The Promise, the Picture, and the Protectors

DISCLAIMER: I do not own these characters which are portrayed in this story. They belong to Monkey Punch and other assorted companies.

"All right, now, everyone know their parts?" Lupin asked as he sat cross-legged on the floor of the hotel room. He looked upward, a wide smile on his face, which disappeared as he saw the sea of blank or indifferent faces in the room. "Is anyone listening to me!?" he shrieked, pounding on the map. All jumped and looked around, dazed, "I'm the leader here! We've got to get this memorized, or it'll all go to hell! What's up with you guys today!?"

"What's up with you?" Fujiko murmured, "You and your tantrum made me mess up my nails! Look at this! I have to start all over again!"

"Christ, you just had to go and do that… Why'd you make her screw up!? Now that crap's going to stink up the entire room!" Jigen murmured from under his fully tilted downward fedora. He had been sleeping soundly on the couch until Lupin's outburst.

"Jeeze, I'm sorry. But if you guys looked a little more interested maybe I wouldn't have to scream to get your attention," Lupin said with a heavy sigh.

"All right, then," Jigen sat up on the couch and tilted his hat upward, "What's the plan? Who, what, when, where, how?"

"A car," Lupin answered.

"A car?" Fujiko snorted, "Are you for real? What, is it ruby incrusted, super-fast, hydrogen powered?"

"Better," Lupin replied with a wide sly smile, "Hitler's parade car is on tour in Osaka right now."

"Osaka?" Jigen came to full attention.

"Hitler's car? Isn't that a little unethical?" Goemon suddenly spoke up from his corner where he had been sitting silently.

"Remind me when we started caring about ethics?" inquired Lupin sarcastically. Goemon remained silent, "I thought so. Well, anyway—"

"I can't believe we're heisting a sideshow attraction!" Jigen laughed, "Are you starting to feel your age, or lose your touch!?"

"It's not the actual car, but what's in the car," Lupin added, "Supposedly there's a map to all of the vaults in Germany where the Nazis hid their loot that they got from the countries they invaded. Pretty sweet, huh?"

"If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is," Goemon warned.

"You're the perfect pessimist, Goemon," Lupin said with a smile.

"Someone has to keep you grounded," Goemon answered.

"Okay, so I'll need you to distract the guards, Fuji, while me and Jigen get passed them. Then Jigen, you can—"

"No can do," said Jigen.

"What?" Lupin rose, and walked over to Jigen, "But why not? I need you to drive the car out of there. I don't know a damned thing about cars!"

"Then you better start hitting the books, because you can forget me helping you in Osaka. I went there once, and I'm never going there again," said Jigen.

"Well, why the hell not?" asked Lupin.

"None a' your Goddamned business!" Jigen answered, and bolted from the couch to the door. In the next instant he was gone.

"What'd I say?" Lupin murmured, scratching the back of his head.

"Don't worry, he'll be back," said Goemon.

"How are you so sure?" asked Fujiko, looking up from her nail job.

"He forgot his gun," said Goemon, looking over at the table. Lupin and Fujiko looked down on the coffee table, and saw the Smith and Wesson lying there, glinting from the overhanging lights.

"He forgot…." Lupin started.

"His gun?" Fujiko muttered in disbelief. The door then opened, and Jigen entered, and reached downward for his gun. He glared at Lupin briefly and turned to leave. He found Goemon standing in the doorway, sword drawn.

"Damn, how the hell did you get there so quick!?" Jigen asked.

"Practice," Goemon replied sternly.

"You wouldn't dare…" Jigen hissed.

"You really wish to try your luck against me?" Goemon asked, raising an eyebrow. Jigen stood in front of Goemon in a standoff for some time, and Goemon finally sheathed his sword and bowed his head downward and let out a small sigh.

"I thought so," Jigen said with a smile as he began to walk out the door. Goemon quickly took the sheath of his sword and hit Jigen on the back of the head, sending the Mafioso-like man onto the ground.

