-Chapter 10: Epilogue-

Revealing the truth is what detectives live for.

--Kogoro Mouri

"Conan-kun! Dad! Time for breakfast!"

Ran had just finished setting out the plates when the two men of the household walked in with bleary eyes and yawning loudly.

Kogoro stumbled over to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup before sitting down at the table and opening a newspaper. Conan also tried to reach up for the steaming pot, but Ran quickly lifted it above his head.

"Sorry, Conan-kun! Coffee is for adults!"

Ran had to suppress a grin upon seeing Conan's groggy glare. Instead, she reached over and ruffled his hair. Conan squawked and ran to the other side of the table. Okay, maybe she was enjoying this a bit too much, but she felt she was justified in giving a little payback for the last couple of months.

"Knock it off! It's too early for this nonsense," Kogoro grumbled as he scooped some rice into his mouth. "We have to be at Endo-sensei's house in an hour."

The well-known mystery writer Ryouta Endo had invited the famous Sleeping Kogoro over to his house to discuss some of his cases. A journalist would also be there to record the meeting. Conan had told Ran his opinion that this was probably a publicity stunt to draw attention away from the lackluster sales figures of Endo's recently published novel.

"I don't see why we have to be there so damn early," Kogoro complained. "It's not going to make the article get published any faster! The man's just a glory hound who's terrified of falling out of the spotlight."

"Just like you, Uncle!" Conan piped up with a wide grin.

"What do you know, brat?"

Conan easily dodged the swipe that the older man made at him. He started gobbling his rice down and getting bits of it stuck to his face in the process.

"Dad!" Ran scolded as she knelt down to wipe the rice off Conan's face. She scowled a bit when she saw that he had somehow spilled soy sauce on his shirt. She had quickly realized that a lot of the extra laundry she'd had to do in the last few months was due to Conan's desire to act 'authentically' childish. Conan just stared at her with his wide, innocent eyes.

It had taken some adjustment at first to treat Shinichi like the little boy he appeared to be, but not as much as she thought it would. Maybe it was because the way she talked to and acted toward Conan was already ingrained in her, or maybe it was because she still couldn't help but think of Conan and Shinich as two different people. Every so often Ran would see Conan do or say something that was characteristically Shinichi, but the rest of the time it was difficult to see anyone other than the disguise.

In a way, Conan had become a real person and Ran would miss the bright-eyed and reckless child the day he would have to 'go home.' But that time was not coming any time soon. Ran rarely had a chance to talk to the Shinichi persona. He thought it would be best if he minimized any interaction with her as his true self to prevent confusion in how she would react in a stressful or urgent situation. The last thing either of them needed was for her to call out his real name when he was in danger.

Ran had agreed, but she had mixed feelings about the matter. On the one hand, Shinichi had never hesitated to act his true self in front of Professor Agasa or Heiji, sometimes right in front of her! Now she understood all the times that Conan would drag either of those two off to have what appeared to be serious and solemn conversations. But neither of them lived with him, and it was easier for them to keep the two identities separate.

Personally, she thought it would be harder for her to remember that Conan was Shinichi than the other way around. Shinichi had just been a voice on the phone for so long that even now when Conan did something Shinichi-ish it reminded her of Shinichi rather than that he was Shinichi. It was bizarre how she'd programmed herself to resist thinking of Conan as Shinichi in her effort to not go crazy. The last few weeks of investigation had weakened that habit, but it was still strong enough that she had to admit that Shinichi had a point about not messing with her natural reactions too much.

That didn't mean that nothing between them had changed. Conan was much more relaxed around her, and ironically, this actually improved his child disguise. Frankly, he had often overdone the 'I'm just a kid, heehee!' act. Conan sometimes acted more childish than most children! When he wasn't acting like a master detective at least twice his age. It was a wonder that nobody had ever called Conan out on his multiple personalities.

So Ran had taken it upon herself to give Conan a metaphorical kick when he was acting either unbelievably childish or too mature. The official reason was to help Shinichi be the best Conan he could be. The unofficial reason was that it was fun!

That didn't mean she wasn't taking things seriously. Shinichi had reluctantly told her that the people he was hiding from were the ones who had unintentionally turned him into a child. He said he was working on a way to turn himself back to normal and to catch the criminals (he reassured her that he wasn't doing either by himself), and he warned her to be careful around men wearing black. Unfortunately, Shinichi had been frustratingly vague about the nature of the threat he faced.

