The Case of the Girls Night Out!
Epilogue: The Night is Dark and Full of Cookies
The parlor was dark, and the windows shuddered with the occasional blast of wind from the storm. Ran and the young man moved carefully in the warm, inky blackness of the room until they were a good distance away from the door. The young man noted that they were a good two rooms over from the others, and that everyone had been asleep when they had left. They were, for all intents and purposes, alone in a beautiful mansion. Outside, the storm raged on, indifferent to the two teenagers inside.
Now, under normal circumstances, this would have been a very welcome and convenient situation for both Ran and Shinichi. After all, it was a rare day that the two of them got any time together whatsoever, let alone any alone time, let alone unchaperoned, no-crimes or rush, honest-to-God alone time. It was a blue moon, a red letter day, a cosmic impossibility.
And it would have been simply perfect, had it not been for one tiny detail.
Ran led 'Shinichi' to a spot near the middle of the room. She was guiding him gently by the hand, but then let go as she walked several paces forward before stopping. 'Shinichi' watched as she stood in the shadows of the room, the dim light from the security bulbs outside was casting a moving, haphazard glow through the pouring rain and danced across Ran like wisps of angels hair. The young man had to remind himself to keep breathing; the young woman before him, even with her back slightly turned, was beautiful.
Without moving, she spoke, and broke the thick, quiet spell of the room and the moment.
"Hibachi All-Purpose Dry Cleaners."
The young man paused, a confused grin on his face. Nervously, he scratched the back of his head and asked, "I'm… sorry? What was that, Ran-san?"
Ran turned around. She was holding one of her arms with the other, but her eyes were focused directly on Shinichi.
"I appreciate what you did for Sonoko tonight," she said softly. "I read the note about the gem being returned, and after hearing about the chase on the roof… it was quite an evening, wasn't it?"
The young man laughed a little. "Yeah! Sure was. Too bad he got away, though…"
Ran smiled a little. "Yeah, too bad."
There as another pause.
"You know one of the first things that I noticed about Shinichi? I mean, I love him. It's only natural that I would know a lot about him, even if it has been a while. Still, one of the first things that struck me about him was his extreme, anal-retentive attention to detail. He never eats anything from the left side of his plate first. He prefers only three brands of coffee, that's it. Even the high priced stuff won't do. It took me weeks to train dad to drink… that aside. He always brushes his teeth before combing his hair. He loves a certain shade of royal blue above all others, but only from the Autumn collection at Tokyo Hands, and… he always uses the Hibachi All-Purpose Dry Cleaners down the street from his home. Always."
The young man stared at Ran for a good five seconds before slowly brining his sleeve to his nose and sniffing.
"They use a lemon spray," Ran said casually. "You should note that for next time. Your cleaner uses lilac. It's nice, but it's not his."
The young man let his arm drop to his side.
Both stared at each other for a good ten seconds in silence. Kid wasn't even tense; if Ran wanted to do something to him, or to expose his identity, he knew she could have at any point. Admittedly, he was curious as to what was going to happen.
Just to be safe, he had already noted every possible escape route from the room, the window included.
"Thank you for not making a move on me, by the way," Ran said. "I don't know if this was a part of your plan, but… I appreciate you not trying to take advantage."
Kid nodded. "I respect you both too much to try, Ran-san."
Ran smiled a little. "You know why I didn't instantly let them know?"
Kid nodded a little. "I have my suspicions, but I'd rather hear you say it."
Ran paused. Kid noted that her face looked strained, even in the dark.
"Do you… know?"
Kid stared at Ran for what felt like an eternity. Neither party was sure what the other would say next.
"That's… a very vague question, Ran-san."
Ran closed her eyes. "The way I see it," she said evenly, "You have one of two choices. You can lie to me, lead me around and treat me like a fool. This will result in me grabbing this very nice shirt that I'm wearing, tearing it right down the front, screaming for you to stop your advances, and then watching as you run for your life."
