Baby Face was still gawking at the strange, yet debonair young man on his doorstep. "The Kaitou Kid?" he repeated in disbelief, and then frowned. "What're you here for? There's nothing for you to steal around here." That was actually not true, as Baby Face did keep a stash of their latest ill-gotten goods somewhere in the manor, but of course he was not about to reveal that. He would not give one indication of whom this so-called "phantom thief" had barged in on, and instead would test him.
The boy merely smiled in a charming and disarming way, tipping his hat back slightly. "Oh? I fail to agree," he responded smoothly. "You are the notorious mobster Baby Face Morales, aren't you? I'm sure you have something of worth around here . . . unless you keep it hidden somewhere else entirely."
Baby Face growled in annoyance. "You're either pretty stupid or you've got a lot of nerve, if you're going to steal something from me and even announce it first!" He reached to push Kaitou Kid out of his way. "Look, I'm busy right now and I don't have time to bother with you, so if you wanna hang around, you're going to have to deal with Vince and Harry." This was a testament as to how much Tony's disappearance was affecting him, that he would be willing to leave the Kid's fate in the hands of his associates while he himself would look for Tony. Of course, on the other hand, he did not actually take the thief seriously and did not want to waste his time dealing with him. He was certain that Vince and Harry could easily handle him.
Kaitou Kid swiftly held out a hand to stop Baby Face from storming out of the house. "I'm not here to steal what you've stolen," he said calmly, the knowing smile never leaving his face.
Baby Face looked at him suspiciously. "Then what are you here for?" he demanded. "How did you even find me in the first place!" Subconsciously he started reaching for his gun, but when he pulled his hand back, he found that he was holding a string of colored handkerchiefs instead. He stared in disbelief, letting out a loud and confused exclamation.
Vince looked to Kaitou Kid with wide eyes. "How'd you do that?" he cried in childlike fascination.
Kaitou Kid waved his finger playfully at him. "A good magician never reveals his tricks," he answered, and casually held up the gun. "Now, maybe we can get down to business. I'm looking for a man named Ambrosius Eduardo, or for anyone who might know him." He toyed with the weapon as he spoke, removing the magazine clip before handing it back to Baby Face.
The mobster narrowed his eyes darkly. "You're gonna havta go a lot further to find Eduardo," he answered. "I could send you there, if you want him that bad." Without warning he grabbed hold of the Kid's lapels and pulled him inside, shoving him against the wall of the house just inside the doorway. "What do you know about Eduardo?" he demanded. That was a subject that he was very sensitive about. He never had learned who had sent out the assassins who had killed his mentor, though he was suspicious that it had been someone from the Syndicate—and he had long ago vowed that someday he would learn the truth and kill the one responsible.
Kaitou Kid looked at Baby Face seriously, his playful expression gone for the moment. "I know that he had some connection with my own father," he answered now. "That's why I came to see you—I want to know if their acquaintance could have been part of the reason as to why he was killed."
Baby Face cursed, not impressed. "Well, I don't have any idea," he snapped. "And I don't even know if you're on the level. Have you got any proof of what you're saying?"
The self-assured smile was back as Kaitou Kid reached into his tuxedo jacket and produced a letter, weathered with age. "Right here," he replied, pressing it into Baby Face's hand. "This is how I found out about their connection."
Glaring at the confident young man, Baby Face unfolded the old paper and quickly scanned through it, checking for any indications that it was a fake. Vince, Harry, and Ruby all crowded around curiously, but he did not pay them any heed.
My dear friend Toichi-san,
I regret to write to you with such bad news, but it seems that the little deal we had going has failed. You remember the bright young lady we were training, of course. She has seemed to completely vanish, taking with her all of the information that you said you had sent to me. I never received it, and my son says that he remembers seeing her take a manilla envelope from off my desk. When he asked her what she was doing, she said that she was going to deliver it to me at my business office. However, she never arrived.
