The Vampire Detective
Chapter One – The Case
I don't even own my ideas. They all come from Gosho Aoyama and Ellen Brand.
May you live in interesting times – Anon
"Ran-neechan! Ran-neechan!" Bright eyed, Edogawa Conan was jumping up and down like a march hare in order to get his 'neechan's' attention. "But I wanted to go, too! I'm not afraid!"
Well, it was hardly as though he hadn't already been to enough so-called spooky towns, villages, resorts and monasteries to rid him of the idea that there was ever a non-plausible truth behind any shady or 'haunted' places.
Ran put her hands on her hips and looked down at him in what he supposed to any real seven year old would seem an intimidating pose, but as he was Shinichi could tell that she was amused more than annoyed.
"Conan-kun, don't you have school during that time? The letter we got from Unobo-san said that we had to come as soon as possible, and didn't know how long we might need to be there. Since tomorrow's Monday, you might even have a whole week off school!"
Not that it'd do my grades any harm, the not-boy thought to himself. It'd probably do me more good than harm – I could get in some real study if there are any breaks.
"But neechan! Agasa-hakase could come too!" And if he did, he could smuggle something along with him- "And Haibara could come too, 'cos other than for school and Shonen Tantei, she's hardly been out at all lately!" Well, it was true. And even though she was the only one able to figure out a way to reverse the APTX, in Shinichi's eyes that also meant not obsessing. Sure, he wanted to be back to his old self already, but not at the cost of a friend, no matter how freaky Haibara could be sometimes. He put on his best and brightest and – he shivered inside – cutest grin, just for Ran. "Please, Ran-neechan?"
For what seemed like a small portion of forever, he waited, smile still on his face. Then it happened. Amused annoyance was slowly replaced with a sigh, and a long-suffering one at that. Yet within less than a heartbeat there was a smile on her face once again.
"All right. I'll ask dad for you. I can't promise you he'll agree, but if he does then we can talk to hakase and school about it then, ne?"
Conan nodded happily. That had been all he'd needed to hear. All of 'Sleeping Kogoro's' most famous cases had been solved when he had been around to use the tranquiliser watch and voice-changer bow tie. Even if the man was in fact rather inept as a detective, he did notice that his luck in solving crime always seemed to rise if Conan was there. So if Conan wanted to come, Conan would come. And if Shinichi wanted Agasa and Ai there as well, then it wouldn't be too hard at all to talk them round.
It was a done deal.
This time tomorrow, he would be in the small and sparsely populated town that the letter had specified. He just hoped that whatever tragedy the man had been warned about wasn't about to happen before he got there.
The car trip, like always, took ages. Conan sat patiently in the back, next to one window, with Ran on the other side. Agasa and Ai were in the professor's old beetle and he had caught the numerous glares the chemist had been sending him ever since she had found the professor agreeing with him, including one particularly nasty one once they were in the cars and Kogoro was overtaking to lead the way, as he was the only one with the address.
The drive was long. Like every time. And, like every time before, Conan had his face almost glued to the car window, hardly noticing the scenery and instead focusing on the case at hand. He didn't have all that much information, as the letter had only arrived the previous morning. Even then there hadn't been enough details. There had been an address, but no telephone number. The author had said that there was going to be some sort of tragedy, but hadn't specified what kind. The only thing they'd been specific at all about was that they wanted the famous Sleeping Detective Mori Kogoro to be there. Which told him that they either wanted a failure in their midst, meaning that they didn't in fact want the mystery to be solved at all but rather put down that it had been even if the conclusions were wrong, or they believed that Mori senior actually lived up to the reputation. It wasn't unheard of. There was, of course, a third option. Whoever they were . . . might or might not know who he was. Might or might not know exactly why the third rate detective had turned into a great detective almost overnight; the same night he had disappeared. . .
He was woken from his reverie when the car started to slow, turned a bend and parked. He unbuckled the seatbelt and hopped out, following Kogoro to where a man was standing outside a traditional-looking two storey house with a large porch and a balcony. He was wearing a long, dark mackintosh that reached nearly all the way down to the man's ankles. The collar was turned up so that it obscured most of his face and the man was wearing a hat of some kind, not to mention the glasses in the fading dusk, but Conan was used to strangeness in some of the people he ran into on an almost daily basis. Himself not being counted, thank you very much. In fact, it was just as often those who didn't seem to be unusual who ended up being the suspects.
So there he was, being led into a weird, out of the way hotel by a weird, out of the way kind of person. Not too out of the usual, he supposed.
As he trotted after them, Ran shivered, cold through her jacket. She'd obviously forgotten that summer nights tended to be cold when you weren't in the city.
"I'm sure it'll be much warmer when we get inside, Ran-neechan!"
Ran looked down at him and smiled, but before she could say anything, the voice of their client drifting back to them, an almost disembodied voice as he opened the door to the large house.
