Evil Never Dies
Notes: The characters aren't mine (except the antagonists), and the story is! I've had some requests for a Ghosts sequel, and I had an idea for something else, too, so I decided to combine them. I hope what I've come up with is pleasing to my readers!
Chapter OneAs school let out that late autumn day, relieved and excited children poured out of the building. Among them were Genta, Mitsuhiko, and Ayumi, accompanied by Conan and Ai. They chatted happily while Conan and Ai listened, making plans for the day and wondering if they would get any new cases to solve.
"No one left any messages for us today," Genta frowned. "I guess nobody here has a mystery for us to solve."
"Oh well, maybe we can find a mystery on our own!" Ayumi suggested with a smile.
"Yeah!" Mitsuhiko chimed in. "It's happened before."
Conan refrained from speaking, but he knew that he would much rather not work on any more mysteries with the Detective Boys. It was often difficult, because they would not understand the danger they were in, and Genta especially would believe that he knew everything there was to detecting, when he actually did not. But Conan did not speak. He hung back instead, and he and Ai exchanged a silent glance. Conan's said everything that he had been thinking. Ai's said that she understood, and that she often felt the same way, but that she enjoyed the fact that they were still so innocent in spite of what they had gone through.
None of them realized that they were being spied on by a man in a white Porsche. His eyes glinted as he observed the quintet, matching them up with the images he carried in his mind. With a sneer he leaned back, looking to the passenger he had with him.
"That's the one," he smirked. "The brunette girl, Ayumi Yoshida." Raven black locks fell to his shoulders and over his face, half-hiding the piercing blue eyes. He reached for a cigar and clipped off the end thoughtfully, a look of satisfaction coming over his features as he thought about what was in store. The Ouroboros ring he was wearing caught the glint of the sunlight and glistened as he moved.
"But I still don't see the point," the woman next to him frowned, brushing strands of her pink-highlighted hair away from her face. "What do you want a little girl like that for?"
"It all leads back to revenge," he purred. "Indirectly, it was her fault that Yusuke Ushio was killed. Of course, I don't blame her for it. I blame the murderer. If he had minded his own business, then none of this would have happened." He lit the cigar and took a draw on it, anger flickering through his eyes. "I never approved of what Ushio did, mind you, but he didn't deserve what he was given. And I'm going to get back at the one who dealt him the hand of death."
"By taking the girl?" the passenger exclaimed in disbelief. "Look, whether he saved her once or not, he's still an assassin. One of the best, too. I don't want you messing with him." She gave him an angry look, her eyes glimmering. "You don't know what you're dealing with."
"Even hardened assassins have their weak points," the dark-haired man answered, "and I think I've found his. We get the girl, we bring him to us." He paused, his smirk only increasing. "And there are other trump cards we can play. We might be able to use his partner, for instance." He tapped the ashes out the window, observing as the children crossed the street. They were all so young and innocent, especially the Yoshida girl. He could understand why Ushio had been intrigued by her.
"How so?" the woman cried indignantly.
He put his cigar back in his mouth. "They've worked together for the better part of ten years. They have a certain trust and respect for each other, if nothing else. And with any possible relationship, I can find a way to twist it to my advantage."
Now she was starting to understand. "Turn them against each other, you mean?" she suggested.
He nodded thoughtfully. "Why not. It can definitely be done. I can shatter whatever pathetic rapport they share. They've been trained to be suspicious of everyone, so if they each think the other is a traitor, there's sure to be fireworks. With my manipulation, I may even get them to kill each other."
She blinked at him. "But I thought you wanted to kill him, and lead him to us by using the girl," she retorted.
"But you see, I will be killing him," he smiled. "It's my work that will cause their alliance to fall apart, if it does." He grinned, starting the engine. "And it will."
She watched him, still unsure about this idea. "Are we taking the girl now?" she asked hesitantly.
"No," he mused, "not now. First, I'm going to do the manipulations that Ushio threatened to, but didn't follow through with." He maneuvered the car out of the parking space and down the street. "Besides, it would be too much of a hassle to try to grab her while her friends are all around. So first we shall concentrate on severing any ties between Ushio's murderer and his partner." He started to laugh, and it was a cruel, nasty sound.