I don't know whether to suspect foul play, or that she has betrayed us and will take the information to our enemies. In any case, she is gone, and I fear that the loss of these documents will not be good for us. Even if you have a back-up of the information, with the original gone it could easily get into the wrong hands. I don't know what we shall do.
Please contact me as soon as you receive this. I can be reached at the usual telephone number.
Affectionately your friend,
Kaitou Kid was still watching Baby Face expectantly. "Well?" he asked when the mobster looked up from the letter. "Do you think it was written by him?" Naturally, he had not been able to prove its authenticity, though he could not imagine why his father would have had a fake letter from this gentleman criminal Eduardo. It seemed far more likely that it was genuine, and he hoped that this Morales person could tell him so.
Baby Face regarded him coldly as he handed back the letter. "Yeah," he said without any hesitation. "That's his hand-writing and his style. But now I want a whole lot more answers from you, and I'm gonna get them whether you wanna cough them up or not." He grabbed the boy's arm and ushered him toward the couch. "And Vince, go see about those pills," he growled as an afterthought, not certain whether his comrade's curiosity would get the better of him at this point or not. But even though he wanted answers to this new mystery, he would not forget about Tony's plight either.
Vince nodded. "Okay, Baby Face." He was admittedly anxious to know about the strange thief's visit, but he recognized that it would be more important to take care of the pills. Quickly he departed, with Harry in tow. Ruby shut the door after them.
Baby Face pushed Kaitou Kid onto the couch and stood over him, his arms crossed. "So, you say that Toichi guy was your father, huh?" he said now. "Well, who are you? And yeah, yeah, I know you said you're the Kaitou Kid, the phantom thief, and all that."
Kaitou Kid leaned back, his smile turning to one of amusement. "I don't reveal my true identity to anyone," he replied. "You're the same way, aren't you? I can't believe that 'Baby Face' is your given name." He studied the annoyed gangster, noting that Baby Face was only several years older than him—five at the most. But he did not intend to dwell on that. Age did not matter; only learning the truth did.
Baby Face muttered something under his breath that Kaitou Kid guessed was a curse. The truth was, "Baby Face" was about as close to a real name as he had. He did not remember what his birth mother had named him, and it had been Eduardo who had given him the moniker that he still used now. Originally he had hated it, but somehow it had stuck.
"Anyway," Kaitou Kid spoke again, "I still don't know what your connection to Eduardo is."
Baby Face snorted. "You found out that I might know something, but you couldn't find out why?" he said in disbelief. "Where'd you get your information?"
"I was back in the Midwest, trying to find Eduardo, and a mysterious person came to me while I was looking and told me to come to Los Angeles and find several people, and one of the names he mentioned was 'Morales.'"
Baby Face frowned at him suspiciously again. "Just out of the blue?" Kaitou Kid nodded. "Why would someone do that? How long ago was this?"
Kaitou Kid shrugged. "I don't have any idea why. I looked for him, but I couldn't find him again. It was dark when he came to me, and I couldn't see him clearly. He said that he wanted to help me find the answers I need, but when I asked why he was interested, he didn't answer." He frowned now as well. "And this was just last night. I wasn't having any luck in Chicago, so I decided it couldn't hurt to follow up the tip he'd given me."
Baby Face exchanged a look with Ruby, finding this growing more bewildering all the time. Then he looked back to Kaitou Kid. "What other names did he give you?" he wanted to know.
Kaitou Kid pondered over this for a moment. "Ruckyzer," he said at last, "and Whitmore. And he said to try the Purple Pelican in town, that it's your favorite place to go. I was heading there when I saw the accident, actually, and I heard you and that other man talking in the bushes." He smiled again. "So I came back with you." Here he explained of how he had hitched a ride in the car, and from Baby Face's expression, he did not know whether to be impressed at his ingenuity, or angry that it had happened right under his nose.
"You could've just come up to us then," he growled finally.
