Okay, so I will admit that this story has been slightly abandoned. However, I found this file on my computer: 23 pages of a chapter that I felt wasn't finished yet. I can't get into it enough to add to it, so I guess you'll have to decide if it's finished. To anyone who liked this story, I'm sorry that I probably won't work on it much at all. There's always a possibility, but I can't make any promises.

Anyway, please enjoy!

That night, Conan's sleep did not come easily. He was officially Edogawa Conan now. Kudo Shinichi was legally missing and they wouldn't find him. They couldn't find him, because if they found him, they would be put in danger. And Shinichi hated putting people in danger.

Morning came too slowly. While he wasn't looking forward to the day ahead of him – primary school would be torture – he needed the light. He wasn't going to admit anything, of course, but he was almost scared of the dark. He kept seeing shadows with long blonde hair jumping out at him. It was all a trick of his eyes, of course, but he would be glad to be rid of them with the morning sun.

When the clock finally hit a decent time, he left the room he'd come to inhabit and entered the bathroom. Takagi had been nice enough to find a stool for him; Conan was not pleased to discover that he couldn't even reach the toilet bowl. On the other hand, the stool brought him to the level where he could see the mirror when washing his hands. He was beginning to hate mirrors. It wasn't his face peering out of it anymore, it wasn't him! But it was him, it was who he was now. Nothing he could do would change that.

Finishing up in the bathroom, purposefully avoiding looking in the mirror for very long, he wandered into the living room where Takagi was just now rising, drowsy confusion on his face. "Conan-kun? What are you doing up already? Could you not sleep again?"

"No, I'm fine." Conan shook his head. "I'm – uh – excited…for school, you know?"

"Really? Well, I hope it lives up to your expectations. So, how does breakfast sound? I can't make much, but we've got materials for some simple Western-style breakfasts." Takagi said, running a hand through his hair.

"Okay. If you have cereal, I can make it on my own." Conan said, heading into the kitchen.

"All right. I'll be in the bathroom." Takagi said.

"Ne, Keiji-san," Conan began as they drove in Takagi's car towards the school where he'd be dropped off. "Will you be off your shift in order to pick me up?" He asked.

"Oh," Takagi glanced at him. "Well, I asked for some time off in the afternoons to take care of you, but…well, I can catch breaks to get you home, but I'm afraid I can't stay with you. Will you be okay on your own?"

"Hai. Can I go to the park and stuff? I'll have my phone with me."

Takagi bit his lip. "Well, I suppose. It's not like you'd find a lot to do at home, anyway. But be careful, alright? And make sure to call me no matter what if something happens."

"I will!" Conan chirped just as they pulled into the school parking lot. Exiting the car, he looked at the building with trepidation. He'd never use the word scared, but…well, he'd never been exactly talented at making friends and the fact that all his classmates would be ten years younger than him didn't really help.

The school was familiar to him; it was the same one he'd attended when he'd been this age the first time through, but it seemed so big now. He was sure it had been the same as before, but it had been a long time since he was this small; his perspective hadn't been quite like this for a great deal of time.

Traveling through the school until he reached the ground floor teacher's office, Conan ignored all the other kids walking around him. He knocked on the door and slipped it open, walking up to one of the teachers. She turned to look at him and smiled. "Ohayo. You must be Conan-kun. I'm Toya-sensei. I hope we get along well."

"Um, yeah." Conan smiled awkwardly.

"Why don't you come with me and we'll go to the classroom, okay?" She said as a bell rang. As they walked, she began to converse kindly with him, or at least tried to. He didn't make it easy for her.

"Do you have all your school supplies, Conan-kun?" Toya-sensei asked.


"Are you looking forward to class?"

"Sure," He deadpanned.

Slightly discouraged, she continued, "Have you always lived in Japan?"


"Has your family moved a lot?"


"Um, well, do you like where you live?"


Toya-sensei was beginning to look rather strained, trying to come up with some strain of conversation the boy would be willing to follow.

"Do you like theme parks?"