Vodka sighed, leaning slightly against the steering wheel of the black Porsche. He and Gin had been waiting for some time now, expecting their target to return to his home, but so far there had not been any sign of anyone. Gin was extremely bored, and apparently tired, as he had instructed Vodka to keep watch and then had pulled his hat over his eyes as he had leaned back into the seat. He had not moved for several moments, and Vodka had the feeling that Gin was asleep.
Gin would never dream of admitting it, but he was still not feeling well from being stabbed and poisoned several weeks earlier. Some of the other agents believed that he should not have resumed taking on assignments the very next week after it had happened, but Gin had been insistent. He was always stubborn that way, which could be exasperating at times. And yet, on the other hand, if he was not stubborn, he probably would not still be alive at all.
The ringing of his cellular phone started Vodka back into the present, and he answered it quickly before the sound could rouse his partner. "Hello?"
"Vodka, you sound like you're in a rush," Vermouth's voice purred.
Inwardly he groaned. "What is it, Vermouth?" he asked, turning to face the window.
"The man told me that after you eliminate the target, he's sending you to do something less . . . drastic." There was a long pause, and Vodka wondered whether she was doing it deliberately or if she was searching for whatever notes she might have on the mission. At last she spoke again. "He wants you to track down someone whom he wants as a replacement informant for Ushio."
Vodka did not like the sound of that, though he doubted that any replacement could be as treacherous as Ushio himself. "Who does he have in mind?" he wondered.
"I have the name here . . . Ling Hi Sou?" Vermouth frowned, staring at her palm pilot and wondering if she was seeing correctly. But then she saw that she was and nodded in approval. "He lives at the Hiragi apartment complex in town."
"Okay." Vodka mentally memorized this. "What's so great about him?" he wanted to know.
He heard a click as Vermouth lighted a cigarette. "He's supposed to have a lot of the same connections that Ushio had, apparently. Anyway, the man wants you to go talk to him as soon as possible." Another pause. "How's Gin doing?"
"He's alright," Vodka replied immediately. He would never tell Vermouth of his concerns that Gin was still unwell, and he knew Gin would never want him to, either. Glancing at the blonde, he started in surprise to see Gin looking over at him from behind his unruly bangs. But then again, he supposed it should not be a surprise. Gin was a light sleeper, especially in the car, and he was skilled at moving around silently, so as not to allow anyone to realize he was doing so. It came from his training as an assassin. Apparently he had been woken up now by Vodka's conversation with Vermouth. He appeared somewhat annoyed by that, as well. Or maybe it was just that he was still trying to fully awaken.
Vermouth smirked. "Yes, I'm certain he is . . . or at least, that he wants you to think so. Well, I'll let you get to your assignment." With that, she hung up.
Gin grunted. "What was that about?" he demanded, pushing his hat back further on his head.
"Vermouth wondered how you were doing," Vodka told him, shifting uncomfortably.
"I'm fine." He looked at his ally searchingly. "Is that all she wanted?" Somehow he doubted it. Vermouth was annoying, but he did not think that she would bother to call Vodka just to find out the latest news. She would be too busy.
"After we off this guy, we're supposed to go find a new informant," Vodka said reluctantly, and informed him of the rest of Vermouth's message. He was not sure how Gin was going to react to the news, but the extent of the green-eyed man's response was to look irritated and light a cigarette.
"I don't care what this person is involved in, or who he is," Gin remarked, seeing Vodka looking at him questioningly. "Even if he's someone like Ushio, we're going to have to deal with it." Secretly he had to hope that Ling was not a bit like his hated and now dead nemesis. It revolted him, to even have to acknowledge the existence of such people. But then he did not spend time thinking more about it, as he caught sight of their target going up the long and winding driveway of his manor. Gin pulled his gun out as he started to exit the car.
Vodka followed him, having noted the extreme revulsion in Gin's eyes and voice. The blonde did care, actually, but he was growing weary and Vodka knew that what he was saying was true. Aside from their personal preferences, if Ling was indeed another pedophile, they would have to make due with that, just as they had for ages with Ushio. "Bro?" he asked hesitantly.