Kid paled in the darkness.
"The other choice," Ran said as she bit her lip, "would be that for once, you of all people, decide to treat me with some respect and tell me the truth about what is going on. You have nothing to lose by doing this; I'll keep quiet and let you slip away in the morning. You won't owe me anything, and we'll be square."
Kid raised an eyebrow. "I thought my mother was the only one who used that word."
Ran glared at Kid. "Don't change the subject. What'll it be? Some honesty, or a failed sexual assault?"
Kid laughed a little and scratched the back of his head. Ran, while not someone he interacted with often, was the daughter of an accomplished detective and a brutally scary lawyer. Every once in a while, she chose to remind people of this. Kid just wished that she hadn't picked to do it with him.
Kid suddenly threw his hands up in the air. "You know what? Pretend that you're right. Ran, you're absolutely right. Pretend I know everything that is going on. Every dirty little… and I cannot stress that word enough… secret that you've been after. I found them out completely by accident and have been under absolutely no obligation to keep them, whatsoever. If I wanted to, I could make my life considerably easier by just letting a few key people in the loop, and then most of my problems would be solved."
Ran tensed. This was it, the moment she had been waiting for.
"But," Kid held up a finger, "I haven't. Now, why do you think that would be? I want to hear form the daughter of the great Mouri-san why I wouldn't spill whatever it is that I know."
Ran glared at Kid for a moment. Inwardly, her mind was racing. Admittedly, she couldn't provide a good reason off the top of her head. If what she believed was true, then Kid spilling the secret and confirming for her… what would that hurt? Why would he keep silent?
Ran started to reach for her collar when Kid softly said, "They killed my dad, Ran-san."
Ran froze as kid quietly continued. His eyes were on the window, and as Ran watched, she saw his expression completely change. Gone was the care-free smile that had been there a moment ago. Now, she saw someone who looked far older than she suspected he was.
When Kid spoke, his voice was barely above a whisper. "Why would someone who loves the people around him hide something? Would it be to be mean or cruel, or would it be because of something more than that?"
Ran shook her head. "You think I haven't asked that? Look, I'm just… tired, okay? I'm tired of not knowing and I'm tired of waiting. I'm tired of all of it, and I'm tired of being tired. I just want to know."
Kid shook his head. "At the end of the day, it's not my place to say. Go ahead and cry wolf if you want to, but you're not the only person I owe something to, Ran-san."
Shinichi turned to leave. Ran debated grabbing her collar but then stopped when Kid paused at the door.
"I'll tell you this though," he said with a laugh in his voice, "Two rooms over sits Hattori Heiji, one of the finest detectives alive today. Easily, one of the sharpest minds in Japan and in his own right, a dangerous adversary for someone like me to engage. Even knowing this, he is not the person in this house that worries me."
Ran stood there, processing what Kid was saying. Even now, she realized that his words could take on two entirely different meanings, and it drove her nuts. Despite her anger and despite her unwillingness to let it happen, she felt a sob escape her throat.
Kid froze at that and spun around. "Hey now, don't do that. Come on, look, I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry I got all mysterious. Look, can we have a do-over? Maybe this time not in a spooky room with all the shadows and mistrust? Maybe with some cookies and something good to drink?"
Ran stared at the international criminal as he wiggled his eyebrows.
"The cookies in the kitchen are incredible, Ran-san. I snuck three of them earlier."
"Fine, you win. Lead the way."
As weird as it was, Ran had to admit that it was nice to sit down in a well-lit room and have something to eat. She had been full from the pizza earlier, but the cookies were too delicious to pass up, and she couldn't help but stare in fascination at the young man in front of her as he woofed down his midnight snack.
"You know, you two could be twins," she mused as she sipped her milk. Kid grinned and nodded.
