the boy's name: Conan Edogawa. He claimed to be a detective, even though he was clearly still in elementary school. Miwako thought it was adorable for the young boy to have such an active imagination. That was until the investigation began in earnest, whereupon Conan's imagination rapidly transitioned from being adorable to being annoying.
Conan ran all around the crime scene, showing an attention span more befitting a four-year-old than his real age. He flitted around, darting to whatever shiny thing caught his eye from moment to moment. He was frequently caught up in flights of imagination, and kept distracting all the adults with silly questions and even sillier statements.
"How could the victim have been attacked from behind? There's no door or window there."
"Wouldn't somebody exercising be really sweaty?"
"That's weird looking. On TV, killers always hold a knife either this way... or this way."
Miwako started to notice a pattern. It was ridiculous to actually take the suddenly-hyperactive young boy seriously, but failing to pay attention to things was how she had ended up stuck with a 100,000-yen restaurant bill, trapped in a metal corset unable to eat anything, transformed into a five-year-old child, fighting an immortal phoenix emperor, and any other number of crazy adventures she had had in her youth. She had been amazingly naive and reckless back then, and she had no desire to repeat the mistakes of her childhood.
By the time Conan asked, "Hey, what's a string doing here on this exercise bike's pedal," Miwako had given up on the idea that it was a mere coincidence that he kept stumbling across clues to the case. When Conan demonstrated how a knife could have been hidden by some books on a bookshelf, conveniently using an origami knife he had coincidentally made earlier for fun, she was paying very close attention to the boy indeed. Ignoring a master, even one whose subject of mastery she hadn't identified, was one of the mistakes she never wanted to make again.
The truth of the crime came out in time. Masuo had been the one to hire the robbers of his bank, and his wife had happened to recognize the culprits. He had murdered his wife in order to cover this up, placing a knife on a bookshelf and arranging it so it would fall on her. He had timed things such that the stabbing would take place during his earlier phone call at the police headquarters, thus apparently giving him an alibi. It had been so close to working, except that Shiratori had exposed the truth and forced a confession out of him.
That was what the official report would say, no doubt. On the official report, it was doubtful Conan's presence would even be mentioned. To a passing glance, Conan's naive questions and bumbling around the crime scene had just been the childish antics of a curious and overly-eager young boy. If anybody actually recognized the connection between Conan's interjections and the major breakthroughs on the case, they would have dismissed them as merely fortunate coincidences. Everything just happened to line up right, resulting in the smoothest resolution to a case Miwako had ever seen. At a passing glance, Conan had nothing to do with it.
Miwako passed her own judgment on the case, though: Conan had been at least three steps ahead of her throughout the whole investigation. As much as she respected Shiratori's investigation skills, she thought the boy had been two steps ahead of him as well.
Apparently there was more to Conan's childish fantasies of being a detective than she had initially assumed.
The investigation into the murder of Kayo Masuo by her husband had concluded quickly. Nevertheless, the time to travel to the crime scene, the time to take formal statements, the time to return to the police headquarters, and the time to finish the preliminary processing of the culprit all added up to a substantial total. It was past 8:00 at night before Conan and Takagi were reunited with the Detective Boys and Agasa. As it was so late, they decided they would need to come back another day to provide their statements for the Castle Case, so the Detective Boys left the office with their original objective unfulfilled.
"See you in class tomorrow, Conan-kun," Ayumi said, waiving goodbye to the boy. Ayumi was the last of the genuine children to leave the group.
"See you tomorrow," Conan said.
He could hardly wait. Another day in class. Another mind-numbingly boring day full of things he had found simple even when he had been a seven-year-old the first time. Sumiko Kobayashi was a good teacher. She knew Conan and Haibara were extremely advanced and already knew everything she was teaching, so as long as they weren't actually distracting the class, she mostly left him alone. That only slightly helped with the extreme ennui he experienced each and every day in school.
The only thing Conan knew for sure was that he was getting lots of practice at handling boredom.
Conan, Haibara, and Agasa waited for Ayumi to enter her house before they proceeded onward.
"Can I visit your house?" Conan asked the moment the door had closed.
"It's getting pretty late," Haibara said. It was nearing midnight. It had taken a while to convince the children that Takagi was in no condition to take their statements that night, and even more time to escort all of the children home.
"Ran-san must be getting worried," Agasa added. They had called Ran at the station, but she couldn't feel comfortable with Conan being out this late.