Conan cast her a dark look, much to her confusion. However, before any more could be said, they arrived at the classroom. Brightening, the teacher led him to the front-center of the room and introduced him.

"Class, this is your new friend, Edogawa Conan-kun. From now on, Conan-kun will be joining our class. We'll spend the beginning of the day showing him around the school, all right?"

The class nodded, giggling over his bizarre name, but Conan, blushing bright red, interrupted. "N-no, that's alright! J-just continue with the lesson, please. I can find my own way around," he insisted.

Everyone looked at him strangely, but eventually their attentions waned and class continued. "Okay everyone, what's one plus one?"

"Two!" Multiple enthusiastic voices yelled out. Conan's head collided with the desk.

The final bell could not come too soon. He could swear his brain was melting, relearning all this stuff. For god's sake, they couldn't even add single digits past one properly! He was more than ready to scram as soon as permitted.

His efforts were deterred, however, when a pretty girl with long dark hair ducked her head in front of him, a huge grin on her face. "Hello, Conan-kun!"

"Um, hi." He muttered.

"I'm Yoshida Ayumi!" Her grin looked like it was getting bigger. She motioned to a rather plump boy standing behind her, "This is Kojima Genta-kun. Let's be friends!"


"Yay!" Throwing her hands up in joy, the little girl then proceeded to hug him. Hard.

"Ulp! Um, Ayumi…chan….can't….breathe…" He choked.

"Eh? Oh, sorry, Conan-kun!" Ayumi clasped her hands under her chin. "I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Um, I gotta go…my ride is waiting for me." He scurried out the door. "Bye!"

Behind him, Ayumi cocked her head. "Ride? Does he mean his parents?"

"He's weird." Genta said, crossing his arms.

Conan reached the parking lot and found Takagi waiting for him in a white Chevrolet. Quickly, he hurried over to the car and hopped in the back.

"You seem awfully rushed." Takagi commented, amused.

"I just got hugged within inches of my life." Conan muttered.

Takagi laughed. "Well, do you want me to drop you off at the park? I'm afraid I have to be back at the station soon, but I can leave you with money for food."

"Okay." Conan nodded. "Thanks, Takagi-keiji." He waved and filed out of the car. As it drove off, he was now stuck with the question of what to do.

He began walking around the park, thinking deeply. Kudo Shinichi was officially missing now. Ran, Agasa, his parents…they'd all think he was missing. Should he contact them, tell them he wasn't? But…maybe it was better that they didn't know. If they didn't know he was alive then they couldn't tell anyone that he was and they couldn't get into trouble for knowing he was alive.

But…he wanted to tell them, wanted them to know he wasn't dead, wasn't lost. But how could he without putting them in danger? And he wouldn't do that, not a chance. He worked to protect people, there was no way he'd willingly put someone in danger.

But could he keep this from them? Sure, he wouldn't be seeing them, most likely, but…if something came up…

Oh, what the hell, they wouldn't believe it was him, anyway. Who would believe that a high school student could turn into a primary school student? Although…Kuroba-kun had believed him, hadn't he? Of course, he had more of the story…and more of the proof. He knew that Conan had to have come from somewhere and that he didn't have any proof of where he came from before. Now, though, now he had all that proof. Now, his records were on a public system. So really, who would believe he was actually Kudo Shinichi?

On his journey through the park, Conan came across an abandoned soccer ball and started kicking it around. So, was he going to let everyone around him think he was missing? If the police filed a missing persons report, those criminals wearing black would probably assume that they hadn't found his body. But…what if they sent people looking for him? And what if someone found Edogawa Conan?

"Hey, Conan!"

Conan blinked, letting the ball he'd been subconsciously playing with fall to the ground with a thud, and turned to see who had called for him. The Kudo Shinichi look alike he'd recently befriended grinned at him, waving.

"Kur- uh, Kaito-niichan," Conan greeted. "What are you doing here?"

"Something I should be asking you, I think." Kaito said, "I'm on my way home. You?"