"I know! Luck of the draw, right? Believe me, I've used that to my advantage. All I have to do is ruffle my hair, grab a blue jacket and look extremely self-satisfied." He suddenly mussed his hair and gave Ran a thin, smug smile.
Ran nearly choked on her drink from a laugh. "Don't do that! That's… not very nice."
Kid grinned. "It's true! I escaped three different police blockades using that exact technique. Heck, during one of them, I stuck around and helped out on a robbery that had taken place next door."
Ran eyed him as he smiled at her. He stopped once Ran started speaking. "You're young, my age, with a very distinct face. You admitted you have a mom and that your dad is dead. You attend school near me, too."
Kid Paused in mid-bite. "The other stuff I get, but… how did you know about the school?"
Ran smiled. "I remember seeing you with a young woman at a public event. I thought to myself, 'how strange! I didn't know Shinichi had a twin!' Silly me, huh?"
Kaito sat quietly as Ran looked at him. "I could find out who you are in a day. Your whole secret would be blown. You would be caught, and the world would be down one more thief."
Kid shrugged. "You could, so why don't you?"
Ran sipped her milk. "One, you've never actually stolen anything. Every theft you've ever done has been returned. Two, despite coming off as an ass, you seem to go out of your way to help people, including me. Three, you were in a prime position to cop a feel on the couch and you actively worked not to."
Kid nodded, genuinely impressed. Ran continued, "This tells me that you're not a bad person. Also, considering how hard you worked to avoid me and the fact that you've gone out of your way not to stare down my shirt tells me that you're romantically involved with someone else, and… maybe it's because I'm exhausted, but it doesn't feel right to make another girl wait by handing you over. I reserve the right to change my opinion in the morning."
Kid eyed Ran. "I… what? And how does that work? I haven't… you… Why, and I'm not asking in the mean way, would I want to look down your shirt?"
Ran smiled. "Because," Ran ticked off the points on her fingers, "I yanked the neck out, I'm not wearing a bra, and I have been leaning over for most of this conversation. I wanted to confirm a theory, and I was right. Don't look at me like that; I live with boys, I know how your minds work."
Ran watched as Kid kept her eye contact for a good five seconds, and then faltered. "And there it is," she said with a sigh. Kid blushed.
"That's not fair. Okay, yes, you're amazing, but…"
Ran blushed as she sat up and straightened her shirt. "That's not what I was going for. Thank you, though. No, I figured you weren't looking because your mind is already focused on someone else. The young girl from the event?"
Kid nodded. Ran grinned and leaned back to take a sip of milk, much to Kid's relief.
"Does she know?"
The question was simple, but caused Kid to pause before he took a bite of his cookie.
"I've never told her. I don't want her involved. If she knew, she might slip up, and that could get her hurt. She… doesn't know."
Ran sighed. "I meant, does she know you're in love with her?"
Kid shook his head. "No way. As far as Aoko-kun knows, we're friends, nothing more."
Ran smiled. "First off, she knows. It was a trick question. If you're friends with her and hopelessly in love, then she knows. We always know; we just like to be told. If she's still sticking by you after all this time, she's waiting for you to say something. Secondly, would that be the same Aoko-kun that happens to have a police chief for a father?"
Ran smiled wider as all the blood drained from Kaito's face. Ran shrugged as Kid stuttered and stumbled for an answer. "I grew up in a police department, and cop brats tend to flock. While I never really got to know her, I remember Aoko-kun from the Policeman's Ball when I was a child. She was nice."
They sat in silence, each not sure where to go with the conversation.
Finally, Ran asked point blank. "Is Conan-kun really Shinichi-kun? Just… tell me, right now, okay? Please? Just say it."
Kid blinked. "I… you're a direct one, aren't you?"
Ran glared at Kid. Kid shrugged and said, "And how would that work? How would a person magically shrink down and then reappear over and over?"
Ran smiled a little. "Some of those times, I know it was you. It could have been more. In fact, it could have been all of them. I didn't know what to look for before, but I do now."
