The Serpentine Sculpture Robbery Case: Part IV

Conan frowned. He was now fairly sure of the temporary hiding place the thieves had stored the stolen Serpentine Sculpture in. Conan now needed to convince someone to recover it before it was too late.

He walked over to the manager and set his face with the naivete of a young child. "Mr. Manager," he said naively, "I was wondering. If the statue was so valuable, why didn't you put it in one of the lockers?"

The manager favored him with a tolerant smile. "My dear child, if we did that, then no one would be able to see it. We simply have very large lockers for the convenience of our guests. It's one of our unique accommodations. The lockers we offer outside our baths aren't so much lockers as walk-in closets, unique among resorts."

"Yeah, but if you kept the statue in one of them," Conan proceeded with the illogical logic of a child, "people would be able to see them whenever they took a bath."

Kogoro grumbled from nearby, "Conan, stay out of adult's business."

Conan frowned. If this wasn't going to work, he wasn't sure what to do. There had to be another way-

Kogoro gasped. He turned to Inspector Megure and exclaimed, "Wait! I've got it! The location of the Serpentine Sculpture! We'd better go before the thief moves it out!"

"Where?" Inspector Megure asked.

"The lockers near the baths! Specifically, one of the lockers located near the particular hot springs where the thieves exited!" Kogoro exclaimed.

Conan sighed in relief. The old man had finally gotten it.

Inspector Megure, several officers, Ran, Kogoro, Conan, and Minamino ran out to the lockers. On their way they met Cyborg, who followed them. They all arrived at the hot springs where the thieves had exited the resort, and they turned to the side, looking at the roofed room where the lockers were, dark and empty at the moment. Kogoro and the officers stepped smartly forward, turning on flashlights and preparing to search the lockers.

Cyborg caught up to them. As he turned the corner, he gasped and shouted, "Look out!" Before his translation computer could render this, he had leapt onto Kogoro and the officers, forcing them down. Arcs of electricity flared from somewhere inside the locker room and traveled along Cyborg's body, singing his yukata. He yelled in pain as Ran, Conan, and Inspector Megure gasped.

Regaining his feet quickly, Cyborg's hand shifted inside his arm, leaving a glowing blue circle at the end of his arm. Out of it he fired a beam at the empty locker room.

His beam entered an apparently empty room, but it made contact with something which turned visible only after it was struck. It appeared to be a figure in a dark purple cloak. The cloaked figure fell to the ground, stunned by the force of Cyborg's sonic cannon blast.

Two more arcs of electricity flared at him, but he rolled and swept the room with his own beam, stunning and revealing two more cloaked figures. The parts of Cyborg's beam which did not hit the cloaked figures impacted the far wall, denting it.

Kogoro and the others got to their feet and helped Cyborg secure the cloaked figures.

"How did you know these goons were in here?" Inspector Megure asked.

Cyborg gestured to his glowing sensor which replaced his left eye and said, "My red-eye heat vision googled them invisible though they."

"Huh?" Inspector Megure asked.

Cyborg looked at him oddly and said, "Heat the weirdos still though no-see-ems in lockers. Uh-oh." He held up a cybernetic arm and began punching at controls, looking with concern at everyone's bemused expressions. Cyborg's face fell as he read the data in the screen on his arm. "Aw, male human being! Yak machine buster in melee. Necessitating Mr. Fix-It quicktime. Better fix it previous to all persons give me the appearance weird." He stepped back several paces and began tapping in more commands on his arm.

"Let's find out who these men are," Kogoro suggested, pulling back the deep hood on one of the purple-cloaked villains. He winced, and Ran gasped and turned away. The villain's face was scarred and horribly marred and warped.

The villain's twisted lips opened, and he said in a horrid voice, "Our leader will free us. You cannot-"

"Save it for the station," Inspector Megure said gruffly and quickly turned away. "Let's see what these men were guarding."

The manager stepped forward and used a master key to open the nearby lockers. On the third locker attempted they found the Serpentine Sculpture, pristine and unharmed. "Just as I deduced," Kogoro chuckled. "They didn't have time to get the sculpture out of the compound with me on the case, so they quickly stuffed it in a locker."

Inspector Megure ordered his men to collect fingerprints and move the prisoners to a central location in the resort.

"Doesn't look like the lock was forced," Kogoro noted. "Who rented this locker?"