"Please?" Conan asked. He masked his earnest desire to talk behind the playacting of a child. The Black Organization had eyes and ears everywhere, and he couldn't be too careful.
Haibara and Agasa exchanged glances. The only reason Conan would want to visit their house was if he wanted to talk somewhere where Ran and the others wouldn't be able to overhear, and in this coded exchange, Conan had just emphasized that it was important to talk now.
Agasa was the one to yield and say, "Sure, Conan-kun."
They continued onward through the dark streets. It was far from the busy traffic of the daytime, but it was nowhere near abandoned, either. The various florescent lights around them revealed a group of three drunken men stumbling forward on the other side of the road, and in the distance Conan could hear the shout of somebody complaining about something.
Conan said a sporadic childish line or two as they walked, but they were more half-hearted comments than anything serious. It felt pointless to put on a show for the small groups of revelers and occasional drunkards who dotted the sides of the road. Anybody out this late at night had better things to do than watch a random adult and two children going home. Even so, Conan wanted to take no chances to talk about anything serious until they were safely behind closed doors. He was anxious for that moment, and was sure that Haibara and Agasa were just as curious as to what he wanted to discuss.
The bright entrance light of Agasa's house was a welcome signal that they had arrived. In the darkness of the night, the huge glass windows and curved walls of the building managed to look even more futuristic than in the bright daylight. Regardless of the time of day, though, Conan loved the Agasa home. It represented one of the very few places of true safety, where he didn't have to fear assassins and he could drop the annoying pretenses of childishness.
The door had scarcely closed behind Agasa before Conan turned to Haibara and asked, "What did you think of Satou-keibu?"
Haibara raised an eyebrow. She answered in her normal, cutting tone, "So you noticed too? Her skirt must be from 1990, or maybe '91 at the latest. Her shirt is harder to tell, but I doubt it is much newer than '92."
In retrospect, he shouldn't have been surprised by her observation. One of the few things Conan had learned about the enigmatic Haibara in the short time he had known her was that she had a strong sense of fashion. It would have been interesting to compare her knowledge against Ran's friend, Sonoko Suzuki, the rich socialite. However, he had no desire to try to actually watch such a confrontation. It would have put his elementary school training of withstanding boredom to the test.
Nevertheless, that was not at all what Conan had been expecting Haibara to say, and he was taken aback. It took him a few seconds to process her observations. Once he had, he asked, "Is that unusual?"
"I'll say it is. Anybody fashionable wouldn't have anything older than one year out. Maybe two, if times were desperate."
"I don't get it. If the shirt's still good, then why does it matter how old it is?"
"And that's why you aren't a girl. You asked my opinion, right? So trust me. She's really unfashionable. It's weird, though, it's all custom tailored. You can tell the stitches were done by hand, not machine, and nobody does that anymore except exclusive high-end places. Normally I'd say she was rich, but no fashion designer would ever make something that dull. I'm guessing she's pretty poor and has to hand-sew her stuff to make it last as long as she can."
That did not line up with Conan's own observations. He had only rudimentary knowledge of fashion, but he could tell that Satou's clothes were definitely not worn-out. Moreover, Satou was an Assistant Police Inspector in Division 1, so she had to have at least a reasonable income. It was yet another unanswered question regarding Satou.
Regardless, Haibara's observation was a tangent to his main line of questioning, and why Conan had thought it urgent to talk to her this evening. Conan had to suppress his natural curiosity to instead return to his original point. He said, "Okay, but that's not what I really was asking about. I meant is she a member of the Black Organization?"
Haibara's haughty look of smug superiority vanished in an instant, melting away as a dark cloud seemed to surround her. She snapped her head around in a panic, searching frantically as if an assassin were about to attack. When no assailant showed himself, Haibara turned back to Conan. Her brown bangs had fallen forward, masking her eyes and making the rest of her face that much harder to make out. She asked in a mere whisper, "Why? Do you think she's one of Them? Did she do something?"
"Not exactly. She was just different," Conan said. It was hard for him to put into words what it was. Satou had been watching him closely throughout his most recent case. Too closely. She showed an intensity and persistence worthy of a first-time babysitter. It wasn't merely a matter of watching to make sure a clumsy child didn't spoil an active crime scene, either. Whenever Conan had said something, Satou had actually listened. The amount of attention and credence she had directed at him was intense. It was more than a bit intimidating after all this time of being an ignored seven-year-old. That alone would have been enough to catch Conan's attention. Added to the other irregularities and inconsistencies he had detected in Satou, it was enough to trigger all sorts of flags in the detective's mind.