"Jesus Christ!" Lupin screamed in horror.

"Don't worry, he's just stunned… I hope…" Goemon answered as he looked down at the ground, "Damn, is he bleeding?"

"Jigen!" Lupin yelped and kneeled down next to Jigen. Jigen let out a small groan as Lupin turned him over, and he laid a hand over his eyes.

"What the hell happened?" Jigen muttered, "Who are you?"

"Oh, crap, he's lost his memory!" Lupin yelped.

"Maybe you should sleep with him, too. Maybe he'll get his memory back that way," Fujiko hissed from her place on the couch.

"Would you get off that already!?" Lupin yelped, "Jigen, buddy! Are you all right!? How many fingers, man?" Lupin asked hurriedly, holding up two fingers, "I'm Lupin, your best friend. This is Fujiko, she's—"

"I know who you and that bitch are. I'm talking about her," Jigen answered, pointing towards the hall slowly and shakily.

The group looked upward and saw a small dark-haired girl standing in the hall, looking at the four pensively. Lupin rose, smiled widely, and took a step over Jigen to the little girl.

"Hey, there, kid. You lost your mommy?" Lupin asked.

"Are you Mister Lupin?" she inquired.

"Uh…. It depends on who wants to know…." Lupin said slowly.

"I'm Yukiko. My mommy said to find you if she ever got hurt or had to leave," said Yukiko.

"Where's your mom, kid? What happened to her?" asked Fujiko.

"She got sick," Yukiko trailed off, and looked downward.

"That's a really sad story, kid, but what's it have to do with me?" asked Lupin.

"She said you'd help me find my daddy," she answered, "So I followed a man here to your hotel room."

"A man?" Goemon muttered.

"LUPIN!" they heard in a shriek from down the hall.

"Oh, crap, Pops!" Lupin yelped as he registered the familiar screech. Jigen immediately rose from his place on the floor and grabbed his gun, and Goemon drew his sword out.

"What do we do!?" asked Fujiko.

"Crap, trapped like rats!" Lupin moaned.

"Hey, no mention of rats!" Goemon snapped as he slammed the door of the hotel room, forgetting about the little girl in the hallway.

"I've got you now, Lupin!" Zenigata said with a wide smile as he stopped in front of the door and removed his handcuffs from his coat pocket and swung them around once, "Come on out! I'd rather take you peacefully than by force, believe me! C'mon, let's make it easier on both of us! Come on!" Zenigata banged on the door, oblivious to the small girl watching him and surveying the situation.

Yukiko suddenly jumped back and screamed, startling Zenigata, "Aahhh! Let go of me! This man's trying to kidnap me! HEEELLLPPP!" she said in a shrill scream.

Zenigata suddenly turned pale, and stopped banging on the door. He leaned downward, and tried to calm the little girl as she continued to scream and draw the attention of the fellow hotel visitors, "Hey, kid, quiet! Please, please be quiet! I'll give you a nickel, I promise!"

"Aaahhh! You're not my daddy! Help, he's trying to kidnap me! Get away! Get away!" she screamed.

"Shut up, kid! I'm trying to capture a dangerous man!" Zenigata said hurriedly. Yukiko stomped on his foot, and Zenigata screamed in pain. "Why you little!" he reached down and grabbed Yukiko by the shoulders, and was soon interrupted from his berating the child by a gunshot. He looked upward and saw the barrel of a shotgun.

"You let that little girl go now, ya hear!?" the hotel visitor snapped.

"But, I…." Zenigata stood, and dusted Yukiko off, and smiled sheepishly, "You see, I'm with Interpol, and I'm trying to catch the thief Lupin the third. I'm just trying to do my job, you understand?" he muttered.

"I understand perfectly. Now dance, bacon boy!" yelled the man with the shotgun, firing at Zenigata's feet. Zenigata screamed in surprise, and ran down the hall, the man with the shotgun on his heels.