"I made sure that the heating was sufficient, in anticipation of your stay here the moment received my warning." The man's voice was odd – not only did the accent seem slightly off, but it seemed to be almost completely monotone, with no heed of emotion. Conan shivered. "We do have one other guest," he continued. "A man by the name of Sawada. Apparently, his car seemed to break down upon arriving. He will most likely be leaving some time tomorrow."
Conan filed the information away; seemingly harmless at that moment, even something as incongruous as a car breaking down in the right spot could be cause for concern. Which, he noted with due amusement, Kogoro had picked this up right at the same time, but instead of filing the information away quietly, he was doing his best to interrogate their client as to why the hell he'd let a potential suspect stay in the same house as him all the way into said house and even as they were shown where their rooms were. The miniature detective rolled his eyes when he was sure no one was looking, but was able to be less circumspect about the yawn that crept up on him.
The room that they had been given was on the second floor of the house, with a window onto the rest of the town, most of the other buildings not being as tall. Three futons lying neatly on one side of the room, two on the other. A screen was a visible partition between the boys and the girls, and without hardly thinking, he found himself falling asleep in the futon closest to the door, listening to the sound of Ran's breathing as she fell asleep across the room.
Shinichi was woken up by his sense of smell. By one particular smell.
He drank in the scent just as he had for the last year, and various times before that. He'd know it anywhere.
Mmmm... he thought. Ran. Ran's cooking. He could always tell whether or not it was her; usually because the only people in the house were her, him and the old man. He obviously couldn't cook, as one had to be able to have a certain amount of height to achieve certain things safely. The old man was always a definite out-of-the-question – probably couldn't put an edible meal together to save his life any more than he could solve a case without clues hitting him hard enough to knock him out. Plus, he noticed as the first thoughts and deductions of the day flashed and skidded about his brain with the accompanying yawn, Haibara and Ran are both up and about – the room partition's been slid back sometime ago – so I can say with at least a little certainty that they're together. Hakase's not here either, so he's probably with them. Stretching, he smiled. I just hope he doesn't try to help out, he thought, imagining the kitchen going up in a boom and trying not to laugh as he reflexively sought out the glasses that made him into Conan.
He hesitated for a heartbeat, and Shinichi was gone. Replaced instead by his avatar, at that moment having a lot more in common with Clark Kent than Superman – or even Sherlock Holmes.
Letting his body go on a sort-of autopilot, he headed towards the kitchen, reflexively seeing and remembering things even if the rest of his brain was heading towards God's Gift to Mornings – a breakfast cooked by Ran and heavenly, heavenly coffee. Of course, he knew that he probably wouldn't be able to get the latter unless he found some way of heavily bribing the professor, but it was always worth a try.
"'Morning, Ran-" yawn "Ran-neechan. . ."
"Morning, Conan-kun. This should be ready to eat in a couple of minutes, so why don't you go into the other room? Ai-chan, could you go up and ask Sawada-san if he wants to come down? If not, we can always take something up for him."
Ai went off with a terse "Of course." She passed Conan on her way out, giving him another half-glare as she went. Hakase smiled apologetically down at him, but Conan just grumbled. The moment he'd set foot on the lower floor, there'd been a sort of shiver running straight down the back of his neck. Like someone was watching him somehow. He shook his head. Even if there was someone watching him, there was no way anyone could get away with anything right in front of Ran and the professor. Besides, the only other person within sight was Unobo-san in the adjoining room, and all of his attention was solely focussed on the newspaper in front of his eyes.
Conan collapsed heavily onto the sofa opposite the man. Feet dangling slightly (ok, more than slightly), he scowled at the space in front of his nose. Nothing had happened so far. No tragedies. No deaths. No kidnappings. Nothing. It was enough to get his suspicions raised – though of what, he hadn't the foggiest clue, because all the evidence he had was a hunch and the fact that nothing had happened yet. Which was good, wasn't it?
Hmph. Yeah, right. A bad feeling and no criminal evidence – way to go, Kudo.
He growled in frustration, catching Haibara as she came down the stairs and back into the kitchen.
"Sawada-san had something that he wished to work on up in his rooms." Haibara's cool voice carried easily through the window between the kitchen and the living-slash-dining room. "But he will accept something if it is taken up to him."
"Really? That's good – he can have something before he goes." There were sounds of plates and cutlery being gathered and, Conan suspected, the wooden thunk of a tray being set down.
"Here, Ran-chan, let me help with that."
"Oh, no. I can handle it. Thanks anyway, hakase."
"Quite out of the question." Conan jumped at the voice – he'd only heard it a couple of times before, but he was good at placing voices and that man had only just been right there in front of him. Only now, now he was in the kitchen, offering to bring Sawada-san's breakfast up. Conan jumped down from his perch and over to the inside window. Sure enough, there the man was, newspaper still in hand. "As my guests," he was saying, "I couldn't allow you to act like servants in my own home. I assure you," he added with a smile, "I can handle myself well enough for that."