"Well, I only met a few people in the Organization, but I never heard of anybody like her there. She doesn't 'smell' like one of Them, either. Of course, she could be Vermouth in disguise, but anybody could be Vermouth in disguise," Haibara said. She darted the briefest of glances at Agasa and a slight shudder consumed her small body. Haibara closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and then was back to normal, or at least as normal as she got when talking about the Black Organization. She concluded by saying, "However, I doubt she's one of Them."
That settled that. If Haibara thought Satou wasn't a member of the Black Organization, then the chances of her being a part of them plunged to become fleetingly small. It wasn't impossible, but it wasn't high enough to warrant thinking about without further evidence. However, just because Satou wasn't a member of the Black Organization was no reason to think she was not interesting, or that she was not extremely dangerous.
Agasa stayed quiet throughout the exchange. He usually did whenever the topic of a mystery, including the Black Organization, came up. Agasa was a genius inventor, but he had neither the knowledge of the Black Organization that Haibara had, nor the talent for detection and deduction that Conan had. Agasa was brilliant, and he was certainly smart enough to know when to stay out of a conversation.
Conan came to a conclusion, if such an indecisive plan of action could be called a conclusion. He couldn't help but pick at the hangnail in his mind. He would do some investigation into this Miwako Satou. At worst, it would be good practice in the fundamentals of detective work. At best, it could save his, Haibara's, Agasa's, Ran's, and everybody else's life.
This led to the natural question of how he was to approach the quandary that Satou represented. He didn't even know her nationality for sure. As Shinichi, he had access to several resources, including but not limited to contacts within the police department itself. As Conan, his resources and ability to move freely were far more curtailed.
He was still debating what approach to take when Agasa dropped him off to the waiting Ran at the front door of their home.
There was one advantage to the intense boredom of elementary school: it gave Conan a lot of time to think and plan.
What did he know about Satou? He knew about her speech patterns, her physical fitness, her job in Division 1, how she acted around her teammates, her hand-sewn clothing, and her lack of fashion sense. It was a small list, and a paltry start to any investigation.
If he added in the things he speculated based on partial information, his list grew somewhat. It was hard to quantify this type of data, since by definition these were speculations and thus were on a sliding scale of confidence. They ranged from things he was almost positive were true, such as her martial arts abilities, to things which were only slightly more probable than not, such as the theory that her hair color was natural rather than the result of hair dye.
Even this expanded list was dwarfed by the things he knew he did not know. Looming largest in that collection were the questions about what Satou wanted, where she had come from, and why she was interested in him. Most important of all, the question Conan absolutely needed to answer was if Satou was a threat to him and the others.
On the bright side, if Satou was a threat, then there was no reason to think that she was an immediate threat. She had acted with nothing but professionalism during the investigation of the murder of Kayo Masuo, albeit paying him a particular and intense attention. There was no reason to do anything drastic. Conan's investigation could begin at the beginning, collecting the basic information which was the lifeblood of a detective.
Conan spent the rest of class planning out his approach. He would start with a basic records check, searching things like newspapers and magazines for references to Satou. Examining official records like school reports and police files would have been ideal, although as he was no longer Shinichi, that could turn out to be impossible. Asking somebody whose life you had saved two months ago to turn their back for a few minutes in a records room was one thing, but asking that same person on the phone to entrust something to a seven-year-old they had never seen before was quite another.
It would be a slow and tedious process. However, Conan had time. The active searching and puzzling together of details at a live crime scene was much more exhilarating, but background investigation was part of a detective's responsibility, too. There was a reason Sherlock Holmes kept such a vast eclectic library, after all.
Conan had his plan of action all figured out. Once the school day was over, he would go to the library and begin his search. He would need to give some excuse to Ran so he could be escorted there. It was annoying that he had to be supervised wherever he went, but coming up with an excuse would be easy enough. He couldn't imagine any real objection from Ran if he said he wanted to study something.
The moment classes ended, Conan practically leaped to his feet. He was eager to clip the hangnail of mystery in his mind. As he was stuffing papers into his backpack, though, Genta approached. He brought with him the first hints of worry in Conan's heart.
"We're going to go play soccer," Genta said. It was more of a declaration than a friendly invitation.
That was a disappointment. Conan always enjoyed soccer, and it was even fun to just pointlessly kick the ball around like the Detective Boys usually ended up doing. Normally he would have jumped at the opportunity, but this was not a normal time. He had an investigation to do, and he wanted to get started.
