WHAT?!? AN UPDATE?!? :) Chapter 20, jeez...let me know what you think! My deepest apologies, trying to re-spark inspiration for this fic but I'm not giving up!

A fake! A damned fake.

He'd been able to spot (or rather, feel) the deception the moment that he'd picked the statue up and put it into the bag he'd brought with him, but he hadn't had the time to replace the statue before fleeing after chasing off the pair of boys outside of the room by firing the gun. The statue had been far too lightweight and the jade at least three shades lighter than the statues he was trying to collect, after all. He was actually quite thankful that the older boy had seen the gun and moved in front of the younger one; the gun had kicked back more than he'd anticipated and the sight had been off to boot. He'd almost hit the little kid instead of the table next to the kid that he'd been aiming for! Of course, now he wished that he would have hit the older one's leg instead of an arm because he highly suspected that one of those two boys who'd been arguing that night had taken the real statue at some point before he'd arrived.

The question was which one of them had pilfered the actual statue and replaced it with the fake that probably would have fooled most casual observers. Or perhaps Kaitou Kid was trying to clear his name and had decided the best way to go about it was getting his hands on one of the statues to try and figure out just what made them worth killing over? Was the thief maybe even working with one or both of the other boys? He groaned inwardly; he really should have studied up on Kaitou Kid and that stupid No One Gets Hurt policy of his before deciding to try and frame him for murder, although it wasn't like the idea had been part of the initial plan at all.

He just couldn't be certain about the thief or what he was doing and it was maddening in addition to it constantly distracting him from his mission. Plus if the others involved (whoever they were) figured out what was hidden in the statues they would probably be able to draw a path in his direction, though that path was going to be convoluted enough that he could buy some time if he really needed. Of course, he highly doubted that they were any closer to figuring how the stupid things worked than he was.

He sometimes even found himself wondering if the whole thing regarding the statues and their cleverly hidden contents was some variety of insane game set up by the late Thomas Cromarty to provide the billionaire some amusement from beyond the grave after he passed. Oh, the tales his father had told him of the utter horror and shock on the faces of his deceased employer's family when the lawyer in charge of dispensing the estate had revealed after a week of tense waiting that Thomas had decided to 'diversify the family assets.' The lawyer had been ordered to give no further explanation of what he phrase meant and it had left an infuriated, very puzzled family clawing at each other's throats (and wallets) in its wake. Yes the statues had been (and still were)worth a very considerable amount but nowhere near the full sum of the fortune that Thomas had painstakingly saved up and the relatives knew he possessed.

Why none of the tycoon's surviving family members had ever made the mental connection between Thomas having had all of the jade statues commissioned in the months leading up to his death and the 'diversification' mentioned in his will still puzzled him even now, but he wasn't going to complain about the gentleman's secrecy. After all, he had a very eager collector waiting to get their hands on what seemed to be the only chess set ever crafted by Fabergé- Well, if he could manage to find and track down all of the pieces for it that was. The venture was so frustrating sometimes that he had told himself time and time again that he'd give it up and yet he always found himself drawn back to the hunt, the thrill of the chase. Now he just needed to figure out how to track down those boys...after he caught up on the morning news, of course.

He was sweating the fact that Kaitou Kid was still free more than slightly, especially when that fact was combined with the fact that one of the statues had been stolen. The remote he'd used to turn on the hotel's television nearly fell out of his hand as he saw the rather stony-looking face of the blonde-haired teen he'd accidentally shot last night fill up the screen after changing the channel to a local news station. He turned the volume up and listened to a fairly short, soft-spoken Japanese news anchor deliver a news report that he could only understand about every second or third word of thanks to how quiet she was even with the television turned up as loud as the hotel's built-in volume restrictions would allow.

"Hakuba Saguru...police chief's....shot in the arm trying to....dropped off...Nintama General...surgery...released early this morning...."

Shot in the arm? So it was definitely him after all. Now the question was how the hell to get to him and get the statue back, or obtain information on the statue's whereabouts if he didn't have it.

Hakuba probably has some good information that we could use in the investigation, but I doubt he'll talk to Hattori or I any more now that he knows we're working with you- or rather, that we're working with Kaitou Kid. Do you think you can get to it? He is in your class after all, right?

Kaito decided that the best way to go about this was to distract Hakuba and get him out of the classroom so he could rifle through the other boy's backpack and see if there were any interesting nuggets of information regarding whoever was trying to frame him sprinkled in the meitantei's belongings. That could probably be accomplished easily enough thanks to his natural inclination towards pranks- and the fact that it was Hakuba so Kaito didn't mind annoying the blonde in the least.