Beware men wearing black? That's amazingly helpful! Not! Baka Shinichi!

Ran hadn't protested as she had agreed to work with Shinichi on his terms, but she still thought it was a bad idea to operate on incomplete information. Nevertheless, some knowledge was better than none.

These were the thoughts that occupied her mind as the three of them drove over to Endo's house. They were greeted at the door by his assistant and granddaughter Hiromi Kaneda. She was a pretty woman with brownish hair who appeared to be in her early twenties. She took them to the living room which was quite spacious though sparsely furnished.

"Mouri-san! Welcome to my home. It is an honor to meet a famous detective like yourself. I have always believed that detectives and authors drink from the same well of creativity."

"No, I am the one who should be honored. You are the one with the truly creative mind. I have just been fortunate enough to have a few lucky deductions. Heh heh heh!" Kogoro said, chortling loudly and rubbing the back of his head with one hand.

Ran loved her father very much, but even she had to admit that modesty was utterly unconvincing on a man like Kogoro Mouri.

"It looks like you have a way with a way with words yourself, Mouri-san," Endo said giving Kogoro a friendly jab to the ribs with his elbow. Ryouta Endo was a rotund man in his seventies with white hair and thick mustache. He was wearing a plain brown kimono. His voice was very gravelly, and judging from the yellowness of his teeth and the smell of stale smoke emanating from him Ran guessed it was probably from decades of smoking.

Endo nodded his head toward a thin man who appeared to be in his late thirties scribbling in a notebook. Endo said, "This is Jiro Yamada from the local paper. Yamada-kun has interviewed me on several occasions in this very room. He has done such a good job that I knew that I wanted him here for this meeting."

"I'm a big fan of Endo-sensei's works and yours too, Mouri-san," Yamada said enthusiastically as he shook Kogoro's hand.

Endo said, "The photographer will be running late, but I think we can get started without him."

"Grandfather, here's the coffee you wanted," Kaneda said, coming into the room carrying a tray with a coffeepot, empty cups, a sugar shaker, and various other items on it. She looked a little miffed.

"Thank you, Hiromi-chan. Would you care to pour- oh."

Endo chuckled as Kaneda practically ran from the room. He said, "You'll have to forgive my granddaughter. She hates domestic tasks of any kind. I think it's because she's not good at them. My housekeeper Maria is out sick today, so Hiromi-chan is probably upset about having to make lunch and such."

"Young people simply have no manners these days," Kogoro said sagely, not seeing the glare that Ran was sending at him.

"Thank you, Jiro-kun," Endo said, accepting a cup of coffee from the journalist. After taking a big gulp, he said, "Let's get down to business, Mouri-san. I have some questions about one of your recent cases..."

The interview was just as boring as Ran feared it would be. It was also painful listening to her father try to explain how he solved the cases he actually didn't solve. Ran didn't know why her father insisted on dragging her and Conan to these things. She couldn't even talk to Conan out of fear of interrupting the interview.

It seemed that even Endo was feeling bored as he kept stopping every few minutes to give a yawn. After the tenth time he did this, he said, "I apologize, gentlemen. Old men like me don't sleep much to begin with, but I suppose I've been getting less than usual. It's a bit early, but I think we should break for lunch. I hope you understand that I won't be joining you. Let's start up again after I take a nap. Hiromi-chan! Could you bring me some bottled water?"

As Ran watched Endo slowly get to his feet and walk out of the room with the assistance of his granddaughter, she was struck by a heavy feeling of foreboding.

That feeling was validated an hour and a half later when she and the other occupants of the house stood staring in horror at the dead body of Ryouta Endo spread out on his bed. That horror had not faded by the time the police arrived at the scene. She had seen many dead bodies in her life, but the sight of someone who had the spark of life snuffed out of them like a candle always unnerved her. And Shinichi wondered why she was afraid of ghosts...

Ran suddenly felt small fingers wrap around her hand. She looked down and saw that Conan was looking up at her with a reassuring expression. He was gripping her hand like a small child seeking comfort, but she knew that she was the one drawing strength from this connection. She gently squeezed back and smiled.

"It gets to me too," Conan said quietly. "It's a little depressing to always be surrounded by so much death."

"I've been meaning to ask you about that, Conan-kun..."

Conan looked up at Ran with a questioning look.