"No one, sir," the manager said immediately. "The key went missing this afternoon. I thought it had been misplaced, but under the circumstances..." He trailed off significantly.

"The prints may not generate a match, or not in time," Inspector Megure considered. "We need to do interviews with everyone we haven't yet talked to."

Some hours later, many of the people had been interviewed. Little had been learned. There had been some excitement when no one had been able to find Draco Malfoy, but he had reappeared and been in great form pestering people and broadly hinting that he suspected everyone at the resort. He didn't, however, seem to be targeting Minamino as much as the others.

Conan went to a men's room near one of the hot springs' shower areas. It was a public restroom that anyone could access. In the sink, he unexpectedly found a bit of sludge near the drain. Suspecting it was a clue, he called Inspector Megure and Kogoro.

"Ew!" Kogoro grimaced in disgust. It was a foul-smelling thing in the drain of the sink. It looked like there was unidentifiable gunk in it, and several kinds of hair- perhaps even a human one. He looked over at the cup beside the sink and scooped the gunk into it with his hands, grimacing slightly. Inspector Megure was about to stop him, but it was too late, so he instead grumbled, "Now that you've contaminated all the DNA evidence on it, and touched the nasty stuff, do you mind giving the evidence to the police?"

"Please, take it," Kogoro grumbled, and turned on Conan. "I don't know why we're humoring you with this stuff. I can't see how it has any relevance to the case."

"But didn't you think it was odd?" Conan asked. "It looked like one of the hairs in there was red. Just like Niwa Daisuke's!" He had put Daisuke's last name first.

"What!" Inspector Megure barked.

"Yeah! And Niwa was acting real weird earlier, like he wasn't himself," Conan continued.

"I dunno. Maybe this could form some sort of disguise so someone could imitate Daisuke, but I can't see how, or why," Megure looked at the goop skeptically. He and Kogoro left the room.

"Mr. Cyborg," Inspector Megure said respectfully a half-hour later, "this is awkward, especially as you're an honored guest in our country, and you're the last person we need to interview, but I have to be thorough. Is there anything you can tell us that might help?"

Cyborg nodded and added, "Don't worry, I finally got the yakker compy up to engraving. Uh-oh." He flipped open some panels in his body, fiddling with some wiring, then sighed in relief and closed himself up, repeating, "I mean, I finally got my translation computer up to scratch."

"First thing I oughta tell ya," Cyborg said, activating a display on his cybernetic arm and holding it so the inspector could see, "is that statue is giving off some kinda weird readings. Not harmful to humans or machines, but it could potentially be used as a power source. So the Serpentine Sculpture has value besides being artistic."

"Second," he gestured to his red mechanical eye as he went on, "I can see the purple-robed men because my machine eye can pick up infrared. Those guys may be invisible, but they can't mask the heat from their own bodies."

Cyborg then explained seriously, "I was on the level earlier. I really did want to return to Japan someday for more R & R, see the things I didn't see before and all that. This trip, though," he paused, "had a second purpose. After seeing what we've seen though," he paused again, then came to a decision.

"All right, I'll give it to you straight," Cyborg said with a frown. "Raven- y'all know about Raven? She's on our team, the Teen Titans. You know how she's into that magic stuff? Well, she said she sensed some sorta evil force enter from another dimension. Crazy, I know, but crazier stuff has happened in Jump City. But thing is, she couldn't tell exactly where it ended up. The other Titans are in the spots she figured were most likely for the evil being to appear at. Looks like I just happened to be sent to the right location at the right time."

Inspector Megure said heavily, "Before tonight that would've sounded far-fetched. But guys in purple robes who turn invisible and shoot electricity are far-fetched too."

Cyborg agreed, "Your thief is probably the interdimensional evil I'm tracking, and I'm guessing the men in purple we caught are evil from another dimension too. Question is, did we get all the evil ones?"

After thanking him, Inspector Megure said despondently, "Well, we've got everyone's statements. But only Mr. Cyborg told us anything useful. I just don't see how any of them could help-" He broke off as he saw Kogoro stagger into a seated position. This usually happened whenever Kogoro had solved the case.

Conan made sure that Kogoro was sleeping peacefully and lowered the sight on his Anaesthetic Watch Gun. From his hiding place behind Kogoro, he pulled out his bow tie and spoke into it, and it changed his voice into that of Kogoro's.