"Sorry, not today. I need to go to the library," Conan said.
"Boring," Genta said.
Ayumi walked over to stand next to Conan, and she asked, "What are you doing there, Conan-kun? Can I help?"
The offer made Conan pause. It was tempting. Scanning and cross-referencing old newspaper articles was time consuming in the extreme, and getting more eyes to help would speed up the process immensely. On the other hand, there was the question of whether or not any of the children could keep a secret. It would be an absolute disaster if word were to slip out and Satou found out that she was being investigated. If she did have something diabolic in mind, it could trigger her to act. Even in the best case where she was completely innocent, it would raise her suspicions of Conan. He certainly didn't want anybody paying him too much attention, especially if said attention came from a member of the police. Not only could Satou herself make his life very difficult, even innocent inquiries by the police could create a beacon the Black Organization could follow straight to Ran's front door.
Haibara watched the exchange, and Conan in particular, with interest. However, she remained silent.
"I'm going to do some special research for the new class project," Conan said, quickly trying to piece together a plausible excuse on his feet.
Mitsuhiko stopped still. He hesitantly asked, "Did Kobayashi-sensei assign us a project?" Both Genta and Ayumi shook their heads back to him in response.
"She didn't announce it, but didn't you notice? She's planning one soon, and I'm going to get a head start," Conan said. With his reputation, the children would naturally assume that he had deduced something they had missed. He actually hadn't noticed anything particular from their teacher, but regardless, an upcoming project was always a safe thing to assume. Grade-school teachers always had a next class project in the works to keep energetic children engaged, and Kobayashi was a shining example of good teaching.
"No fair. Tell us what it is," Mitsuhiko said. Of the Detective Boys who were genuine children, he was the one who was most responsible. It was only natural that he would want to get a head start on this imaginary project.
Conan wagged his finger at them. "Ah... ah... ah... You're a detective. You should be able to figure it out yourself."
"Stingy," Ayumi said, stamping her foot down for emphasis. "Ai-san, do you know what it is?"
Haibara looked over at Conan suggestively, and Conan tried to still his racing heart. He wasn't sure what the genius scientist-turned-child would do. If she wanted to, Haibara could ruin his attempts to get away by saying there was nothing the teacher had planned, this giving the children free reign to resume their interrogations. Or Haibara could note that Kobayashi would certainly give them plenty of time to do the project once it was officially assigned to the class, thus robbing Conan of any excuse to avoid joining the Detective Boys for soccer. Or Haibara could suggest that they could find out what the upcoming assignment was by following Conan and spying on what he was doing. She was both mischievous enough as well as contrarian enough that Conan couldn't dismiss any of those possibilities.
On the other hand, Haibara was also both intelligent enough to guess what Conan was planning based on their conversation the previous evening as well as responsible enough to understand the importance of keeping the investigation of a potentially dangerous foe a secret.
Haibara eventually said, "I don't think it matters. If there's a new project, I'll just wait for Kobayashi-sensei to give it to us. I'm sure she'll give us enough time to finish it, and it's a lot easier to work on something when you actually know for sure what the project is." Her answer caused Conan's breath to freeze, and he automatically started imagining several novel curses to shout at Haibara the next time they were alone together. Haibara ignored his stare and continued, "I can think of other stuff I'd rather do than waste time in a stuffy library."
Conan started breathing normally once again, and his heart rate slowed to a more normal pace. He tried to send a telepathic "thank you" to Haibara with his eyes.
Genta said, "Yeah, that's boring. Come on. Let's go play soccer without Conan-kun."
"Yes, let's," Mitsuhiko said.
"O..Okay," Ayumi said.
"I'll pass," Haibara said. Nobody tried to pressure her to change her mind.
Genta, Ayumi, and Mitsuhiko made their way out of the room, presumably to their soccer game. This left Conan and Haibara alone.
Conan finished putting his things away, moving as slowly as he could without appearing suspicious. He was hoping Haibara would volunteer to help him like Ayumi had. There were a lot of documents to review, and unlike the genuine children, Conan knew that Haibara could keep a secret. Conan had no compunction about letting her assist him. He was just waiting for her to volunteer to help.
If Conan outright asked, then Haibara would certainly assist. However, that was only because she knew that Conan would only outright ask if her help was absolutely necessary in his efforts. For better and for worse, at this point, it was not.
"Well, see you tomorrow," Conan said. It was the last chance for Haibara to volunteer to come.
"See you tomorrow," Haibara said, and then went back to deliberately sorting the content of her bag.