"Have you been cursed by a witch and just haven't told me?"

Conan stared at her with a stunned expression.

"I'm just saying that this happens a lot..."

"Mouri-kun! I knew that I'd find you here, you grim reaper of doom!"

Apparently Inspector Megure shared the same opinion. Kogoro leaned back in surprise as the angry policeman came through the door and closed in on him. "Inspector Megure! I swear I didn't do anything! I'm just here for an interview!"

"Hmph!" the mustached man said with a glint of suspicion in his eyes before he turned to Takagi who had walked up behind him. "So what happened here?"

Takagi opened up his little police notebook before he said, "The deceased is the mystery author, Ryouta Endo, age 70. An opened pill bottle and a half-full water bottle was found on the nightstand. The cause of death is apparently an overdose of sleeping medication, but we'll have to wait for a blood analysis to confirm."

It was then time to interview the witnesses. Jiro Yamada went first. He explained that Endo had felt sleepy during the meeting, so he had gone to take a nap. The rest of them had taken an early lunch, but they had grown increasingly worried about the mystery writer's absence and had gathered at his bedroom door to wake him.

"We knocked and knocked but he didn't reply. The door was locked so we couldn't get in. Mouri-san asked Hiromi-chan for a key, but apparently Endo-sensei has the only key. Mouri-san's daughter had to break the door open. Then we piled in and discovered that Endo-sensei was dead! It was like one of sensei's mysteries!" Yamada said. The whole time he had been gesturing wildly and his fingers kept inching toward the pen in his shirt pocket.

"You seem awfully excited about this," Megure said severely.

Yamada seemed to suddenly realize how he was behaving. He chuckled nervously and said, "I'm sorry about what happened to Endo-sensei, but this is an amazing story. Assuming that he's been murdered, that means we have on our hands a real-life locked room mystery! It's not every day you get to see one of those."

Megure rolled his eyes. "If only you knew..."

"We haven't yet established if there's been any foul play," Kogoro said. "It could be an accident or even suicide."

Ran heard Conan give a distinct groan.

"What are you groaning about, brat?" Kogoro demanded. "The door is the old-fashioned kind that needs a key to lock or unlock from either side. And the only key is hanging from the key hook over the desk there! Nobody other than Endo-sensei could have locked the door!"

Conan didn't back down from the older detective's glare. He stared back just as harshly and said, "Don't you think it's strange for Endo-sensei to take some sleeping pills after he already told us that he was sleepy and needed to take a nap?"

"So what are you suggesting? That somebody came into the room, forced Endo-sensei to swallow a few handfuls of sleeping pills, and then convinced him to lock the door after the culprit left? That's the most cooperative victim I've ever heard of!"

"Dad, I think Conan-kun has a point," Ran said, stepping in between the two. "Endo-sensei's actions seem a little odd."

"Odd or not, it's still impossible for anyone to-"

"Who was the last person to see Endo-sensei?" Megure interrupted, obviously impatient with the argument.

"That would be me," Hiromi Kaneda said. "I'm his granddaughter and his assistant. I took Grandfather to his room after he called me for help. He walked inside and I heard the door lock a moment later. Then I went back to the kitchen to finish cooking lunch."

A lunch that was rather over-seasoned, Ran thought to herself. Endo wasn't kidding when he said that his granddaughter wasn't good at doing domestic tasks.

"Was Endo-sensei in the habit of taking sleeping medication?" Takagi asked.

Kaneda shook her head. "He suffered from insomnia, but he didn't like the idea of taking medication. The doctor gave him a prescription in case he changed his mind, but as far as I know he never took any. He just left the bottle in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom down the hall."

Kogoro rubbed his chin in thought. "If that's the case, maybe he wasn't as sleepy as he thought he was. He got frustrated at not being able to fall asleep so in a moment of weakness he decided to take a few pills and took the wrong dosage-"

"Ah-re-re! What's this over here?" Conan cried as he picked something off the floor.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Ran had to resist the urge to laugh. Shinichi had never acted cute even when he had been a child originally, but Conan was just too adorable for words. She would have to remember to tell him so later.

"What did you find, Conan-kun?" Ran asked.

Conan handed her a fragment of glass. She felt it over carefully. The fragment looked like it had cut out of something rather than broken. But there weren't any glass objects around... Suddenly realizing what it was, Ran looked up.

"The skylight!"