Gin glanced back slightly as they made their way over to the yard.
"Do you regret saving that kid?" Vodka had sometimes wondered if Gin did. Since then, there had been a certain tense side to his personality that had not been there before. Vodka had the feeling that whatever ghosts from the past Ayumi had dredged up, Gin was still being haunted by them.
Gin scaled the brick wall and jumped down noiselessly on the other side, then waited for Vodka before replying. "No," he said flatly as his comrade came down beside him.
It was not long before their business was taken care of and they were off to the Hiragi apartments to find Ling Hi Sou. Vermouth had not provided an apartment number, but they managed to find it soon enough and were quickly on their way to the fifth floor. Gin was silent on the elevator, as usual, and Vodka was as well, though he wondered what to expect. Someone around Ushio's age? Older? Younger? Someone like Ushio, with a sickeningly smooth personality and who always seemed to have something up his sleeve, or someone cold and reserved, like Gin?
Vodka glanced at Gin again as they got off the elevator. His eyes were dark, and it was impossible to know what was going through his mind, but Vodka assumed that he was wondering about the possible informant as well. He had become more rigid and edgy since first departing for the apartments, a sure sign that he was thinking a lot more about it than he wanted to let on.
After they rang the doorbell, it seemed to take a long stretch of time before anyone answered. Gin grew annoyed and started to toy with the cigarette case in his pocket, even though the hallway was a no smoking area. "He's making a bad impression," he growled, tempted to simply pull out a cigarette and light it.
At that moment the door was flung open and they were greeted by a surprised, blonde girl sporting pink highlights in her hair. She blinked at them both and then suddenly smiled in realization. "Oh! You're the people Ling said would be coming," she realized, and held the door open for them. "You know," she mused then, her voice dropping an octave or two, "you're both kinda cute."
Vodka felt himself starting to blush in consternation, but before Gin could make some sort of curt reply, Ling Hi Sou entered the room. He took in everything quickly, his gaze resting sharply on them both, but longer on Gin. His black hair fell to his shoulders, and his blue eyes gleamed like ice. Gin took note of the ring on his right hand.
"So . . . you're the businessmen from the Organization whom I was told to expect?" he said at last, and his voice was friendly, yet serious.
"That's right," Gin answered. As usual, he planned to do most of the talking, and Vodka was fine with that. Gin was a natural leader. Vodka preferred to follow.
Ling nodded slowly. "Sit down, won't you?" he said with a gesture, indicating the various expensive couches and chairs. They picked a couch and sat on it, and then Ling did as well, on one opposite them. A glass coffee table was between the two sofas. Ling leaned forward, almost touching it as he studied Gin and Vodka. They studied him in return, still not completely satisfied.
"What kind of information is it you can give us?" Gin queried at last. "We were led to believe that you have access to the same things Yusuke Ushio did."
He watched as the unnamed woman walked around the room and finally leaned on the couch that Ling had occupied. She seemed anxious about something, but Gin was not certain why. She would give Ling concerned looks---or were they obsessive, possessive looks?---and then let her gaze wander around the room before falling on Gin and Vodka. After staring at them for a moment, the whole process would repeat again. Gin wondered if he should try talking to her later in private. It seemed very strange. Did she think that Ling was in some sort of danger---or vice versa? And if so, why?
In any case, Ling seemed not to notice her behavior, nor the attention it was getting. "That's right," he agreed now, and proceeded to give them several examples of valuable information, involving possible traitors, locations for future bases, and good places to get needed weapons. It was the same sort of thing that Ushio had provided, with his connections, and he had almost always been right. At last Gin nodded in approval.
"You can be useful," he said, "and hopefully moreso than Ushio was." He took notice of a dark look that passed through Ling's eyes at this comment, but then it was gone again and he smiled, though Gin thought it looked forced. And while this was going on, Vodka noticed an alarmed expression in the woman's eyes, which remained.
"It's a tragedy . . . what happened to Ushio," Ling remarked then. "He served as a loyal informant for your organization for years, and then, suddenly he was killed."
The tension in the air was so strong that Vodka could feel it. When he glanced at Gin, he knew that the blonde felt it too. Something was very wrong.