"No, Inspector, I think all the pieces of the puzzle can be fit together now. Only appropriate, as all of the people involved in the drama are in this room."

There were a lot of people in the lounge where the Serpentine Sculpture now stood again. There were the officers working under Inspector Megure, as well as the Inspector himself. Ran stood beside Kogoro, staring proudly at him and thinking (incorrectly) that he would be responsible for the brilliant deductions to follow. Cyborg stood a few paces away. Draco Malfoy turned from questioning one of the officers about his duties and looked skeptically at Kogoro. Suichi Minamino watched Draco with narrowed eyes. Daisuke Niwa sat next to Suichi, and turned a surprised gaze on Kogoro.

Lady Une was sitting in the back, looking very tired. Shigure Sohma sat near her, and on his other side was Amber Autumn. Moments ago Shigure had been lost in thought, but now he was looking attentively at Kogoro. Tsume once again sat in a chair away from everyone, though this time he faced the people, and had hung his arms behind his chair casually. The three purple-cloaked thieves were bound in a corner, under attentive police guard. The manager turned from rapturous admiration of the restored statue to regard Kogoro. Everyone else had given their statements and been excused earlier.

"Wait, I know how you work," Inspector Megure theorized, "you're saying the thief is in this room." Conan confirmed with Kogoro's voice, "That's exactly what I'm saying, Inspector."

"Pardon me, but didn't we already know that?" Shigure asked, gesturing towards the bound purple-cloaked villains.

"I mean their leader, whom we haven't yet caught," Conan said through his bow tie. "But there's some information I need first. Some information from Draco Malfoy."

"You wouldn't dare accuse me of being the thief," Draco said angrily in his strong toffee palate accent.

"Why not? You became very interested in the sculpture after you learned it was made by Sarazar Srythelin."

"Salazar Slytherin," Draco replied condescendingly.

"But I'm actually referring to your impersonation of Mr. Niwa," Conan continued with Kogoro's voice.

Daisuke exclaimed, "What?" but Suichi merely gave a nod of the head.

"Yes. This evening, after the sculpture was stolen, you suspected Suichi Minamino of being the thief. To get proof, you mixed a makeup that allowed you to look like his friend Niwa, complete with a red-haired wig. But your personality is very different from Niwa's. Minamino could see right through you- so could anyone who took the trouble to observe you. It explains why we couldn't find Draco Malfoy when we began the interviews. You were still posing as Niwa, trying to get more information from other sources."

"Complete lunacy on so many levels," Malfoy said disbelievingly as he shook his head.

"Then answer me this," Conan challenged him. "You said you had been in your room from 9 to 9:30 PM, the time of the robbery, correct?"

Malfoy nodded, and Conan said, "Then explain to me why Ms. Autumn visited your room at 9:15 PM."

"She didn't!" Draco exploded. "Ms. Autumn was in the lounge until it was closed early, at 9:20 PM!"

"Yes," Conan confirmed with Kogoro's voice. "But you couldn't have known that. You were in your room at the time, and she had her interview with the police before we found you again. You learned she was in the lounge at 9:20 only when you impersonated Niwa and asked Minamino who was with him when the lounge closed. Conan and Minamino can both verify this. The final proof will be your DNA in the makeup we recovered from the sink in the men's room."

"Makeup!" Malfoy said in disbelief. That was hardly an accurate way to characterize Polyjuice Potion.

"I don't believe you stole the sculpture," Conan said fairly. "But if you really do admire Mr. Slytherin, and you learned anything that could help us, you need to share it now."

"Fine," Draco said grudgingly. "It is- well, a sort of disguise you found in the sink. I did impersonate Niwa. But I couldn't get any proof. I did learn this: Lady Une had seen Minamino near an exit the thieves could have used to escape- to the bath that you've been investigating all evening."

"Yet you no longer believe Minamino did it," Conan said probingly.

Draco's expression went from surprise to grudging reluctance as he allowed, "No, I don't. Thing's too big for one man to carry. I suppose he could've had those warts in purple carry it for him, and Minamino can't explain where he was at the exact time of the theft, nor why Lady Une saw him amongst the decorative foliage near one of the baths earlier this evening. But Shigure Sohma heard Minamino pass by his room at 9:27 PM. Sohma's room is on the way to the lounge, but it's too far from the lounge for Minamino to have made it in time for the robbery."

"I wondered why Niwa was being so inquisitive," Shigure murmured. "It was really you, then," he looked at Draco with amusement.