Kaitou Kid nodded, unabashed. "I know, but I wanted to know a little more about you first, so by riding unnoticed in your car, I was able to eavesdrop." Now he fully took notice of Ruby, and he immediately stood up, taking off his hat in gentlemanly respect. "Hello," he greeted. "I don't believe we've been properly introduced."
Ruby blushed slightly, looking to Baby Face before turning back to the charming young man in front of her. "I'm Ruby," she admitted shyly.
Kaitou Kid smiled, taking her hand and gently kissing it before replacing his hat. "A name that's fit for such a lovely woman," he declared, and glanced to Baby Face, who was giving him a deathglare of jealousy. "Don't let her get away from you," he commented. He had seen the way Ruby gazed at the mobster, and he could tell that she had completely given her heart to him. That was not something to be taken lightly, and Baby Face should count himself blessed that someone like Ruby could see beyond his criminal tendencies and love him anyway.
"We're getting off the subject!" Baby Face retorted in frustration, not about to give Kaitou Kid a reply to his advice. He did not consider it the phantom thief's business, anyway.
Kaitou Kid nodded in agreement. "You're right," he acknowledged, "so tell me—what connection do you have to Eduardo?"
Baby Face glowered at him darkly. "He took me in," he answered in a low tone that expressed the immense respect he held for his deceased mentor. "He brought me up like I was his own kid." And Baby Face fully considered the man to be his own father. He hated his promiscuous birth father, for having gotten his equally promiscuous mother pregnant and then simply leaving, with no interest whatsoever in their son. And his aunt and uncle, who had raised him until he had been thirteen, had hated him for being a "child of sin." Only Eduardo had thought of him as a human being and had treated him accordingly. Baby Face felt he owed a debt to the man that could never be paid in full, and that the only thing he could really do was to find out who had actually been behind the assassination.
Kaitou Kid did not look as surprised by the information as Baby Face had thought he might. Instead he smiled thoughtfully. "Oh, so you're the son Eduardo mentioned in his letter," he deduced. He felt highly fortunate with this discovery. This was probably the best possible person he could have found to assist him.
"That's right," Baby Face snapped. Now that he had read the letter, he thought he remembered seeing that woman taking the file. But he could not be certain. It could be the power of suggestion, for all he would know. But in any case, he knew for a fact that the woman had sometimes been around the house. She would come to have meetings with Eduardo and another man—perhaps Toichi. He had never known her name, and it had been one of the few business affairs that Eduardo had kept secret from his adopted son, much to Baby Face's annoyance. He had tried to find the woman after Eduardo's death, but without even a name he had not gotten anywhere in his investigation.
"You mentioned that I'd have to go a long way to find Eduardo," Kaitou Kid remembered. "I'm guessing he's dead?" It was what he had expected, really, and though it was a disappointment to not be able to speak to his father's friend personally, he hoped that Baby Face would be willing to help him unravel the mystery. He could feel the intense loyalty that the mobster had for the man, and he was guessing that if Baby Face did not know anything about this aspect of Eduardo's life, he would want to find out about it.
"That's right," Baby Face said coldly. "He was gunned down six years ago." Saying this aloud gave him pause. It had already been six years? It seemed so much longer. But it had only been six short years ago, dating back to when he himself had only been sixteen. To him it was another lifetime, his second.
Baby Face considered that he was on his third life now. His first had been his unhappy childhood in the ghettos of Detroit, with nothing to go home to except cruelty and hatred—and not much more than that away from home, either. His second had been the three years he had lived with Eduardo, learning about organized crime and being treated with kindness and respect. And his third was everything after Eduardo had been murdered, forcing Baby Face to strike out on his own. And he had clawed and fought his way to the top. Now he was hated by many, respected by a few, and genuinely cared about by even less. But he considered that he had done what he had to in order to survive. He was bitter and selfish, but to those who knew him, he was not all bad and he still had a code of honor.
"I'm sorry to hear that." Kaitou Kid looked at him seriously. "Do you know who did it?"