Kogoro looked up with a puzzled expression. "What about it? Nobody could have climbed through that thing without shattering the glass! What the-"

It was a little difficult to see, but there was clearly a hole about the size of a 10 yen coin near the corner of the skylight window. It looked like it matched the round glass fragment in Ran's hand.

"This looks like it could be a murder case after all," Megure said grimly. "Takagi-kun, call forensics to come over."

"There should be a piece of string around here somewhere," Takagi muttered. "There's always a string or a rope or a cord involved when we have a locked room mystery."

Conan and Ran exchanged wry looks at that remark. When had their lives become a serial crime drama?

About two hours later, the crime scene investigators had finished scouring the scene. During that time, Ran had to go to the trouble of stopping Conan from running underfoot of the people checking the room. Or at least make a show of it. She and Shinichi had agreed that it would look suspicious if she suddenly just allowed him to have free reign to poke around corpses and question witnesses, so she had to at least pretend to prevent him from interfering with the police investigation.

"Ran-neechan, let me go!" Conan said as he tried to squirm his way out of Ran's grip. She had picked him up after it looked like he was finished talking to a member of the forensics team.

"No, Conan-kun! These people have a job to do and you're getting in their way," Ran said. She drew Conan up so his head was closer to her mouth, and she noted with amusement that his ears had turned red. She said quietly, "Have you solved the case?"

In a low voice, Conan replied, "I think so. I need Tome-san to confirm something for me, but after that we can finish up and go home."

"Remember to give dad a chance," Ran whispered before she set Conan down.

"I suppose with only two suspects this time, he has a 50/50 chance of getting it right," Conan muttered.


Conan looked a little irritated as he scampered off. He was probably remembering their recent argument about her father. Ran had felt that her father needed to be told something for all the reasons she felt that she should have been told. But Shinichi had countered that the older man's dislike of him (which would be amplified a hundredfold if he ever figured out the truth behind Sleeping Kogoro) and his concern over Ran's safety might lead to Conan being kicked out. Ran had naturally defended her father, but in the end she accepted Shinichi's decision because it was his secret to keep or reveal as he chose. Even if she felt like a huge hypocrite in doing so.

But she had managed to get a large concession out of Shinichi. Ran told Shinichi that her dad would never learn if he just put him to sleep at the drop of a hat. He needed to try harder to lead the grown detective to the correct conclusion himself. If he still kept getting it wrong then Conan could dart him.

Takagi cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. He then explained the conclusions of the forensics team. A quick analysis of Endo's blood revealed that there was a lethal concentration of zolpidem in it. There was nothing in the bottled water. There were no signs of forced entry on the door. The hole in the skylight had been made recently. And the only fingerprints on the room key were those of Ryouta Endo and Hiromi Kaneda.

Ran watched Conan's face as Takagi delivered his report. Conan's brow had furrowed and his demeanor had turned deadly serious. He looked rather intimidating. Ran thought that perhaps she should subtly do something to remind him of who he was supposed to be, but she was afraid of interrupting his thought process. She now realized that Conan tended to drop his disguise on these cases. It was probably because he had to devote all his brain power to solving the mystery. She had seen this behavior but she had never truly observed it.

Now that she was really looking at it, Conan looked extremely suspicious. She would have to work with him on that. Ran's attention drifted back to Takagi but not before she saw Conan quietly slip out of the room.

"I see," Kogoro said thoughtfully. "So the culprit could have forced Endo-sensei to take the pills perhaps by threatening him with a knife, wait for him to fall asleep, then taken the key to lock the door from the outside. Then he or she could have used a thread or string to lower the key back into the room onto the hook through the hole in the skylight that was prepared beforehand.

"The culprit would have to be aware that Endo-sensei was planning to take a nap around that time. That means it has to have been someone in this house who killed him. And it has to be someone who knew that he had a prescription for sleeping medication. That means the only person it could be is you... Kaneda-san!"

The young woman stumbled back, her face ashen. She said, "What are you saying? I would never-"

Kogoro shoved a finger in her face as he shouted, "You were the last person to see him alive! You could have used a knife from the kitchen to scare him into taking the pills. Since there are no signs of forced entry on the door, that means Endo-sensei let that person in. Which means he knew them. Naturally, he'd have no reason to be suspicious of his granddaughter. Not to mention that the only fingerprints on the key are Endo-sensei's and yours! You killed him, Kaneda-san!"