Lupin slowly opened the door as he heard the footsteps of Zenigata and the patron fade and finally disappear. He looked down at Yukiko, and returned her wide smile, "Wow, you really showed Pops, huh?" he said bemusedly as he opened the door fully and bent down in front of her.

"Yeah. I knew if he took you that you wouldn't be able to find my daddy!" Yukiko said with a wide cheery smile.

Lupin's smile faded, and he looked down at the ground and sighed, "Jeeze, I'm sorry, kid. I'm a lot of things, but I'm no detective. That's Pops, there. Your mom must've been kinda confused to send you to me."

"No, my Mommy wouldn't make that mistake!" Yukiko said angrily. "So…. So you won't help me?" she asked, tears welling up in her large brown eyes.

"If he won't, I will," they heard, and all turned around to see Goemon had spoken. "It is a samurai's duty to defend the defenseless."

"Are you out of your mind!?" Lupin yelped.

"Lupin, Goemon's right," said Jigen, "She saved our asses back there. I think we at least owe that to her…"

"Are you guys insane!? We don't have the time!" Lupin sighed heavily as he looked at Yukiko out of the corner of his eye. "I'd loved to, but we have higher priorities right now!"

"Arsene Lupin the third! What kind of a person are you!? She's a little girl who needs her father!" Fujiko said passionately as she put a hand on Yukiko's shoulder, "Goemon, Jigen—I know I'm not always on the same page with you guys, but I have to agree with you on this one. She saved us, and we owe her."

"Jesus Christ, this is a mutiny!" Lupin muttered, shaking his head and rolling his eyes, "Fine. Yukiko, we'll help you find your dad. What's his name?"

"I don't know," Yukiko shrugged.

"Lord…." Lupin put a hand to his forehead, "Okay, okay. Now, what do you know about him?"

"Here. Mommy said to give this to you," Yukiko said, digging into her pocket and pulling out a photo.

"Huh…." Lupin took a look at the picture, and shoved it in his pocket before anyone else could get a good look at it, "Okay, kid. I'll have your dad here with us at exactly ten-thirty at night eleven days from now."

"What do we do with her until then?" Fujiko asked. They all looked downward at Yukiko, and she stared back upward at the group.

"Well, I'm going to go get something to eat," Goemon said, breaking the silence.

"Get back here!" Jigen growled.

Goemon sighed, "What's the game plan, Lupin?"

"Oh, like I'm suddenly the one full of ideas?" Lupin asked.

"That's what you've always told us," Jigen replied.

"I guess… She's going to have to stay with us…." Lupin answered after a pause.

"I'm hungry," said Yukiko.

"Come on, Uncle Goemon will get you some miso soup," said Goemon.

"Jesus, are you planning on poisoning the kid!? Kids like crap like hot dogs, cake—You know, stuff that will really kill you," said Jigen.

"Okay, you make some hot dogs, Jigen, and I'll make soup," said Goemon as he, Jigen, and Yukiko went into the kitchen.

"That's a little weird," Lupin said after a pause.

"I think it's kind of cute," said Fujiko with thought, "Say, how do you plan on finding the guy, anyway?"

"Easy as pie, Fujicakes," Lupin said with a cocky smile.

"Really? Then could you let me in on your secret?" asked Fujiko with a smile.

"Not a chance in hell," Lupin added, "Well, I better get back to work on those plans! You know… Hitler, parade car, map, money…. Yadda, yadda, yadda…"

"The usual shtick," said Fujiko.

Lupin suddenly ran back to Fujiko and took her by the hand, "Tish, that's Yiddish! Cara mia!"

"Get a life," Fujiko snapped, and slapped him across the face. She shook her head and walked into the bedroom.

"Ah, love hurts…. If not stings a little bit…." Lupin muttered as he rubbed his cheek and then went back to work.

