THE ADVENTURE OF THE THIRTEEN CAPTAINS
It was in the summer of the year ---- that I and Captain Kyouraku encountered the most challenging case yet of my Captain's career. It was a prolonged and dangerous investigation which tested his faculties and many times brought him to the very brink of death. I write this document with the intention of enclosing it in the Division Archives, in case of future need, but trust that it will never be necessary to reveal the true facts to the light of day. Alas, my confident expectations are that we will have another crisis within the decade. At the very least.
It was a pleasant summer morning. I was working on the Division records, while my Captain was reclined on the couch, his regular snoring causing his hat to smoothly rise and fall. I was on the point of rousing him to enquire whether he intended to sleep through the upcoming Captains' meeting as well, when Captain Ukitake Juushirou burst through the door, his normally exquisite composure deranged by some as yet unknown force.
I started to my feet. "Sir!" I cried. "What is it?" With a toe I disturbed Captain Kyouraku from his meditations, sure that he would wish to know what so troubled his friend.
Captain Ukitake clasped a hand to his brow. "The most dreadful thing has happened!"
My Captain lifted his hat from his face and stared, astonished. "What might that be?"
Captain Ukitake staggered across to the chair (which I had by now vacated) and sank into it. "I fear that I have poisoned young Hitsugaya."
"Not a jury in the world would convict you," my Captain murmured, replacing his hat.
"Why do you think so, sir?" I enquired, driven to find out more about this strange occurrence, and sure that Captain Kyouraku himself would have been more eager to learn more, had he not taken quite so much alcohol the night before.
Captain Ukitake gestured vaguely, his elegant hand trembling with shock. "I had only just mentioned to him that I had a new package of pickled plums. No sooner did I speak than he was prying them from my hands and devouring them -- much as usual, really. But then he turned a strange shade of yellow, began to choke, and fell down foaming at the mouth!"
"Good god!" I cried. "This is appalling! Could it be some allergy?"
"I fear not," Captain Ukitake answered. "He has eaten my pickled plums many times before, but never with such alarming results."
"Where is he now?" my Captain inquired, raising himself from a recumbent position to a semi-recumbent one.
Captain Ukitake clasped his brow again. "I had quite forgotten! I left him outside in your waiting room."
I rushed out, to find the youthful form of Captain Hitsugaya propped in our umbrella stand and drooling passively upon the floor. His face was blenched, his breathing fast, and he had an unwholesome air the likes of which I have only seen upon my Captain after the most vigorous of all-night benders. Captain Kyouraku sprang to his assistance, while I fetched a mop to once again render the floor traversable.
Returning to my Captain's office, I found him assisting Captain Hitsugaya by holding him outside the window and agitating him vigorously. This seemed to be working, as Captain Hitsugaya now had a much healthier colour, and was even managing to struggle and scream for help. Dragging him in by his ankles, I carried him over to the couch and laid him down there, chafing his hands and fetching him a glass of water.
Behind me, with his usual keen perception, my Captain was questioning Captain Ukitake.
"Are you sure it was the plums?"
"Well, it was directly after eating them that Hitsugaya-kun began choking and fell over."
"Hm." My Captain began to pace with leonine resolve. "The evidence mounts up . . . Did you insert the poison in the plums yourself?"
"Shunsui!" Captain Ukitake protested. "How can you think that I would do any such thing?"
"Well, there were all the times you have complained about him eating your food --"
"A minor problem, easily dealt with."
"-- the lack of emotional maturity --"
"A mere youth needs time to grow into such things."
"-- the tendency to make, what was it, 'smart-assed comments in front of his seniors' --"
"Something which age and physical force will correct."
"-- his monopolising of one of the best-stacked beauties in all the Divisions . . . not that I meant to imply anything against my beloved Nanao-chan, did I, Nanao-chan?"
Rising to my feet and giving my Captain a glance which I trust fully expressed my feelings, I asked, "From where did you obtain the plums, Captain Ukitake?"
Captain Ukitake turned his head thoughtfully, eyes vague with thought. "Hm. I believe that I found the package on my doorstep this morning, in an unmarked box, with a label that said merely For Captain Ukitake and was unsigned. Naturally I assumed that it was the generous gift of some admirer."
"Do you receive such things often, sir?" I asked sympathetically.
Captain Ukitake sighed wearily. "All the time, my dear Nanao. For some reason, my elegant demeanour and quiet nobility cause people to constantly throw themselves at my feet and offer anonymous presents. I do my best to live with it, but with my Vice-Captain gone, I find myself somewhat stretched . . ."