"Never found out," Baby Face answered in a clipped tone. "The assassins all got killed by me and Eduardo during the gunfight." Unconsciously he clenched a fist, remembering how he had been awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of screams and bullets whistling. After he had retrieved one of Eduardo's guns from a secret panel in the wall, he had ran to the balcony overlooking the den and had fired mercilessly, downing two of the three hitmen. Eduardo had managed to shoot the last, though he had already been fatally wounded. There had not been any identification whatsoever on any of them, which Baby Face was not surprised about. In the event that they would be killed, they had probably not wanted anything around that could be traced back to their boss.
Kaitou Kid's eyes narrowed now. "Then we want the same thing," he declared. "Both our fathers were killed, and the culprits haven't been caught. Maybe we should look into this friendship of theirs, and try to find out about those documents. I have a feeling that they were important." He regarded Baby Face seriously. "After your father's death, do you remember finding any strange papers in his desk? He apparently wanted my father to bring another copy of the documents that he had."
"I didn't find any," Baby Face answered flatly. "Maybe some fourth person came in and got them while they were croaking him, or maybe your old man never even got here with that other copy. Did you check around your place to see if it was stashed there?"
Kaitou Kid nodded. "I've gone through everything. I never found anything more than this letter, and I found that by accident." He had been helping his mother rearrange some of the closets in their house several days previous, and while he had been going through old boxes of his father's things, the envelope had fallen out and had caught his eye. But his mother could not offer any information about the Eduardo person, and the subsequent fruitless search was what had convinced him that he had to journey to America to find the answers.
Baby Face growled, exasperated. "Well, it sounds like it's a dead end," he remarked, "and you couldn't have shown up at a worse time." He began to pace around the room. "If you were hanging around the accident site, you already know that." This new angle did intrigue him, to a certain extent, and perhaps it even would yield the answers he had wanted for so long, but as long as it seemed to be a dead end he did not want to bother with it. Instead he wanted to concentrate on looking for Tony, since he was so completely convinced that Tony was alive. It seemed to him that that would be more profitable at this point, rather than chasing ghosts of the past.
"Of course, I do know," Kaitou Kid said now. But he was not willing to give up. "Actually, I might have a suggestion for you on what to do about your friend."
Ruby stared at him in disbelief, while Baby Face grunted and replied that Tony was not his friend, he was an associate. "And what kinda suggestion have you got?" he wanted to know. "How would you know anything about this?"
Kaitou Kid sighed. "I don't believe he's still alive," he admitted, and before Baby Face could protest, the boy held up his hand for silence. "Tell me, have you ever heard of the Black Organization?"
Baby Face stared at him, finally breathing a low curse. That was a name he had not heard for years, but he recalled it all too well. "Eduardo mentioned them sometimes," he declared, "and never positively. I asked him what they were, once, and he said they were a Japanese crime syndicate that had gone international. They're some kinda consortium now."
"That's right." Kaitou Kid looked at him seriously, his blue eyes boring into Baby Face's hazel orbs. "Did you ever consider that maybe they had something to do with your father's death?"
"Yeah, I did," Baby Face retorted, "but then I couldn't find any record of them havin' been in America at the time, so I gave up and concentrated on the Syndicate instead. That's another organization, and as far as I know, they're only in America."
"The Syndicate?" Kaitou Kid repeated, and shook his head. "They're not very creative."
Baby Face growled. "Creative or not, it's more likely that they were responsible for Eduardo's assassination," he said firmly. "Eduardo had a lot of run-ins with them before and there was a lot of mutual hate going around. I could never prove it was them, but I still think it was. Eduardo probably got too close to somethin' they were wanting to do."
"I see." But Kaitou Kid did not look convinced. "There's always some Black Organization members who are in America at any given time," he announced. "Maybe they even work with this . . . Syndicate that's here."
Baby Face crossed his arms. "Okay, I'll bite," he declared. "Why are you so dead-set on figuring that they're the ones who did this? And what's this gotta do with Tony?"