Conan nodded and walked away. His records search would need to be done on his own.
The library in the school was comprehensive, but only in the things which would be of interest to an elementary school child. It wasn't even worth Conan's time to visit. For general information, including archives of old newspaper articles, he would need to go to the municipal library.
Convincing Ran to bring him there after he went home wasn't that difficult. He mentioned the same story of a class project for which he needed to do some research, and Ran was only too happy to support his academic efforts. That excuse would quickly wear thin, so after the first couple of days, he would either need to figure out another reason to keep going to the library or to abandon his search. Conan figured he could handle that problem when it emerged.
At the library itself, it was likewise easy to get the assistance of the librarian. The very same story of an undefined school project convinced the librarian to give him access to the archives, and it even earned him some praise for his diligence and dedication. Conan tried to accept it with a good grace that hid the fact it was all a complete lie.
The first real hurdle Conan faced was trying to figure out exactly which kanji characters were used in writing Miwako Satou's name. He solved this problem by making a quick call to the police information line and using another lie. Conan explained that he wanted to send a thank you card to Satou, but that he didn't know how to properly write her name. The operator was only too happy to look up the correct characters to use and provide them to the gracious boy. She even went so far as to describe individual line strokes for the complicated "to" character, which Conan endured with all the patience he could muster.
That was when the real work began. Conan began the long, slow, tedious, scanning of page after page after page after page after page after page after page. A careful balance was required in the effort. Conan needed to go slowly enough that he would recognize Satou's name if he saw it, plus spot any potentially related references to things like the police and Division 1 as well. However, he also needed to skim quickly enough to actually be able to finish everything in a reasonable amount of time. Trying to stay awake was an added challenge to the endeavor. It was an acquired skill.
The first day of searching proved to be rather successful. Conan found a reference in a three-year-old human interest article about a woman police officer who had started working at Division 1. She had previously been working in the Traffic Bureau, but was being transferred due to her past successes. The article was dated to 1991, which set the date when Satou had started working in her current role. It also made for an interesting coincidence with Haibara's assessment of her clothing.
That wasn't the only thing Conan found, either. He also learned that Satou was an orphan. Her parents, Masayoshi Satou and Kikuko Satou, had died 18 years earlier in a traffic accident in 1976. There was an editorial which ranted about how terrible government bureaucracy was, and how it was only with the intercession of Councilman Soun Tendo that the poor girl had been able to navigate through the faceless and heartless system to get the assistance she desperately needed. It continued on, describing how reform was in order. It was full of the bombastic language that tabloids used, but Conan found no other actual facts in the article.
The day could have gone better, but it was far from a poor one. Conan had a bit more information on Satou, and furthermore had three more names and two more dates to add to the search list. He was sure that the next day's search would bring even more.
Miwako Satou had a not-so-secret weakness. It was food. Good food was preferable, but much more important than the quality was the quantity. Anybody who had shared a meal with her would have noticed that she ate such celerity that she would be the first one finished despite the substantial quantity of food she consumed. Anybody with any substantial familiarity with her would have noticed that Miwako ate every meal that way as well.
Yumi Miyamoto certainly qualified as somebody with more than a substantial familiarity with Miwako. It was only natural that she would. They had been partners in the Traffic Bureau for years. That was before Miwako had gotten the opportunity to join Division 1. For most women, such an assignment would have been a daily nightmare. For Miwako, though, the highly-dangerous world of homicides and unregistered weapons was more like a dream come true.
Miwako's former partner's offer to treat her to dinner after work was far too good an opportunity to pass up, and she was only too eager to accept it. Despite the change in jobs, the two of them still kept in close contact. Yumi had been Miwako's first partner, and you never forgot your first.
Dinner was a casual event. Miwako didn't even bother to change clothes after her shift ended, not that she really needed to. One of the advantages of being an Assistant Police Inspector in Division 1 was not needing to wear a uniform while on duty; the only requirement was that she not stand out in a crowd, and even that was more a recommendation than an official rule. Miwako respected the guidance of her supervisor, though. The subtle but significant alterations she had made to the seams and linings of her wardrobe were invisible to all but the most detailed examinations, and her attire would easily blend in to a wide variety of casual and semi-formal settings. Her plain shirt and her matching jacket and skirt certainly matched the ambiance of the casual bar Yumi had selected.