"He got too full of himself to be of much use," Gin grunted. "When you forget your position, that's when you've set up your own downfall." He lit a cigarette, staying on edge.
"Yes," Ling mused then. "That's very true, Agent Gin. Very true indeed." He gave the other a piercing look, which was returned, and for a long moment they simply stayed like that, staring harshly at each other. Vodka had to wonder what was passing between them.
But then, just as before, the mood was broken and Ling smiled, as if he was another person. "Now, let's discuss payment," he declared.
Gin was again silent on the way back down from Ling's apartment, gazing off into the city that was visible from the glass elevator. He did not like Ling, and it seemed that the feeling was mutual. Gin had sensed something from him, a very strong hatred. But he did not know whether it was directed at only him, or if it extended to Vodka, or even to the entire Organization. Some of their informants were very mercenary, only wanting the money but hating those that gave it out.
He glanced over at Vodka, who looked anxious.
"What did you think of that guy?"
Gin took a draw on his current cigarette. "I don't like him," he replied flatly. "He's different from Ushio, but I think he's dangerous in another way. He's got a lot of pent-up anger and hate, and one of these days he'll probably let it out." His eyes narrowed. "It wouldn't bother me, except that it felt like it was directed at us, or maybe just me. That could be a problem in the future." He leaned against the wall of the elevator.
"Do you not want to let him in?" Vodka wondered if it was a good idea, in light of what he and Gin had both felt.
"I wouldn't, except for that proverb about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer," Gin answered. "I want to be able to know at least some of the time what he's up to, and having him serve as an informant is the best way to do that." The elevator stopped and he got out, followed closely by his comrade.
"But . . . if you think he hates us, he might try to give us false information," Vodka objected, wondering exactly what Gin was thinking. So much of the time it was hard to know, and sometimes it almost seemed that the blonde was out of his mind, but it generally seemed to turn out that he had been several steps ahead of everyone else all along. Vodka hoped that was true now.
"That's why I'm going to double-check everything he tells us," Gin vowed as they got outside to the black Porsche. "He won't have the satisfaction of getting the better of us."
He looked thoughtful. "And I want to have a talk with that girl, too," he remarked. "Did you see how nervous she was while we were talking?"
Vodka nodded. "And especially when Ushio got mentioned," he said, opening the driver's door. Since Gin had been poisoned, Vodka had been doing most of the driving, and so he automatically went to do that again now. Gin did not object, and got in the passenger side.
"I'd like to know what kind of connection they had with him," the blonde grumbled, leaning back against the seat as they drove away. "There must have been something, for Hi Sou to feel as strongly as he did. And did you notice his ring? It's the same as the tattoo that one of Ushio's men had."
Vodka glanced at him worriedly. "Do you think maybe Hi Sou worked for him?" he wondered.
Gin glowered into the distance. "I don't know," he replied. "It's hard to say. It could just be a coincidence about the ring. But I'm going to look into it." And somehow, he doubted very much that it was just coincidence.
Once the two operatives had departed, Ling shut the door and looked to the woman with an expression of triumph. "This is going even better than I thought it would," he smirked. "By getting information for them, I can set things up to make it look like each has turned traitor, and they won't question it." He came closer, running a hand down her cheek. "Then we'll have a fitting revenge for Yusuke Ushio's death." He laughed. "They think they're in control, but they won't be."
She tried to smile back, but the sinking feeling in her stomach would not go away. "I think we're dealing with a lot of things that are over our heads," she said hesitantly. "I really think those guys are smarter than you give them credit for." And she had seen Gin's cold eyes. If he found out what Ling was doing, she was certain he would not hesitate to dispose of him. She did not want to see that happen.
He pulled back, frowning. "Oh, no, I know they're smart," he retorted. "That's the point. I have to craft something appropriate for them, as much to show that I acknowledge their intelligence as to repay them for killing Ushio. Just wait. I'm going to challenge them, and win." He looked out the window as he spoke, his eyes flashing dangerously. He was determined to win. If he failed . . . well, then, it would only prove that he had not been worthy to take up the challenge in the first place.