"Or maybe that's what the murderer wanted us to think, dad," Ran said.

Or as Ran's voice said. She hadn't said anything! Ran blinked in confusion as everyone's gaze turned toward her. This had to be Conan's doing. She heard the sound of her voice starting up again, and the only thing she could think to do was to move her lips and hope that nobody would notice that the words weren't matching up with the movements of her mouth.

Which probably wasn't likely considering that Sleeping Kogoro looked a hundred times more suspicious than she did and hardly anybody ever even commented on it.

"Isn't it strange?" Ran's voice asked. "The murderer dropped the bit of glass he cut out of the skylight into the room and left fingerprints on the key?"

"Ran-chan's right!" Takagi said, his eyes lighting up. "That is strange. If I was the culprit and I had accidentally dropped the glass bit, I'd have no choice but to wipe the key before lowering it onto the hook. I'd have to hope that the police rule Endo-sensei's death a suicide because then they wouldn't bother to have forensics come over and check the key. If, instead, they find the death suspicious then my ruse will probably be blown soon so it's better to make sure there's no evidence linking back to me."

"Hold on a moment. You're assuming that the culprit wasn't wearing gloves," Kogoro pointed out. "If she was then there's no need to wipe the key."

Takagi gave him an exasperated look. "If someone was wearing gloves then it wasn't Kaneda-san. It wouldn't make any sense for her to wear them and then still leave her prints on the key. It makes more sense that someone else wore gloves to hide their prints but leave hers intact."

"It's as if the culprit wanted us to suspect that this was a murder," Megure said with a low growl. "Someone is trying to frame Kaneda-san."

"Maybe that's what she wants us to think," Kogoro said stubbornly.

"That's a stupid risk to take!" Takagi cried. "It's much easier to just wipe the key to begin with-"

Megure interrupted the bickering. "Either way, we can't say that Kaneda-san is the only person who could have done this." He looked over at Yamada with accusing eyes.

Yamada held his hands in front of him as if to ward the inspector off. He said, "It's true that I've visited a few times so I know my way around the house, but I couldn't have done this! I went straight to the dining room with Mouri-san and the others and stayed there the whole time."

"That's true, Inspector," Kogoro acknowledged. "I was talking to him the entire time, and he never got up to leave once. He couldn't have done this. I think that we have to consider that Kaneda-san is playing some kind of reverse psychology trick on us."

Kaneda was shaking her head back and forth in apparent disbelief.

Megure looked uncomfortable with the situation. He said, "Kaneda-san, we can talk some more about this down at the station-"

"I think there's a simpler explanation than Kaneda-san playing a mind game," Ran's voice said. "This whole thing only makes sense if you assume that this is only an illusion of a sealed room."

"An illusion?" the three detectives said simultaneously.

"Yes, an illusion. The key never left this room. Endo-sensei locked the door himself after Hiromi left. He then put the key on the hook, put his bottled water on the nightstand, and then fell asleep on the bed. He either didn't notice the pill bottle that was already in the room or if he did notice he was too tired to care. When the full effects of the sleeping pills he ingested kicked in, he peacefully passed away."

"Wait, you're saying he fell asleep without taking any pills from the nightstand? Then how could he have died from a sleeping medicine overdose if he came here directly... from... the living... room..." Kogoro hit his hand with his fist in excitement. "The coffee!"

"That's right," Ran's voice said. "You found ziplodiem in his blood, but I bet that if you do a full autopsy you won't find any partially digested pills in his stomach. That's because he was killed by sleeping powder in his coffee. If you check the cups you should find some."

"That would take quite a bit of sleeping power," Takagi said with a skeptical tone. "Even the coffee wouldn't have completely masked the strange taste. Wouldn't Endo-sensei have noticed?"

Kogoro gave a short laugh. "He would have if he still had any sense of taste! That was the reason that lunch was so over-seasoned, wasn't it, Kaneda-san?"

The young woman had been standing with a look of fearful hope on her face. It took her a second to recognize that Kogoro was addressing her. She said, "Y-yes. Grandfather was a chain smoker. He gradually lost his sense of taste, so Maria and I had to heavily flavor his food for him to enjoy it."

"Even if he had noticed the weird taste, he wouldn't have wanted to insult his granddaughter's coffee," Ran said sadly. Then she realized that she was actually speaking. She looked around for Conan and saw that he was standing in the doorway along with Tome the forensic technician.