Kaitou Kid sighed. "I've been hearing rumors that some of the highest-ranked Black Organization members are in the country right now," he replied. "If Tony ended up finding something out about why they're here, they could have decided that he was in their way and set him up to be killed in that accident. They might have tried to take a potshot at him, and that could have caused him to spin out of control and crash into those other cars."
Ruby looked to Baby Face in alarm. "Maybe that could've happened!" she exclaimed, still not convinced that Tony was still among the living. It would not surprise her at all if it was just Baby Face's wishful thinking, unable to accept that someone who had been with him for so long was suddenly gone.
"Anything could've happened," Baby Face retorted. "But I'm not buying this. If anyone killed him, or made it look like he croaked, then I think it was probably the Syndicate."
"So they're responsible for everything?" Kaitou Kid did not wait for a reply to that. "It was those pills that made me more suspicious than anything else," he said now. "The Black Organization has a lot of scientists who create drugs that help them in their work. Maybe Tony found out about them and even took some recent experiments as proof. That could've been what you found in the grass. Maybe he dropped them there while he was running for his car. Or he could have even been killed there in the woods. Then they could have put his body in the car, and started it, sending it out onto the highway. No one would know the difference."
Baby Face frowned darkly, considering this. He supposed that it was a possibility. The mention of the drugs had struck doubt into his heart. But that still did not mean that Tony was dead. "Maybe Tony got into a fight with one of those guys, and killed him, and then realized that if they knew he was still alive, they'd still come after him. Maybe he gave the guy his I.D. and then put him into a car near where the crash had already happened. They'd just think that guy was mixed up in the crash, and that it was Tony, and then Tony could go into hiding while he figured out what to do next."
"Maybe," Kaitou Kid agreed slowly.
"But I think you're way off-base by sayin' that this Black Organization could have killed Eduardo," Baby Face continued now. "There's no way."
"No, maybe not." Again Kaitou Kid agreed, and Ruby had the feeling that he was about to drop a figurative bomb. She was right.
"I said that I hadn't found anything except that letter," Kaitou Kid admitted now, "but I actually did find one other thing, when I was looking for Eduardo in Chicago. I went to his—and your—old neighborhood and spoke with the only neighbors who remember the night Eduardo was killed. The man next-door said that he saw a dark car driving away from the scene."
Baby Face was still not impressed. "So what?" he snapped. "The Syndicate does drive black cars. Look, I questioned that guy too, and he couldn't tell me anything of value. He didn't even get the license plate number." He was starting to feel that this was a waste of his time at this point. Perhaps later, after he found Tony, then he could speak with this boy again, but right now it was an irritation.
Kaitou Kid held up his forefinger, signaling for Baby Face to wait. "But his son remembered a bit more," he said. "The man and his wife are divorced, and the son was visiting his father that night. After that, the mother took him away and didn't let him visit for years, which is probably why you never got to talk to him. But he's eighteen now, and he was visiting his dad when I came by. He told me that he could hear snatches of a conversation between two people who were standing outside the car."
Now Baby Face perked up. "Yeah? Well, tell me what he said!" he ordered when the other brunette paused for a moment.
Kaitou Kid smiled, pleased that he now had Baby Face's interest again. "One of the men was older, maybe about the age of Eduardo," he said, thinking back to what he had learned from the son. "The other seemed to be maybe a couple of years younger than you are now. He seemed to be bothered by what was going on, and he asked the older man if it had to be that way and if Eduardo shouldn't be allowed to live, since he and the older man had been partners. Then he addressed him as Champagne."
Baby Face could only gawk. "'Champagne'!" he cried indignantly. Ruby felt bewildered as well.
"That's right." Kaitou Kid nodded. "And here's where the Black Organization comes in. See, all of their members have the code-names of liquors and wines. It all fits." He leaned back, enjoying his small moment of victory.