"How did you know it was Minamino?" Lady Une asked.

"I was on the phone with my editor," Shigure told her, "and I suppose I was being a little too earnest in my attempts to reassure her that I'd never, ever hide a manuscript from her again. Minamino called through my door and asked if I was all right. After telling him I was, I looked at the clock , wondering how late it'd gotten, and then resumed my call."

"Minamino wasn't the thief," agreed Conan, still using Kogoro's voice. "But I believe Minamino can shed some light on just what happened when the thieves ran into the bath."

"I see," Minamino replied neutrally, his face impassive yet nonthreatening. "How do you think I will be able to help?"

"There were signs of a struggle at the bath where the thieves tried to escape," Conan elaborated. "A woman screamed just before I arrived. Beside the baths were splashes of water, as though someone, or several people, had been thrown into the water. There were also leaves floating in the puddles."

Minamino neither said nor did anything to clear himself or implicate himself.

Conan therefore pressed on, "You were setting up a trap for the thieves, using some of the local vines. That was why Lady Une saw you amongst the decorative foliage at the baths. The woman who screamed is the thief we haven't caught. She was ensnared in Minamino's trap, but her henchmen in purple freed her. During the struggle, some of them were thrown into the water. The others escaped to the locker room during the confusion, hid the statue in the locker, and remained there to guard it. When I arrived, no one was to be seen. You were still hiding in the foliage, and all the thieves had turned invisible. Later, Conan told me you hung back at the bath. You were removing all evidence of the trap."

"And you're certain that I set the alleged trap?" Minamino inquired calmly.

"Yes," Conan confirmed. "Lady Une positively identified you as scrabbling in the dirt near the decorative foliage of one of the baths. Her room is nearby, and she was disturbed in her sleep. She came out to see what was happening, and saw you there."

"Very well," Minamino finally allowed. "I had indeed set a trap to catch the thieves. I hadn't counted on them being invisible, but the nature of my trap was such as to catch them regardless. The rest occurred as Mr. Mori said, although I didn't realize where they hid the statue until his brilliant deduction earlier."

"So you can't identify the perpetrator of the crime either?" Inspector Megure groaned. "Mori-kun, usually when you collapse like that, you tell us who did the crime, not who didn't do the crime!"

"We're coming to that now; I just needed those last bits of evidence to be sure I had considered everything," Conan hastily assured him with Kogoro's voice. "Now we'll consider what we already knew. The lounge was broken into at both sets of double doors with two very different modus operandi- one put the policemen to sleep and picked the lock, while at the other door the guards were subdued with an electric shock and the door was burned. As the inspector suggested earlier, there were two perpetrators."

"One, of course," Conan restated the obvious, "was Phantom Dark. It was a genuine warning letter from him that the hotel received, and he was probably the one who sabotaged the lights so they'd go off at 9:29 PM. What he hadn't counted on was another thief coming for the prize he sought. This thief had help, and the ability to use electricity to attack. This explains why Ran, Conan, and I, saw Dark pursuing apparently invisible people and being attacked with electricity. He was trying to recover the statue for himself. He followed the thieves to the bath, but from the air it was hard for him to intervene in Minamino's ambush. Dark flew away, frustrated, leaving behind only a dark feather Conan found in the woods."

"So, what do you think about Tsume, the notorious thief in our midst?" Inspector Megure pushed. "He was seen outside near the time of the robbery!"

"Naturally, Inspector," Conan affirmed. "He was taking a walk like he told us. Hearing the commotion, he approached to take a look. But he was outside the resort's fence. Even if he wanted to intervene in Minamino's ambush, for Minamino or the thieves, the fence made it difficult to do so. Tsume never wanted the sculpture- he hasn't shown any interest in it at all."

Tsume grunted and smiled, commenting, "Finally, a human with a brain."

"We're coming to the conclusion of this mystery now," Conan told the group. "Phantom Dark, as we all know, didn't manage to steal the sculpture. So who did? We've managed to eliminate nearly everyone, except for three people: the manager, Lady Une, and Ms. Autumn."

"But as I said," Lady Une protested, "after I was awakened by Minamino setting up the trap, I went back to sleep, and was asleep until I was awakened by the commotion caused by the robbery."

"I was in my room as well," Amber Autumn stated.

The manager insisted, "I was doing my work as usual. Then the thief caused the blackout, and I went to check on the circuits."