Meanwhile, in the small kitchen in the back of the hotel room, Goemon was at the oven cooking the miso soup while Jigen watched the hot dog spin around and around in the microwave. Yukiko was watching both quietly from the kitchen table silently, kicking her heels against the chair.

"So, do you have any brothers or sisters, Yukiko?" Goemon asked.

"No," Yukiko shook her head, "My daddy left before I was born. He liked his job a lot, so he had to go away. But mommy said he loved me, even though he had to leave."

"Families shouldn't be parted by things such as careers," Goemon said, "What kind of a man leaves his family?" he muttered in a bitter hiss.

"What kind of a moron lets his soup spill everywhere?" Jigen inquired without skipping a beat.

"Dammit!" Goemon muttered, taking the soup off of the burner and pouring it into a bowl. While he laid the soup in front of Yukiko, Jigen went to cutting up the hot dog. Jigen seated himself down at the kitchen table as he handed Yukiko her hot dog on a plate, and Goemon searched the refrigerator for a juice box, "Boysenberry?" he asked himself as he read the label of the juice box he found in the back of the refrigerator, "What in God's earth is a boysenberry?"

"Who cares, it's not even real fruit, anyway. It's just sugar water with coloring in it," Jigen said with a shrug.

"Point taken," Goemon admitted as he laid the juice box in front of Yukiko and sat down next to Jigen.

"What do we do after this?" asked Jigen to Goemon as Yukiko ate.

"I have no clue," Goemon admitted, "Maybe a game or something. Do we have any games?"

"I think I can think of at least one," said Jigen thoughtfully.

Fujiko came out a little while later, and found the three playing a game of cards at the kitchen table. Poker, more appropriately.

"What are you doing!?" she asked.

"Losing our asses to a seven-year-old," Jigen muttered as he threw the cards down.

"My mommy taught me," said Yukiko with a wide smile.

"Truly a worthy opponent," Goemon admitted as he laid his cards down.

"Your move, Yukiko," said Jigen.

"Here," Yukiko laid down the cards, "Full house."

"What the freakin' hell!?" Jigen gasped as he looked the cards over.

"I'm out," said Goemon.

"Uh, yeah… Me too," Jigen answered as he shuffled the cards, "Damn, I'm never having kids!"

"Why not?" asked Yukiko.

"Because you guys are too much trouble!" Jigen answered, "Besides, no offense, but I'm not the biggest fan of women. Sorry."

"Oh, so you like guys?" asked Yukiko.

"What!? No! Not, not like—Did your mother teach you about that, too!?" Jigen snapped.

"She must've been very unconventional," Goemon interjected.

"Come on, Yukiko," said Fujiko, taking the little girl by the hand and grabbing her purse from the living room.

"Where're you two going?" Jigen inquired.

"Shopping," Fujiko answered, "She needs some clothes and I'm almost out of nail polish."

"Figures," Jigen muttered.

Lupin entered the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door, "We, uh, don't have any beer, do we?"

"I think there's probably one or two in there," Goemon answered, "So, what are you going to do about Yukiko's father?"

"Wait," Lupin replied.

"What? That's it? Wait?" Jigen inquired in surprise.

"It'll all come together guys, don't worry. The pieces of the puzzle will all come together if you wait for them to. It's all a matter of knowing when to strike," Lupin explained as he sat down with them.

"You sound more like a snake than an angel of mercy when you talk like that," Goemon said.

"Because he is a snake—Slick, slippery, venomous, and strangling," Jigen said bluntly.

"Thank you for the string of compliments, Jigen. Remind me why I bother again?" Lupin asked.

"Because you'd be totally screwed if you didn't have us to help you," Jigen answered.

"I wonder when Fujiko's coming back," Lupin said to himself as he looked upward at the clock.

"God only knows. But, knowing that woman, I'd count it in days," Jigen replied.