He just had to come up with something when the time was right- something that would force Hakuba to leave the room so that he could get his hands on that crammed backpack and perform a stealthy swap with an identical backpack that Kaito had spent nearly two hours last night making sure was worn in all the right places (that guy would notice if a single unraveled thread was in the wrong spot, Kaito just knew it.) Of course, he had to think of a way to distract the rest of the class as well since they'd probably interfere with his mission- Aoko and her mop being of the potential for particularly painful concern.

"Hey Hakuba."

"Whatever it is, no." The meitantei followed this by leveling a superior glare at Kaito before turning back to the class's current assignment s if the magician had never said anything at all, struggling a bit to write with the hand that still had its forearm mostly immobilized in a small, lightweight cast.

"I was just going to help you pack your stuff up since your arm is still in that cast, that's all. See if I ever ask if you need help again." Kaito stuck his tongue out at Hakuba to complete the quickly formulated rebuttal, successfully masking his disappointment before beginning to gather his own things as the bell rang. He'd been hoping for a chance to quickly skim over any likely-looking papers regarding the statues and try and commit them to his eidetic memory as best he could since the only prank he'd been able to think of off the top of his head had gotten him suspended for a week after he'd done it. He hadn't minded the time off of school at all- more time to practice his tricks and plan his future heists- but man his mom had not let him hear the end of it and he didn't particularly care to repeat the experience. Well, that and he didn't feel like having to pay to have the classroom completely repainted again.

"I see." Saguru narrowed his eyes at Kaito as the half-Brit got up and carefully packed his things away. "I highly doubt that assisting me was your true motivation, Kuroba. Just ask me the next time that you want to copy a homework assignment." Of course, Saguru had little doubt that Kaito's real motivation lay in trying to sneak a peek into his ongoing research on the statues and his attempts to figure out who was behind the series of crimes related to them. He didn't want to tip his hand that he did in fact actually have some of his papers on him, however, since he had some research to still do and he didn't want the other boy messing up his neatly filed and organized research.

"Ha, he has you nailed there doesn't he Kaito? I can tell by the look on your face," laughed Aoko as she approached his desk. "Not that I blame you for wanting to copy from him, but-" her sentence was cut off as she realized that Kaito was already gone along with his highly annoyed, kid-caught-with-hand-in-the-cookie-jar expression. Both Hakuba-kun and Kaito have been acting so strangely since that murder at the museum last week...

"You worry too much about that idiot, Aoko-san. Or maybe I should say idiots." Akako's eyes narrowed in what was either anger or amusement as she approached the other girl; Aoko couldn't quite tell which it was.

"Well they're both being so weird-"

"What are you talking about?" Akako allowed herself a single amused chuckle and tiny, tight smile before her face relaxed into its usual neutral expression. "Kaito-kun always behaves that way, and so does Saguru-kun when he's on a case."

"Mmm, I suppose you're right. Kaito needs to learn to do his own homework, though, so I'm glad Saguru-kun didn't let him copy it." Aoko nodded to herself and then exited the room, not realizing that she'd stepped on a small piece of paper that had fallen out of Saguru's backpack in the process. Akako bent down and discovered that it was a photograph of a little boy with glasses- a boy that had the aura about him of someone much older than he appeared physically.

"Well, I tried to get a hold of his papers before school let out. But I think that Hakuba knew what I was up to unfortunately. Wouldn't let me near his stuff and gave me that knowing glare of his." Kaito let out a dejected sigh as Shinichi let out a sigh of his own on the other end of the phone at the same time. "Hey, wait a minute, don't you still have his hawk at your house?"

"Yeah. Although I don't know if I want Hakuba to take her back for a while yet to be honest. She's helping to keep Mouri-ojisan in line." Shinichi didn't elaborate any further. "He's called a couple times to check up on her but he hasn't said if or when he's picking her back up."

"Well ask him, maybe you can get some information out of him when he comes over or something." It was just then that Kaito spotted Saguru out of the corner of his eye being walked down the street in front of the alley he was calling from by a pair of plainclothes detectives who both looked very irritated with the blonde, notebooks in hand and questions obviously being asked. "Ehh, looks like they're questioning Hakuba again. Just saw him walk by with a ticked-off detective on either side of him. Want me to try and listen in?"

"If you can do it without being obvious about it. I have to go, Ran will start to worry about me if I'm outside much longer since I haven't called her." Shinichi was wondering what direction that the police's case was taking about the theft last night- and also wondering what if any information his fellow meitantei was feeding them.

"Alright. I'll call you later." With that, Kaito hung up and began an unobtrusive shadowing of the rather unhappy-looking trio.