Baby Face growled, but quickly digested what he was being told. He had seen many astonishing things in his life, and this was not nearly as shocking as some—though he was stunned at the thought of Eduardo having worked with that Japanese-originated crime consortium. "Okay, okay. So maybe it was these guys instead of the Syndicate. Or maybe they were even all in on it together," he said impatiently. "Was anything else said?"
Kaitou Kid nodded. "Champagne told the other guy that Eduardo was a traitor and that all traitors had to die, no matter what the relationship between them had been. Then they got in the car and drove away."
Now Baby Face cursed. "Why didn't you tell me this at first?" he demanded.
"I wanted to make sure that you believed me about other things," Kaitou Kid answered. "I already knew that Eduardo was dead, but I played dumb to see what you'd say. So, now do you understand? Not only are our problems connected, but the Black Organization is right in the thick of it. They're the ones who sent the assassins and they're probably also responsible for whatever happened to your friend."
Baby Face clenched a fist. "Supposing this is true," he said darkly, "how do we find them?"
Kaitou Kid sighed. "It won't be easy," he said. "In fact, it'll be almost impossible. If we could just find the woman that Eduardo was talking about, that would be a big help. Do you remember what she looked like?"
Baby Face growled. "For all I know, you're lying about what this guy's kid said," he retorted. "Maybe it's a plot 'cause you wanna get me to help you nail these people." With that he half-turned away, rubbing at his chin. "But I guess right now I don't have a lot of choice. I'll tell you what I remember about the girl, and maybe we'll even work together. But if I find out you've been leadin' me on in any way, I'm gonna drop you like a hot potato." He looked back threateningly.
Kaitou Kid smiled calmly. "Fair enough."
It was quite late at night by this time already, and the county medical examiner had long ago gone home. She was quite certain that there could not be any doubt as to what had killed those involved in the crash, and therefore, the autopsies could wait until the next day. She did not have any way of knowing that the following morning one of the bodies would be missing.
But, indeed, the theft of the corpse was already underway. In the dark, a shadowy figure silently moved down the hall of the morgue, at last coming to the door of the room where the bodies were kept. He quickly slipped inside and advanced. Without warning he soon crashed into something and both he and the object went down loudly. This was followed by loud and frustrated cursing, and he tried to disentangle himself from what he soon determined was a table. When this was at last accomplished, and he was standing again, he started to feel around for his flashlight.
Abruptly there was a click and he looked up in time to see the flash of a cigarette lighter. "You're making enough noise to wake the dead," came a familiar voice in the darkness. "You should've turned on your flashlight before you even came inside."
He flushed in embarrassment and frustration. "Sorry, bro . . . the table was just right there." Finally locating his flashlight, he clicked it on and shined it around the room. He let the beam hover for a moment on the tall blonde leaning against the wall before moving it to light up the freezer drawers in the corner. "When did you get in, anyway?" he asked, going over to read the name tags on the drawers.
"I came in from the other direction," Gin answered, going over to the cabinets as well. After studying them for a moment, he pointed to one on the end. "It's this one."
Vodka opened it, trying to be as careful and quiet as possible, and then looked down at the badly deformed and burned body. Even though he had seen plenty of grotesque scenes during his time at the Black Organization, the extent of the damage to this empty shell still managed to disgust him. "If that isn't Ferano, no one would know the difference unless they did what we're going to do," he remarked.
Gin glanced down at the form, but did not give any indication of his thoughts on the matter. Instead he produced a large sheet, which he had taken from a closet in the hall. "Here," he said, thrusting it at Vodka, "take this and wrap the body in it." With it in the condition it was in, it would be very difficult to get any usable samples from it without simply taking it with them, and so for that and time's sake, Gin decided that it was the only thing they could do.
Vodka took the sheet slowly, definitely not pleased about the task at hand. He knew better than to protest, but silently he certainly did. Quickly he threw the sheet around the corpse, then gingerly lifted it up. An expression of revulsion crossed his features, but Gin paid little heed as he headed for the door. With a sigh Vodka followed after him, hoping that he would not have to carry the disagreeable thing all the way back to their L.A. base.