"I hope she doesn't go adopting that kid," Lupin added in concern, "She actually agreed with you guys on something. That concerns me. I'm also worried about the whole idea of having a kid around us. It's like some sort of a jinx, you know? Remember that girl, and the stamp?"

"All too well," Jigen answered in a grumble, "I'm not the biggest fan of kids. None of us are."

"I never said I hated children," Goemon interjected.

"Oh, so you have a soft spot for kids, huh?" Lupin asked with a smile, "Wow, Goemon. I think this is a whole other side of you we're seeing! It's like that samurai with the kid he carries around with him everywhere. It's really quite adorable."

"Getting back to the car," Jigen cleared his throat and moved forward a little.

"Ah, yes! Now you're both interested, huh? Well, here's the outline. Read it over carefully, and get to know this like the back of your hands, gentlemen," Lupin said with a smarmy smile, "If all goes to plan, this ought to be like pulling the wool over Pops' eyes!"

LATER THAT NIGHT:

"Boys, we're home!" Fujiko announced happily as she opened the hotel room door.

"Thanks again, Miss Mine!" said Yukiko excitedly, "I can't wait to try some of these pretty dresses on! And thank you for the toys, too!"

"Hey, no problem, kid. And like I already told you, you can call me Fujiko," said Fujiko with a warm smile.

"I see you two made out like, well, a couple of thieves," said Lupin as he stood up from the couch and chuckled at his own joke. Goemon and Jigen looked over at one another and shook their heads as they recognized once again that this was just Lupin being Lupin.

"You should see what Fujiko helped me pick out!" said Yukiko excitedly.

"Hey, Fujiko, I hate to tell you this, but I think Yukiko's all ready got a foster mother for the moment," said Lupin, glancing over at Goemon.

"What's that alluding to?" Goemon asked.

"That's all right. I'll settle for aunt," Fujiko replied.

"Yeah, I know," said Lupin, putting an arm over Fujiko's shoulders, "But, you know, if you ever wanna play the role of mommy, I'm here to help you out."

"Thanks, but no thanks," Fujiko answered, brushing him off and walking into her room.

"Aw, she's just modest! She'd be a great mother!" said Lupin with a sly grin.

"I wouldn't bet my money on it. She seems like the type who would eat her own young," Jigen answered.

"I'm going to go hang these up before they get wrinkled!" Yukiko said happily to the three, and ran into Fujiko's room.

"Well, that's one day down, ten to go!" Lupin said happily to the other two, "Tomorrow we hitch a flight to Osaka, and then it's off to Germany to recover what's not exactly rightfully ours but will be soon enough!"

"Haven't we had enough to do with Nazis?" Jigen asked, "I mean, it's not that big of a deal, right? Besides, we have the kid now, and—"

"Why are you so paranoid about Osaka?" Lupin inquired.

"I told you before that that was none of your business, and I'll repeat it in case you didn't hear me the first time—It's none of your business," Jigen answered, and rose from the couch, "I'm calling it a night. See you guys in the morning!"

"Bye. Sleep well. Hope that bug up your ass doesn't come out to bite you," Lupin replied. Jigen grumbled and slammed the door to the bedroom he shared with the two men, "Boy, he's in an especially cheery mood huh?" Lupin said as he leaned back onto the couch.

"I have a feeling that's only the calm before the storm," Goemon added.

"Well, I don't care if we have to pull him out screaming. We go in as a team, and we go out as a team. Those are the rules of the game," said Lupin confidently.

"I was once told there were no such rules in this sort of game," said Goemon.

"Well, you were lied to, my friend," said Lupin.

"You were the one who told me that," Goemon answered.

"Really? Huh…." Lupin said in surprise, and began to laugh lightly to himself, "Well, then I guess I lied to you! Come on, let's get to sleep. We have a big day ahead of us!"

"Here's to that," Goemon replied, and stood with Lupin. The two walked into the bedroom, Lupin looking back at Fujiko's door once more before closing his.