Notes: The characters are not mine (except for the creepy guy, who is inspired by a character in one of Lizzie's blurbs), and the story is! Though I must give credit to Lizzie for giving me the idea for the initial concept. I really don't know if this is in-character at all, and I've debated it back and forth for a while, but I couldn't get the idea out of my head, as usual. The last thing I want to do is to have anyone go out of character. But I tried to keep their personalities intact while I was writing, and to make it seem at least half-way possible. Opinions on this are very much welcomed!
The night was dark and chill, the frosty wind signaling the soon and sure arrival of further snow. Clouds had gathered in the sky, obliterating all signs of moon and stars. The white blanket that had already fallen lay adorned on the streets and sidewalks, and over the grass. It was an almost picturesque sight, but for the small girl desperately trying to find her way home, it was much too cold and a hindrance.
She had been sent out on a simple errand to the store, but it had been snowing on the way back and somehow she had gotten herself lost. Now she roamed the empty streets, longing for warmth and for someone who could help her get home.
Shivering, she brushed her dark brown bangs out of her blue eyes, wishing with all her might that Conan-kun was there. Then she would have the courage and strength to know what to do. He always could make her feel better. But silently she made her resolve to find her way back. She would do it all by herself, and Conan-kun would be proud of her.
As she rounded another corner, she saw a park up ahead. For a moment she perked up hopefully, but then she realized that it was not the one close to her house. Swallowing hard in disappointment, she moved forward slowly and cautiously, not wanting to trip in the snow. Maybe, if she cut through the park, she would be able to get to someplace familiar. It was worth a try.
The snow was not as deep in parts of the park, as the tall trees' branches helped to keep some of it away. But she still stepped cautiously, and as she approached the middle of the area, she could hear voices.
Again hope rose in her heart. Perhaps someone there knew how to help her get home! But then she wondered who would be out this late. She was not certain how long she had been out, but it had seemed like hours, and being around Conan-kun had helped teach her to look for anything suspicious. When she got close enough that she could hear what was being said, she ducked behind a tree.
"This is the money," a deep and dark voice announced. She bit her lip, feeling a shiver go down her back. It was not from the cold. "Now . . . I want the information you promised. We're getting impatient."
"Of course, of course, my friend," another voice purred. This one frightened her even more, but she was not certain why. But at his next words alarm eclipsed her entire being. "But first, we have a guest." She heard him coming through the snow, and realized that he was coming for her. Panic-stricken, she broke away from the tree and tried to run, but he soon caught up to her and grabbed her by the arm.
He lifted her off the ground, leering at her with wicked, gleaming eyes. "Well, well, what do we have here?" he commented. "Such a lovely little girl. You shouldn't be wandering around alone at this time of night."
She struggled, trying desperately to get free. "Let me go!" she cried, feeling that it was of the utmost urgency to get away from this evil man. As she looked into his sneering face, she saw something there that she had never seen before from anyone, and she never wanted to see it again. Frantic tears pricked at her eyes as she tried with her free hand to pry off the man's strong grip.
Now the other man, the one belonging to the first voice, was coming over to them. She barely paid attention, as she was so focused on getting away from the man who was not planning to let her go. "What are you going to do with her?" he grunted, and she did look up as he calmly lighted a cigarette. Shivering, she knew that she was in a very serious situation, and that she might not even be able to ever get free. Would they kill her?
The second man grinned lecherously. "Oh, I don't know," he mused, never taking her eyes away from her. "It's very bad for little girls to go spying on people in the middle of the night," he mock-scolded.
"We should just get rid of her now," the first man remarked, his green eyes barely visible through his mop of blonde bangs. "She's seen us and could identify us again."
The other started to put his arm around her. "Let's not be so hasty," he replied. "I could use her to . . . keep me company."
She did not know what that meant, but she did know that she never wanted to keep him company at all. She began to kick out at him, wriggling any way possible to stay as far away from him as she could.
The blonde man blew a puff of smoke into the harsh night air. A flicker of something went through his eyes, perhaps disgust. "It would be better for her to die rather than to have that fate," he growled. "Those kids of yours probably beg every day to be killed."
A fate worse than death? She could not comprehend what that would be. Hot tears started to break loose, chasing each other down her cheeks.
"Give her to me," the green-eyed man ordered now. "I'll take care of her." His eyes darkened as he sensed what the business associate was about to say. "The price of the information doesn't include the girl." With his left hand he withdrew his gun from inside his coat, pointing it at the other.
For the first time a flicker of fear crossed the beast's face. Then, nervously, he began to laugh. "You're serious about this, aren't you," he said shakily.