Kid shook his head. "One or two, maybe, but most of those times, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it was your boyfriend."
Kaito hoped that this would throw Ran off guard, but she didn't even blink at the use of the B-word. Sighing in defeat, Kid was about to answer when a sleepy voice from behind Ran said, "What are you talking about, Ran-kun?"
Ran froze and turned around in her seat. Standing there was Ai-kun, looking sleepy and a little perturbed at being awake. Ran eyed the little girl for a moment and inwardly cursed. 'Seriously? Now, of all times, one of them has to get involved? And why that one?'
Kid looked from Ran to Ai and let out a huge sigh of relief. "Hey there, kiddo. How come you're up?"
Ai rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. "Bathroom. Also, earlier I noticed there were cookies."
Kid laughed a little and offered Ai a cookie. Ran glared as Ai walked forward and claimed the offered snack. Ran did her best not to curse out loud as she said, "Ai-kun, you should probably get some sleep, shouldn't you?"
Ai shrugged and made her way to the fridge for some milk. Without looking at Ran, she said, "Don't you think it's a little late to be grilling our guest, Ran-kun? It's been a long night, and I'm sure he's tired from everything that took place earlier."
Ran and Kid stared in mute shock as a groggy Ai climbed into a chair, poured herself a milk, dipped her cookie, and took a bite. Sighing, she said, "That's better."
Ai glanced at the two 'older' people seated at the table and said, "I'm a bit tired for all this tonight, so I'm going to be blunt. Ran-kun, did it ever occur to you that maybe Kudo-kun is in some form of Witness Protection and that it has to do with Conan-kun? Did it ever occur to you that maybe you're putting him on the spot over and over again about something related to his immediate safety, or the safety of those around him?"
Ran froze at the young girls words. Ai glanced to Kid and then back to Ran as she stood and started walking behind Ran. Ran turned her chair to follow as Ai continued, "When you look at all the possibilities, that one is the most likely. I have also wondered at the similarities between Kudo-kun and Shinichi-kun, but this could be attributed to many different factors, all of which would be much more logical and provable than him magically transforming back and forth. For now, can't you just let the boys do what they need to? They would obviously tell you if they could; they love you too much to do otherwise."
Ran felt steamrolled. Here, this grumpy, tiny child had spelled out for her what so many others had danced around for so long. It felt like a light was beginning to shine on her theories that she had never noticed before.
Still shocked, Ran watched as Ai went back to the table and picked up her milk. She held it up to Ran and said, "A toast. To keeping secrets that should be kept."
Ran, not sure what else to do, weakly toasted Ran and then took a drink of her own milk.
Ai watched Ran for a moment and then looked to Kid. "How long?"
Kid watched Ran for a few seconds and nodded. "About now, thank you."
Ran glanced in confusion from Ai to Kid before feeling a wave of dizziness wash over her. Almost immediately, she fell forward and passed out cold, her face planted directly in the plate of cookies in front of her. Ai and Kid both breathed a sigh of relief.
Ai glared at Kid as he visibly relaxed. "That went on entirely too long. Cookies? What were you going to do next, look at magazines and talk about boys?"
Kid shrugged and grinned. "This… could have gone better. Yes. I admit that."
Ai chuffed. "Better. Yes, yes it could have. You're just lucky I had an emergency story prepped in case something like this ever happened! How exactly did you see this ending in any way but bad?"
Kid looked at Ai and then at Ran before shrugging and flashing a large, dopey grin. Ai closed her eyes and sighed heavily. A moment later, Ai glanced at the now passed-out Ran. "I assume that the immediate effects of the sedative you slipped in her milk will last another seven minutes, correct?"
Kid nodded. "That's a freakishly accurate prediction, but yeah, about that. She's so exhausted that it should hold for the night. Still, let's get her back to the couch."
As Kid hoisted Ran up, he looked around expectantly. Ai smiled and put a hand out to calm him. "I used his watch on both of them before I got up. They won't be interrupting us. Careful, she's slipping."