"Tome-san? Have you found something?" Megure asked.

"Yes, sir. As you'd asked, we've checked the cups in the kitchen sink for traces of zolpidem. The tests came back positive."

Megure looked startled. "As I asked-?"

Conan interrupted, "That means this isn't a sealed room at all! Endo-sensei was poisoned long before he came in here and fell asleep!"

"Then we're back where we started!" Yamada complained. Everyone turned to look at the journalist, who looked uncomfortable at the attention. He said hesitantly, "You're about to say that either Hiromi-chan or I put the powder in Endo-sensei's coffee, right?"

Kogoro smiled unpleasantly. "Actually, I was about to say that you were the one who poisoned him."

Yamada took a step back with shock on his face. He sputtered, "H-how can you say that?"

Kogoro put his face directly in front of Yamada's and sneered at him. He said, "Didn't Tome-san just say that he looked at the cups in the kitchen sick and found traces of the drug? Kaneda-san may be lousy at domestic tasks but wouldn't washing away the evidence be the first thought that occurs to her? Even if she never expected us to think of checking the cups because we'd think this was a locked room mystery, the prudent killer wouldn't take a stupid risk like that.

"Kaneda-san left the dirty cups for the housekeeper to take care of. But if you were the one... you had to stay with me in the dining room to establish your alibi, right? So you had no chance to destroy the evidence."

"That's your proof?" Yamada asked angrily. "That Kaneda-san didn't wash the cups? Th-that doesn't prove it was me!"

"You were the one who poured the coffee! If Kaneda-chan had put the powder in the coffeepot then it would have affected all of us. She couldn't have put it in the empty cups because it would have been noticeable. If it was in the sugar shaker or the cream then Tome-san would have said something. Tome-san?"

Tome shook his head.

Kogoro continued, "Only you could have drugged the coffee under the guise of pouring in sugar using sleight of hand. You knew with Endo-sensei's lack of taste that he wouldn't notice. For a man of his age and health, it wouldn't take much of the drug to eventually stop his heart."

"How could I have calculated the dosage so precisely?" Yamada challenged. "What if he had died right there in the living room?"

Kogoro easily brushed aside such weak objections. He said, "I'm willing to bet you weren't always a journalist. A quick look in your records will reveal if you have any kind of chemistry or pharmaceutical background so you might as well admit it now."

"I remember Yamada-san mentioning once that he dropped out of pharmacy school when he was younger," Kaneda said softly.

"So what? Where's your proof that I did it?" Yamada demanded, his eyes darting around the room wildly.

Like a lion knowing that its prey were too wounded to escape, Kogoro backed off and regarded Yamada with a smug look. He said, "As I said before, you were with me the whole time so you had no time to wash or change. There should still be traces of sleeping powder on your clothes and skin."

Yamada's defeated expression said it all.

Kogoro relentlessly continued. "You set up Endo-sensei's room beforehand with the hole in the skylight, which you used to lower the pill bottle onto the nightstand. You must have heard about his insomnia on a previous visit and rifled through his medicine cabinet. You purposely left a glass fragment on the floor to lead the police toward suspecting that Endo-sensei's death was from murder and that Kaneda-san was the murderer. You created the illusion of a sealed room so that you could honestly claim that you were nowhere near this room when sensei died. Have I missed anything?"

Yamada smiled ruefully. He said, "I suppose that I shouldn't expect anything less from the great Sleeping Kogoro. But I am disappointed that I didn't actually get to see the sleeping detective."

"So you admit to killing Endo-sensei?" Megure asked.

Yamada shrugged. "Yes, I did it. I'm a little disappointed that my trick didn't work out, but I guess it wouldn't be much of a mystery story without the requisite happy ending."

"Why?" Kaneda asked, tears streaming down her face. "Why did you kill Grandfather?"

"And why did you try to frame Kaneda-san?" Takagi added.

"I don't suppose any of you would understand what it's like to fail at everything you've ever tried. As Hiromi-chan said, I dropped out of pharmacy school when I was younger. Though it's probably more accurate to say that I was kicked out. I spent a few years as a freeter until an old friend took pity on me and gave me a job at the paper doing human interest stories. I've always been a good writer so the job was a good fit for me.