Ran smiled and bowed and said thank you. She let the man take the tray. He went upstairs and a few minutes later, came back down, without the tray.
"Ran-neechan! Can we have breakfast now?"
Back in his seat in the other room, Conan's feet kicked playfully yet with inward frustration against the boards of the sofa.
"Hai! I'll be in there just a moment!" She hesitated for just long enough to yell up the stairs to her father in the hopes of getting him down that way instead of having to drag him down. Sure enough, just as she was starting to put full plates and dishes onto trays to carry in, the sounds of one detective waking grumpily up. Thuds and crashes permeated the air for a few minutes before footsteps could be heard going from the room they had been staying in to the stairs.
Then there was a shout. There was a racket of swearing and oaths, and Kogoro Mori stormed down the stairs with all the grace of a rhinoceros.
"Dead – he's dead!"
The majority of the five people getting started had long since dropped whatever they were holding and all of their attention was focused on the detective standing panting in the doorway.
"Sawada! Sawada-san! Blood! Everywhere!"
The reactions were instantaneous. Ran's hands went straight to her mouth, shocked and horrified as she always was when a murder happened under their noses. At one time Shinichi would have been confused or otherwise unable to understand her reaction; now, it was just one of the many things that he liked her all the more for. The professor seemed to pale slightly, clenching at something but otherwise taking it slightly better than Ran had. Haibara's eyes narrowed in a shared look. Unobo, of all of them, seemed to be taking it with the strangest reactions. Instead of dropping everything in shock, he had tightened his hold on the dining implements.
But any more than that, Conan didn't know, because he was already out of the room and running up the stairs, not paying any heed to the shouts that meant Ran would shortly be phoning the police or that Kogoro was interrogating the man who had seen the victim last – Unobo-san himself – or even that the man seemed to be calm of all things, without so much as a raised voice. No, all of that could be taken into consideration later, when he had time to think. Right now, he had to deal with this evidence at hand.
Sawada-san's room had been at the far end to the one that he and the others had been loaned use of – instead of being at the front of the house, looking onto the street and windows opening straight to a balcony that looked over the town. The victim had died in a room right at the back of the house, next to the stairs and right beside the balcony on the ether end, looking out over the garden.
The door was open, with blood on the doorknob and a trail of the stuff in what had started out as a horizontal line across from the hinges. It was still wet, but even from just a cursory glance, Conan could tell that they weren't going to find any fingerprints. The perpetrator had worn gloves, or used some other method of hiding the otherwise inevitable smoking guns, smearing the stains.
Yet despite that and what had been said previously, the violence seemed to have been restrained to a controlled fury. The tray with the still-warm breakfast untouched was on the table by the door. Sawada-san himself was sprawled out on the floor by the desk; it appeared that he had indeed been working on something before his untimely death. Avoiding the pooling blood, Conan danced and jumped his way over to the desk to see if he could find any clue whatsoever as to why this had happened. Had Sawada-san and Unobo-san been in contact before yesterday? Any mutual contacts? Had there been any threats towards Sawada-san himself, instead of just Unobo san? Anything. There had to be a motive.
But there wasn't – just wasn't anything there. Sawada-san had been an accountant for a well-known bank, had been on his way to Tokyo to cover for someone else – a friend, it seemed, rather than just another colleague. He was going to attempt seeing if he could find anything even slightly more useful, but before he could he found himself being bodily lifted up and away, carried all the way out of the room and dumped into the hallway.
Kogoro Mori, however, didn't even notice his squawks of protest.
Carefully, Conan sidled back into the room, far enough in that he could hear the other detective's muttered deductions. His eyes widened in incredulity as he listened to point after ridiculous sounding point.
You have got to be kidding me. Even a third-rate detective like him couldn't possibly be taking all this evidence at face value!
Hopefully he wasn't.
But then again . . . he himself had seen clearly just how much blood had been spilt. How pale the corpse had been even that short time after death. Who knew what assumptions someone would make when they found out that the only visible and new wounds sustained had been two puncture marks, neither too close nor too far away from each other?
Footsteps were approaching them just as he was attempting to tiptoe closer and see for himself.
"Tou-san, I've called the police. They should be here in a while – Maa, Conan-kun!"
And once again he was back in the hallway, this time with a sizeable bruise forming on his head.
This is stupid! He fumed. I can't solve the case if I can't even go into the room where the murder happened! Frustrated, he kicked his foot against the floor with a scowl.
After almost sliding because of something wet on the floor, his arms wind milled suddenly in a frantic attempt to regain his balance without putting his foot down or stepping in the thick substance again and further polluting evidence. Finally, he settled to a position where he was leaning with one hand against the wall and the other holding up his foot.