Kid nodded and shifted his weight to drag Ran back to the couch. He carefully slipped her back where she had been sitting and then tip-toed back out to the kitchen. Ai followed, mildly curious and now fully awake.
She stood and watched as Kid cleaned up his mess and put the milk away. After checking his pockets and padding himself down in a quick self-examination, he perked up and grinned at Ai. "Well, that's everything, I suppose. The storm seems to be dying down to a downpour, so I think it's safe for me to call a cab and head out. By the way, next time, why not just use that little watch thingie instead of hoping I'm packing a sedative?"
Ai shrugged. "I did. I used it on everyone on the couch. It was depleted by the time I got here."
Ai continued to stare as he looked at her, the door, and then at her again.
Ai sighed and asked the one question that had bothered her about the evening. "Why didn't you tell her? You were right; all you had to do was tell her the truth and we would have been too busy to deal with you. What stopped you?"
Kid looked at Ai and gave a little smile. "You listened the whole time?"
"Then you heard what I said in the other room."
Ai nodded again. "They killed your father."
"Yes. Now, what she didn't ask was…"
"Why?" Ai finished for him.
Kid gave her a long, level stare before answering. "My dad was a good man who got wrapped up in something big by accident. He didn't mean to be and he didn't deserve what happened to him. What I do now is… to honor his memory. Once I find what I'm after, I'll destroy it, and that will be that."
Ai nodded and folded her arms across her chest. "Any luck?"
Kid shook his head. "No, and you know, maybe it doesn't even…"
Ai smiled. "It does."
Kid snapped his attention back to Ai. With a bit of smugness in her voice, she said, "they have three trace shards. That's why they believe in it. That's how they, how I, know it's real. Keep the faith, Kid-kun."
Kid stared in disbelief at Ai. "How did you..?"
Ai closed her eyes as she spoke. "We all have secrets. Let me have mine. And before you ask any more... they took someone from me, too. And... it was pointless. I get it, Kid-kun. And for what it's worth, if you need anything… just ask. I owe you."
Kid considered the diminutive grump and her words. "What could..?"
Ai held up Conan's watch and said, "Every Bond has a Q, Kid-kun."
Kid's eyes widened a moment before he let out a laugh. "You know what? I'm not going to press it. Thanks, Ai-kun. Maybe, once this weekend is over, I'll take you up on your offer. I'm curious as to why…"
Ai looked to the side before quickly saying, "You kept Kudo-kun's secret. That means he, and I, are indebted to you. Leave it at that."
Kid considered pushing the issue, but everything about the young woman in front of him, from her eye-contact to her mannerisms, told him not to try for more. Without warning, he nodded and smiled as he turned to head out of the kitchen. "We can talk secrets another time. I put the cookies in the pantry, second shelf on the left. Enjoy!"
Ai watched him casually stroll out. A moment later, she heard the soft sound of a door quietly opening and closing. Then, the house was silent again, save for the quiet, steady sound of rain falling outside.
Idly, she stared at the watch in her hands before she sighed and placed it gently in her pocket. Then, before heading off to sleep, she took a quick look in the pantry at the second shelf.
Ten minutes later, Ai quietly scooted herself back into position on the couch to settle in for a crowded night's sleep. In the pantry, a few scant crumbs were all that were left on the second shelf.
I have rewritten that ending no less than eight times. I still don't like it completely, but there is the promised epilogue.
I wrote a novel! It is on amazon and it is awesome. It's called Gailsone: Big In Japan by Casey Glanders
Give it a read! The digital copy is cheap!
Anyway, that's where a lot of my writing energy goes now.
Detective Conan and all affiliates, characters and such are not mine. Now profit was earned from the writing or submission of this piece.
Find me on Twitter. My handle is Casey Glanders
Hope you liked The Case of the Girls Night Out!