"But I wanted more. I loved mysteries, and I wanted to be covering crime scenes instead of the openings of recreation centers. After I met Endo-sensei, I thought I would be satisfied with publishing a mystery novel. So I wrote a book and asked sensei if he could look it over. He said that he would, but after that he kept saying that he was too busy to give me a response and that he hadn't gotten around to reading my manuscript yet.

"I was over for dinner three months ago to get some quotes for an article on Endo-sensei's newest book. I was just coming back from the bathroom when I heard Endo-sensei asking Hiromi-chan how he could tell me that my story wasn't any good. He thought the writing was fine and that with some practice I could come up with better characters and plot, but he didn't think I had the talent for creating believable, suspenseful mysteries. Hiromi-chan told him that he could soften those words and that he probably shouldn't tell me until after my article came out. I think you can guess that I wasn't happy at being played for a fool."

"So you did all this for such a stupid reason?" Kogoro asked angrily.

"Only partly. I'm not that self-centered. Endo-sensei was old-fashioned. He believed that writing ability came from innate talent and not from practice. We had a difference of opinion. Hiromi-chan was only doing her job as an assistant. I understood all that. But... I started wondering why I was working so hard to spread sensei's fame. Why was I always standing in the background making other people look good?"

Yamada wiped the sweat off his brow with his sleeve. He said, "Then I started wondering if Endo-sensei was right about my ability to create a good mystery. I decided the best way was to create one under field test conditions. There could only be two ways it could end. I would either be known as the journalist that broke the story of Endo-sensei's death or I would be unmasked at his murderer. Either way I win."

"You win? This is not a game! A man is dead because of you!" Kogoro reached out his hand as if to shake some sense into the man but he quickly dropped it. Turning away, he said, his voice dripping with disgust and contempt, "Get this man out of my sight."

Ran watched Takagi handcuff Yamada. As the man was led past her, she found words bursting out of her. "Was this worth it? You had a good job and a possible future as an author. You threw all of that away for a headline. In a year, maybe less, nobody's going to remember or care who you are, but Kaneda-san will have to carry her grandfather's death around with her for the rest of her life. Is this really what you wanted?"

Yamada kept walking. The door closed behind him with a heavy thud.

Ran felt her father walk up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder. "Ran..."

She wiped her eyes then said, "I'm sorry, dad. I don't know what came over me."

"You didn't say anything that I didn't want to."

Turning toward him, Ran said, "Congratulations on solving the case, dad."

Kogoro smiled slightly. "It's been awhile since I got to see the criminal get walked out. It reminds me of why I became a detective in the first place."

After the investigation was officially wrapped up, Ran found herself standing outside with Conan watching Endo's body get carried into the back of the ambulance.

"Thank you for helping my dad solve the case, Conan-kun."

Conan shrugged. He said, "I've been getting too dependent on my stun darts. Maybe you're right that this could do Uncle some good."

"There's just one more thing."

"What's that?"

Ran picked Conan up and swung him around. "You're such a cute child, Conan-kun!"

"Gah! I'm not cute! Put me down!"

Ran just laughed. She allowed the euphoric feeling to wash the awfulness of the day away. She knew there would be other days like this. That was the price of being the friend of a detective. But she could live with seeing the depths that a human being could sink to out of rage and despair as long as she could see the heights that a truly brilliant and rational (but never cold) mind could reach. As long as Shinichi was beside her, in one form or another, she felt that she would be okay.

THE END... for now.

Author's Notes

1) I had not originally intended to write a full-on murder mystery in the epilogue, so I apologize for any holes or errors. As I don't have much experience in writing such, I focused on making the solution sound plausible. Sometimes I suspect Gosho Aoyoma does the same thing. ;)

2) Yes, this is the end of The Mystery of Conan Edogawa. I want to thank all my readers for sticking with me this far and/or giving me thoughtful, motivating reviews. I plan on writing a sequel once I get some new ideas for it. Suggestions are welcome.

3) As you may have noticed, Shinichi has not told Ran everything. He has had to admit that Conan is only an alias, but he's not going to tell her more than he has to! I've thought about it and realized that even in the select group of people who know his true identity, even fewer know everything about the situation that he's in. Hell, Shinichi routinely hides things from Ai, the one person who should be updated on all information related to the Black Organization! So there are still secrets to be uncovered. There are consequences that stem from secrecy that may be positive or negative to be dealt with. There is still plenty in this universe to explore. But in the meantime, remember...

There is only one truth!