"I hate your kind," was the cold reply. "I only deal with you because sometimes you have something useful to tell me." He held the weapon steady. "Let go of her."
The man was silent, during which he seemed to be debating, but then at last he thrust her away, sending her into the snow. Before she could get up, the blonde man took hold of her wrist and hauled her to her feet. "Vodka, make sure he doesn't try to sneak away before I come back," he ordered. "I don't trust him."
She looked up, for the first time noticing a third man there. He was shorter and somewhat heavyset, and his eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses. It was strange, she thought, to wear them in the middle of the night. But then she did not think any more about it as she began to be dragged along by the blonde. She cried out, grabbing at his arm. "I . . . I just want to go home!" she sobbed.
He looked down at her but did not reply. "Vodka!" he said sharply, and the third man snapped out of his trance.
"I'll stay here with him, bro," he said with a nod, holding out his own gun.
The blonde nodded in approval. "See if you can get him to tell you what he supposedly knows," he said, and started to walk off, still dragging her with him and expecting her to walk.
She tried, but continually slipped in the snow when she could not keep up with his long strides. "I don't want to die, mister!" she pleaded, the tears still falling as he led her around a hedge. There was not anyone else around in this corner of the park, and she knew that no one except the other two men would hear her if she screamed. She was petrified.
He looked down at her again, and she shrank back from the intensity of his expression. "You're too young to understand what kind of man I just got you away from," he said darkly, "and with any luck, maybe you'll never know." His gun clicked, and again she struggled to pull free.
"I've got family and friends, mister!" she cried then. "I don't want to leave them! I . . . I don't want to leave Conan-kun. . . ." She looked up at him firmly, determination in her eyes as well as terror. "Maybe . . . maybe he doesn't care about me the way I care about him, but . . . but I don't want to leave him! I want to be with him. . . ."
He watched her, brief surprise registering in his eyes at her bravery inspite of her fear. But then it was gone, and his eyes were cold again.
He bent down in front of her, getting down close to whisper into her ear. "I'm going to fire this gun, and when I do, you're going to scream," he told her. "Then you're going to run away from here, and forget about everything you saw. You will, won't you?" He looked into her terrified blue eyes and saw her nod shakily. Then he stood again, confident that she would do as he said. For one so young, such a frightening experience as this would probably be blocked out, or deliberately left untold out of fear. And he could see that she was sincere in this desire to return to her loved ones. If that was what she wanted most, he felt assured that she would be willing to do what he wanted in order to get back to them.
Swiftly he fired his gun into the air, once, twice, three times. And she screamed with all her might, putting all the imagined pain and agony into it that she could muster. Then, without looking back, she fled through the snow, concentrating only on escape.
Up ahead, in the distance, she could finally see an exit. Reaching it was her goal, and once she had, she stood outside the park gates as she tried to catch her breath and gain her bearings. He had let her go. . . . She felt such a mixture of emotions over that---relief, confusion, fear. . . . She had been certain that he would kill her. She wondered if he had always planned to let her go, or if he had only made that decision later. But that did not matter now.
As she looked around, she suddenly realized where she was. She knew how to get home from here! Breathing a soft prayer of gratitude, she started running again. She would not feel fully safe until she was back home.
He lighted another cigarette after they had gotten into the car. Then he turned the ignition key and pulled out of the parking lot. He was silent, his green eyes narrowed in contemplation, and he probably would have remained so if Vodka had not spoken then.
"You told him that you'd dumped the body in the trunk of the car so that it wouldn't be found," the heavyset man remarked. "But it's not there, is it?" He looked at his associate searchingly, trying to determine what he was thinking. But that was impossible. His face was impassable, devoid of any visible feelings. He usually was like that, unless he was either smirking nastily over something or especially furious.
The blonde grunted. "What do you think I did with it?" he retorted.
Vodka hesitated. "I don't know," he admitted.
"You heard the gun go off. You heard her scream." He turned a corner, his voice emotionless.
Vodka nodded slowly. For some reason, he still was unconvinced. He was not sure why it was. Perhaps because he had known the other for so many years. Or perhaps for another reason. But in any case, something told him that his ally had lied to their contact. "Bro . . . you let her go, didn't you?" he said finally.
He turned onto the highway, leaving the city behind as the snow started to fall again. "Why would I do that?" he returned.
Vodka shrugged helplessly. "Why would you?" he shot back.
Another silence. "Maybe she reminded me of something. A ghost from the past." He threw the cigarette butt out the window and reached for another. Vodka knew better than to question him further.