My Captain coughed somewhat loudly. "What she meant, Juushirou, is do you get poisoned gifts often?"
"Oh." Captain Ukitake frowned. "Well, while I will admit that there has been the occasional episode of drugged wine, such as that time --"
My Captain had another coughing fit, which unfortunately caused me to miss the next few words.
"-- this is the first time that someone has apparently attempted to poison me," Captain Ukitake concluded. "Or perhaps it is simply a case of young Hitsugaya's metabolism being unable to cope with the substance?"
"Easy enough to settle." My Captain leapt into action, sweeping Hitsugaya up into his arms. "Our next stop shall be the Fourth Division!"
I frowned. "Surely for scientific analysis, it should be the Twelfth Division, sir?"
Captain Kyouraku smiled at me. "While I would normally agree with you, my Nanao-chan, in this case we want Hitsugaya to survive."
I blushed at my error, apologised, and followed the three Captains.
The entrance to the Fourth Division compound was as busy as usual. To one side was the queue for Eleventh Division inmates, which was, as ever, stretching round the corner and nearly round the compound, attended to by an elderly receptionist who seemed to have certain hearing problems, judging by her ear-trumpet, but who was keeping order firmly with her cane. To the other side was the queue for everyone else, attended by several receptionists and moving briskly through the doors. Naturally, the Captains strode directly to the front of the queues, and were passed through without a moment's hesitation, while Captain Unohana was summoned.
Captain Unohana arrived within a few minutes, and naturally sprang to the obvious conclusion, demanding of my Captain exactly how much alcohol he had "foisted on the innocent boy" and whether he took pleasure in corrupting the youth of today or if it was simply a hobby. Much as I would have liked to hear more, I felt it necessary to intervene and explain the unfortunate situation.
After examining Captain Hitsugaya, Captain Unohana gave it as her medical opinion that he would recover. While money changed hands in the background, she also commented that he had been poisoned with a particularly rapid yet subtle poison, which would be difficult to procure under the best of circumstances.
"Would the Twelfth Division have access to such substances, Captain?" I asked, taking notes as I did so.
Captain Unohana frowned. "I believe so, Vice-Captain Ise. Indeed, I remember Captain Kurotsuchi showing a sample of it off at a recent demonstration he gave which was attended by all the Captains and Vice-Captains -- no, wait, I recall that you and Captain Kyouraku weren't present at the time, as he was suffering from emotional disturbance and you were supplying black coffee and cold water."
I nodded in agreement, remembering that episode far more keenly than I would have liked. "So it would have been possible for any of the Captains or Vice-Captains to accidentally pick up some contaminated pickled plums at that demonstration?"
Captain Unohana nodded. "Contaminated pickled plums, contaminated chocolate, contaminated strawberries -- Captain Kurotsuchi was in one of his more enthusiastic moods."
"Aha!" my Captain declared loudly. "So it could all have been an accident. Some admirer, wanting to present Juushirou here with pickled plums for his favourite dish of boiled rice with pickled plums and green tea, thoughtlessly picked up a few plums from the demonstration --"
"Ignoring the large signs in red letters stating POISON, TAKE ONLY IF YOU ARE PREPARED TO SUBMIT EXPERIMENTAL REPORTS," Captain Unohana added.
"Could it have been Kenpachi?" Captain Ukitake wondered out loud.
"-- and modestly presented them to Juushirou anonymously --"
"Not Kenpachi," Captain Ukitake concluded.
"-- but poor Hitsugaya unfortunately poisoned himself by eating them," my Captain concluded.
Awed as I was by my Captain's deductive skills, I felt it my duty to comment. "Sir, does it not seem to you that this requires a somewhat extreme chain of coincidences, and that it might simply be an attempt to murder Captain Ukitake? Or to murder Captain Hitsugaya, knowing that he would attempt to eat the plums?"
All present looked to Captain Ukitake, then to Captain Hitsugaya.
"Sadly plausible," Captain Unohana concurred. "Fortunately you are investigating it, Shunsui. I look forward to your conclusions."
"Indeed." Captain Ukitake put a manly hand on my Captain's shoulder. "I am reassured, knowing that you have the case in hand."
Captain Kyouraku rose to his feet from the couch on which he had flung himself, and adjusted his hat. "Of course! Come, my lovely Nanao-chan! The game is afoot!"