Conan pronounced with Kogoro's voice, "One of the the three of you is lying."

All eyes were riveted on Kogoro's seated form.

Conan continued, "It can't be the manager. The lights were restored very quickly after the robbery occurred. The thief couldn't have run from the baths and restored the lights, then run to the lounge to join the inspector, in the time between the blackout and the time when the lights came on again."

"It can't," Conan pronounced another innocence, "be Lady Une either. She also had no interest in the sculpture. There's more evidence too. Her room is near the bath. She told us that the robbery woke her up. Now, if she were actually the robber, she would've had to leave the bath area, reenter her room, then exit it to join the crowd of spectators. But the crowd of spectators means that she couldn't have reentered her room from the inside even if she was invisible. Tsume didn't see anyone entering the rooms near the bath from the outside, and I think anyone would've noticed a door or window being opened by an invisible person. So Lady Une must be telling the truth; she was in her room."

"Then it was Ms. Autumn!" Daisuke exclaimed in shock.

"What proof have you?" Amber Autumn exclaimed.

"Very simple, Ms. Autumn," Conan told her. "You're the only woman at this resort who was unaccounted for at the time of the theft, and it was a woman who screamed. You also are the only person here who became wet in a most unusual way. Most everyone came to this hot springs resort to take a bath. But when they do so, they generally dry themselves off enough so as not to leave a trail of water into their room. Nor do they need quite as many towels as you do. Ms. Autumn, you did not intentionally take a bath this evening. Minamino's trap knocked you into the water at the hot springs you fled to with your henchmen. As soon as the coast was clear, you ran back to your room, leaving the trail of water. You ordered extra towels and an extra yukata from the housekeeping staff over the phone in your room. You used the towels to dry yourself off, and you changed your wet yukata for a spare dry one. I'm sure the housekeeping staff will be able to verify these requests from your room, and the time at which they took place."

"How dare you!" Ms. Autumn stood up angrily. Inspector Megure said warningly, "Miss, I think you'd better calm down, or I might be forced to restrain you."

Cyborg's attention flicked to one of the doors, and he shouted, "Incoming!" He switched his arm to a sonic cannon and fired, striking a previously invisible purple-cloaked man. Conan thought in horror, "Oh, no! I should've realized! A fourth one was always near to Ms. Autumn to protect her! Good thing Mr. Cyborg got him in time."

Conan had turned to watch him, and briefly turned his back on Ms. Autumn. He saw a bright flash reflected off the wall before him, and heard a small explosion. When he turned around, the immediate impression he had was that Autumn had thrown something to the ground, and everyone but he, Cyborg, and the unconscious Kogoro, was clutching at their eyes.

"A flash grenade!" Conan realized. "I never even anticipated that!"

Ms. Autumn ran towards the three purple-cloaked men tied up in the corner. They gurgled, "Mistress!"

Cyborg aimed his cannon at her, but she raised her arm and launched a bolt of electricity at him. Cyborg ducked, and Autumn fired more bolts at her comrades' bonds. The ropes burned through, they stood. With Ms. Autumn, they began to chant, "The beautiful ones must be destroyed!"

Conan ran from his hiding place and tried to find something to kick at them, while Cyborg dodged the lightning which the four enemies threw at him. Conan froze in surprise as Tsume suddenly lunged at the quartet of villains. For a moment, it almost seemed as though Tsume were a giant grey wolf, with a scar on his chest just like the one Tsume's human body had. The moment passed, and Conan saw Tsume holding a giant blade, wielding it so its point was towards the ground. Tsume was swinging viciously at the purple-robed men, who had surrounded Ms. Autumn. Tsume's eyes were still screwed shut from the blast, but his nostrils were repeatedly flaring wide. It almost looked like he was smelling them out. His strikes were frighteningly accurate, forcing the criminals to give up quite a bit of ground to avoid the slashes.

"Leave the source of Energy X!" Ms. Autumn commanded, gesturing towards the Serpentine Sculpture. "Retreat for the moment!" she ordered as she pointed towards the closest door. Immediately, she and the three conscious purple-robed men turned invisible, and Conan heard their footsteps leaving the room. Tsume and Cyborg followed.