Like Miwako, Yumi had also not changed her clothing after the end of her shift. She still wore her traffic officer's uniform, complete with round hat which somehow managed to draw attention to her bright round eyes in the soft light suffusing the area. Unlike Miwako, this caused her to stand out as prominently as if she had been trying to direct the hoards of cars and pedestrians in the middle of the Shibuya Scramble. Rather than being surrounded by people bustling here and there, though, she was instead surrounded by a swarm of dirty plates. They, and the lingering smell of a half-dozen sauces, were the only evidence left over from Miwako's alacritous eating.
That stream of food, which would be a feast for a more normal person, came to an abrupt end the moment Yumi achieved her ulterior motive of convincing Miwako to try at least one real drink. It had only been one, but it was enough to make Miwako's head feel light and woolly. It felt like it kept wanting to slide away, and Miwako had to keep forcing herself back to a vertical position against the suddenly slippery air surrounding her.
"Is there somebody you like?" Yumi asked. Her eyes showed a sudden keenness, and she was nearly staring at Miwako.
This newfound focus slid past Miwako's notice as gently as the rocking motion of the chair underneath her. Yumi's words had more luck in catching her attention. They, much like Miwako's head, swam around. Everything felt like it was wrapped in a cotton fuzz which blocked out the sharpness, and the whole world somehow felt ethereal.
"Yeah... There's tons of people, I like here. So much better than Neri..Neri..yeah... that place," Miwako's mind slowly caught up to her mouth. Where she had grown up wasn't a secret as such, and any casual check of her files in Human Resources would show where she had graduated from high school. However, she typically tried to keep quiet about it. The fewer people who actively searched there the better. "Wherever that place was," Miwako added. She felt clever for having successfully concealed the truth.
"Really? Who? Is it somebody in the police department?" Yumi asked quickly.
Miwako said, "There's all sorts of people. Like.. like Megure-keibo!" He had become something of a father figure to her, and one who wouldn't sell her for two fishcakes and whatever else. "And Taka-gi-san!" he was one of the detectives junior to her, and one of the few who hadn't yet tried to slip into calling her "Miwako-chan" and forced her to "correct" them. She liked her team well enough, but that honorific was reserved for Yumi, Megure, and a select few others. She might be female, but she was going to be treated with respect. "And Shiratori-san!" He was an interesting one. He was always so confident in his assertions, but he wasn't afraid to back down when he was wrong, too. That wasn't very often, as he was one of the better detectives on the team. "And Miwako!" She had to include herself, of course. It had been difficult at first, but she had finally grown enough to be comfortable with herself. "And Yumi-chan!" The two didn't meet on a daily basis anymore, but she still considered the incorrigibly friendly gossip as her closest friend in the police. "And...
"No!" Yumi interrupted the drunken listing of names. She sighed, and said, "I meant boyfriend-type like. Do you have anybody in the office you like like that?" She spoke casually, but stared with intense focus.
Miwako's head tipped to the side, matching the swirling in her eyes. It took an effort to lift it straight again. She said, "I don't know. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe not." Even after more than 10 years, she still couldn't quite get over her disgust at the idea of dating a man, let alone marrying one. There was only one person in her heart, and she had no illusions of her chances there. Miwako had long since resigned herself to being single for the rest of her life.
"Okay. But if you are interested in somebody, let me know. I'll help set you up. You're the most popular woman in the force."
"Stop... Now you're stop joking," Miwako said, slapping Yumi's back thrice as she spoke. She knew that Yumi's assertion wasn't true. Maybe Miwako was popular from the perspective of a friend or a partner, but nobody had ever shown her any romantic interest. "Nobody's challenged me yet, or attacked me. You know, out of revenge." She knew from experience that that was how it was done. But upon further reflection, she reconsidered. "No, no, no. That's women, right? How are men showing they interested? Uhh... Has anybody been stalking me? I don't think any... anybody's shouting that they love me has happened." Miwako grabbed Yumi's arm and pulled her close enough so she could smell the alcohol on her breath. "Has anybody been shouting me?"
"Uhh... maybe this wasn't a good idea," Yumi said. It was obvious that that single glass had been far too much. "Come on, let's get you home now."
"And punching, too. Yeah. Nobody's done that," Miwako added. "No. Attacking somebody I look at is only after we're married think, right? Right?"
"That's right. Let's get you on your feet." Yumi dropped a large stack of bills on the table before helping Miwako up. The night had been far from a spectacular success, but at least she had some evidence that Miwako liked somebody, even if she had no idea who that somebody was. Better still, Yumi now had some ammunition she could use to tease Miwako. She giggled to herself.
Last Updated: January 29, 2020