Blood. Eyes narrowed, he carefully peeled off the sock, making sure that he didn't touch the evidence. Consistent with time of death – Haibara would've noticed if he was dead already by the time she went up, and besides, she reported that he'd asked for breakfast. Since it's hardly likely someone's impersonating her . . . that leaves only Occhan and Unobo-san. He snorted. The murderer would have to be as stupid as Occhan to disguise himself as that guy. Then . . . this blood . . . must belong to either Unobo or the victim.
Caught between excitement and cold curiosity, he held the sock up to the light streaming in through the windows to better see it by. Snatched it back into the shadows when the blood starting fizzling angrily in the sunlight.
Okay. I am not going to panic. I am not going to panic. I'm not.
Instead, he took first one deep breath, then another.
I'm going to look at this logically. What just happened obviously wasn't impossible, just improbable – it happened. So what am I left with? He started to pace a short distance away from the doorway. The facts. What he had in his hand looked like blood, felt like it, and had even been starting to congeal before exposure to sunlight. So, logically, it was blood. Illogically, his mind was telling him that it couldn't be – the reaction he'd seen went against anything his scientific mind could come up with. He tried to ignore that part.
But if I just take things as they are, then this means that the murderer stood in that spot for at least long enough for a drop of blood to fall. He must've been looking at – or for – something. Or held up for some reason. Yet the amount of blood in the victim's room said that they weren't all that fussed about getting caught. Why?
He froze, turned on his heel and went back to the place where the blood was. Now – let's just imagine for a moment here that I was my proper size. What would I be seeing?
Across the hallway were a couple of empty rooms – one was a sort of study, with bookshelves and a desk. The smaller closet to the side and at the far end of the house was no more than a broom cupboard. He'd checked the place before, hadn't found anything of interest. The back way showed a door leading onto the second balcony, a small square pane of glass fitted in that still reflected the inside just as much as the outside in the morning light. Its height was approximately a meter or so above his current size – perfectly fine for anyone who didn't have his little problem. Of course, perspectives being as they were, he could hardly figure out what it was exactly that the murderer had been looking at without asking someone to hoist him or by dragging a chair into the hallway.
Think about it! He berated himself with a whack to the head. Turn around. They probably weren't admiring their reflection! He did so and came full-on with an eyeful of clues. Straight ahead was the room that he and the others had been sleeping in that night, the sliding door open on their end, just like the old man had left it before storming down the stairs. From this angle, especially if one was a bit taller, you could see all the way through the room and out the other side. All the way to the open windows on the doors that led to the other balcony.
The murderer had been looking out onto the street. Possibly at somewhere or something in particular. For long enough that it was a distraction. And that meant that there might be someone in the town who either knew who the murderer was or at the least knew enough to be considered dangerous.
If they were considered dangerous, then that had to be a Bad Thing. Because people who had little compunction about killing generally didn't leave loose ends behind.
Rushing breathlessly back down the stairs, he ran back to the main room where Unobo was with the Professor and Haibara. Eyes wide, he noticed with relief that nothing had happened. All three occupants of the room looked decidedly tense, but other than that, everything was alright. It was his job, then, to make sure things stayed that way.
"Ne, hakase," he called out to the professor in his 'Conan' voice, "I need a bit of air – I'll just be out a minute, 'kay!"
And without a further word he was outside, in the street. There were a few buildings on either side of the road for a short distance, this being such a small place, but there were only two that caught his eye. Both were in direct view of the second floor balcony behind and above him; both were two-storey houses themselves.
The first, which was smaller, turned out to have nothing obvious to offer to him. Dust had settled so far around the place that he didn't think that anything inside of it could be classed as dangerous to a killer – that is unless the dust bunnies turned into dirt devils.
The second, however, was larger and had a more lived-in feel about it. It took up two house-lengths and most of the curtains were drawn, shutters closed. Those that weren't were open as far as they could be, drapes fluttering in the breeze. He walked closer and noticed something odd – a faint scorch mark on the path from the gate to the door.
The door was open.
Hesitantly, with a dry mouth, he danced around the open piece of heavy wood in the hope that it wouldn't creak and give him away.
Once inside, he heaved a sigh of relief – one step down, only so many more to go.
People were in danger, after all.
AN: And there's that one done. Expect more soon – I know exactly what happens, I just have to get it written down. More famous characters will appear, heralding new adventures. I kind of think of this chapter as a sort of prologue, though - when I first started to get the ideas and inspirations, the events in the next chapter happened first. Ironically, I almost started at the beginning. I probably won't get too much of Coming Shadows done 'till at least a couple more chapters of this are written, though. The plot bunnies attacked with fervour and are very good at what they do.
Oh, and there's a reference to one of Lizeth's fan arts for History of Magic.