Conan tried to follow, but it was hard, for he could not see them. Also, everyone else was beginning to recover their sight, and with various cries and exclamations, starting to stampede for the exits to the lounge. It looked like the purple-robed man Cyborg had stunned earlier was also escaping. To his extreme surprise, Conan saw Lady Une put on a pair of glasses- which he hadn't known she needed- and then pull out a hidden pistol. He hadn't time to tell anyone about this or see much else, as the awakening Kogoro accidentally knocked him over.

"What's going on?" Kogoro shouted blearily as he clambered to his feet, peering stupidly at Conan.

"The thieves are getting away!" Inspector Megure shouted, shaking his head to clear the last of the flashes lingering in his eyes. "After them, men!" He and the policemen charged into the halls as best they were able, their sight recovering from the flash grenade by degrees.

Conan ran into the halls as fast as he could, and felt a wind across his back. He looked up in time to see Phantom Dark fly down the hall from behind Conan. Dark went on before him, and disappeared around a bend.

As Conan hurried to follow, he heard a voice say, "Serpensortia!" It sounded like Malfoy, in the room next to him. He turned to see a giant snake threatening something invisible, probably one of the dark-cloaked men. A lightning bolt flared out of nothing at the snake, confirming this theory. The snake dodged, and another bolt came at Malfoy. Malfoy was shouting, "Where is your leader!" Or at least that was what Conan thought Malfoy meant to say. For the bolt struck Malfoy's bracelet, and in midword, Malfoy began speaking English instead of Japanese as he had been. Malfoy retracted this arm with a snarl, but Conan noted that for some unfathomable reason Malfoy was brandishing a small wooden stick at the invisible enemy with his other arm.

Conan heard the sound of a pistol firing, and Cyborg's sonic cannon firing near the baths, and he ran toward the sound. He heard Cyborg shouting, "Twelve o'clock!" Next he heard another pistol shot and Cyborg confirmed in a loud voice, "Target wounded! You're a good shot, Une!"

Behind him, Conan heard Malfoy shout, "Stupefy!" and a body drop to the floor. Conan filed it in the back of his mind.

Somewhere nearby was another voice chanting in German, and Conan realized with a start that it was Phantom Dark. He ran towards it, hearing the clatter of many footsteps as he did so. It sounded like the policemen, Cyborg, and Lady Une were advancing towards the sound as well.

Conan found himself at the baths again. Tsume was engaged in hand-to-electric-bolt combat with a purple-robed villain who was visible at the moment. Phantom Dark was hovering in midair, flapping his wings, dodging this way and that to avoid blasts of electricity. He held a feather in front of his face and chanted softly in German, and a bolt of energy surged at the source of the invisible energy bolts. A figure appeared in the midst of the bolt and was flung backwards. It was Ms. Autumn.

She rolled and pulled another flash grenade out of her yukata. Conan groped about him for something to kick at her and started as Minamino ran up behind him, and without stopping, jumped an impossible height, to land on the fence. He was brandishing a long vine with huge thorns on it. Conan wondered where on earth he had found such a plant. Though it was clearly an organic life-form, he felt hard-pressed to call it natural. Minamino swung it at Ms. Autumn, and she barely avoided it. The stone pavement cracked under the force of the blow.

Just as Conan found a large decorative stone to use as a weapon, a bolt of electricity crackled beside him. He looked around to see yet another man in a purple robe nearby, taking aim at him. A moment later, a torrent of dogs swept out of the hotel, knocking the man in purple off his feet. Shigure Sohma followed them quietly, saying, "Nicely done, fellows. Thanks for your help. If you could just pin him down until the police get here, I'd appreciate it." As though the dogs could understand him, they planted their paws on the purple-robed man, grasped his arms in their teeth, and generally dogpiled him.

Meanwhile, Tsume grabbed the purple-cloaked man he had been fighting and threw him to the ground. For some reason, the man's cloak was torn where Tsume grabbed him, as though he had been bitten there. The villain groaned and lapsed into unconsciousness.

Conan turned to see Ms. Autumn turn invisible. He quickly dropped the rock towards his shoes and used all of the extra muscle power his technologically enhanced shoes provided, as well as all his soccer skills, to kick towards where he had last seen Ms. Autumn. He judged that he had struck her in the small of her back as she ran towards the fence, though it was hard to tell since she was still invisible.

Her cry of pain, though, was apparently enough. Dark launched a bolt of energy towards the source of that cry, and Minamino flung something small at it. Ms. Autumn reappeared after the bolt struck her. Conan then blinked. It almost looked as though a plant had grown around her and entangled her.

Inspector Megure and his men burst onto the scene. They, as well as Cyborg, Lady Une, and Draco Malfoy, had subdued two of the purple-cloaked men, and dragged them out with them. Conan counted quickly. The purple-cloaked man subdued by the dogs, and then there was the one Tsume had defeated; that made four henchmen. Conan nodded; he doubted there were any more.

Phantom Dark quickly flew away. Inspector Megure frowned but turned away and ordered his men to handcuff Ms. Autumn. Minamino calmly leapt down from the fence while Tsume sheathed his weapon. Lady Une had evidently reconcealed her firearm, although she was still wearing her glasses. Conan looked for the stick in Malfoy's hand, but Malfoy's hands were empty. Minamino's vine had also disappeared.

Kogoro and Ran boiled out of the hotel. Kogoro growled, "The veil comes off now!" He strode over to Ms. Autumn, and Ran followed.

Roughly Kogoro seized Ms. Autumn's veil and tore it off. Ms. Autumn screamed. Kogoro shone a flashlight on her face and exclaimed, "What on earth is the matter with you!"

"No! No! Don't look at me!" Ms. Autumn yelled as though she were in physical pain.

Conan ran towards her as Ran said in confusion, "What on earth were you wearing the veil for? You're not disfigured at all! You're gorgeous!"

"No!" Ms. Autumn wailed. "They all say that, all of them! But I know the truth! My scar, my disfiguring accident! It robbed me of my beauty! If I must be deprived of beauty, all must be deprived of beauty! Energy X will give me the power to do that!"

Conan could now see her face in the light of the flashlight and the light of the moon. He looked for a long hard moment before he found it- a small white scar on her cheek, nearly invisible.

A few days later, Kogoro was sitting in the office of his detective agency with Ran and Conan, reflecting on the lessons of their latest case.

"Women's vanity," Kogoro decided with a sad shake of the head, "is responsible for much of the mischief in the world. That woman was way too concerned with her appearance."

Conan thought to himself, "This coming from a man who chases any pretty face."

Ran eyed Kogoro with some annoyance. "Dad, I think some respect for one's appearance is entirely appropriate. For example, I think you ought to take more care of your appearance and not stagger around drunk whenever you have a night on the town. Speaking of which, I'm fairly sure that the statistics agree with me: male overindulgence in liquor causes quite a bit of crime. Amber Autumn is probably the only person whose female vanity caused a crime."

Conan chuckled nervously. Ran was always a force to be reckoned with in an argument.


Warning: Some Spoilers Possible!

Amber Autumn, alias Shadow: A supervillainess from the computer game Freedom Force.

Cyborg: A member of the world-famous Teen Titans, from the recent animated television series Teen Titans.

Energy X: A source of energy which gives humans extraordinary powers; it is the source of power for the superheroes and supervillains in the computer game Freedom Force.

-kun: Japanese informal suffix for a male who is a friend. For example, Inspector Megure has a longstanding working relationship with Kogoro Mori, and so calls him Mori-kun.

Draco Malfoy: The wizard son of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, member of the Slytherin House at Hogwarts, from Harry Potter.

Suichi Minamino: The name of the great thief Kurama's human form, from Yu Yu Hakusho.

Daisuke Niwa: The current host of Phantom Dark, from D.N. Angel.

Polyjuice Potion: A potion from Harry Potter, which when drunk causes a person to look exactly like another person. Its ingredients are many, among them a hair from the person to be impersonated.

Serpensortia: A spell in the world of Harry Potter (or at least the second movie) which conjures a snake to threaten one's opponent.

Shigure Sohma: A novelist and member of the mysterious Sohma family from Fruits Basket.

Stupefy: A spell in the world of Harry Potter which knocks one's opponent unconscious.

Toffee palate: British expression for an upper class English accent

Tsume: A large grey wolf disguised as a human, from Wolf's Rain.

Lady Une: The easygoing and charming alter ego of brusque and ruthless Col. Une from Gundam Wing.

Yukata: A kimono associated with resorts and summertime

The Author Thanks Chalicity for pointing out that the Inspector's name is Megure, not Merogane

The Author Thanks These References For Their Background Material:


Case Closed, Richard Moore (Case Closed), Rachel Moore (Case Closed), Lady Une, Wolf's Rain, Freedom Force

: Freedom Force