"Takagi-keiji has to work and didn't think I'd be able to entertain myself at home."

"Ah. You know, that was some pretty impressive footwork with that ball there."

"You think so?" Conan shrugged, "I played soccer a lot when I was younger…er, the first time around. It helps me think to kick something around."

"Hmm. Hey, you got some time now, right? Let's sit and chat. We've got a bit to discuss." Kaito motioned to a bench near them.

"Sure. What's up?"

"Well, first off, I was thinking and these people who attacked you, will they be satisfied if a body isn't discovered? Because, you know, it may be possible to fake one if you really need to."

"Er, I'd rather not worry about that at the moment. I know that in order to be Conan I've had to break more than a few laws, but I'd like to hope that I can somehow go back to being Shinichi eventually."

"Okay then. Next, I was tinkering around with some stuff last night and made a little something you might like. Those glasses of yours, they're just frames, right?" Kaito asked.

"Huh? Uh, yeah, but –"

"Good. I didn't think you'd need a prescription. All the pictures of you as a teenager show you without glasses, though you could have had contacts. But, your eyes don't look like they're blocked by glass, even though you're wearing the frames, so…" Kaito held out a hand, covered it with a cloth and counted off "1, 2, 3, Pon!" and a pair of glasses that looked just like Conan's appeared out of nowhere, sitting innocently in his hand.

Conan took them, staring. "And, uh, what's so special about these?"

"Well, I was playing around with some tracking technology and managed to make a small transmitter that will send a signal to these glasses within 20 kilometers each way. See, you just press this little button on the side of the frames and a small antenna pops up and you can see the range on the lens." He demonstrated while talking. "The transmitters are kind of like stickers, so just place 'em on something and you can find them as long as they're in range. Should come in handy for you, no?"

Conan's eyes were as round as saucers. "Whoa. And it works in a 20 kilometer radius?" Kaito nodded proudly, still grinning. "Are you sure it's a good idea to give me this? If I were to stick one of these on you and track it to a Kid heist, it could bring about more evidence than you're prepared for."

Kaito shrugged. "And who would listen to a little kid? No offense. Besides, then you get to tell those dear police officers just where you got this nifty little gadget and won't that be an interesting conversation, depending on the information you're trying to give?"

Shinichi could see it now. 'Well, Officer, I know who the Kaitou Kid is because he gave me these tracking glasses that allowed me to track him.' Yeah, that would not go over very well. "Okay, whatever. Thanks."

"No problem. After all, I think they can be more useful for you rather than me. Not unless Kid could modify his monocle for something like that, but that might get a little distracting while steering the hang glider, no?" Kaito's grin was shark-like now. He had no problem admitting a possible connection to Kid when Conan couldn't prove a damn thing. Besides, Conan had already figured out that much. "Anyway, I'm good at making little things like that. If I end up making anymore, would you be interested?"

"Yeah!" Conan nodded. "This is seriously cool, Kuroba-kun."

"Ah-ah-ah. We're in public, Conan-chan. It's Kaito-niichan while we're out here." Kaito waggled his finger.

Conan glared. "Hai, Kai-nii!" He suddenly chirped, the perfect picture of an excited young kid.

Kuroba shrugged. "Well, I suppose that works, too. Now, what time does Takagi-san get off of work?"

"Around 5:30 to 6, I think. Why?" Conan asked.

"Well, I've got the time. Wanna play some soccer? Though I have to warn you, I've never played before." Kaito offered.

Slowly, a grin spread across Conan's face. "All right. The idea is to get the ball in the opposite goal and to not let it get in your goal."

"I think I can handle that much." Kaito laughed.

That evening, Conan came home with a smile. He could honestly say that spending the afternoon with Kuroba playing soccer was the most fun he'd had since he'd been changed.

"Conan-kun? Are you back?"

"Hai. Tadima." He chimed back with a genuine smile on his face.

"Are you tired?" Takagi asked, entering the kitchen and fastening a tie.

"Not really." Conan blinked at him, "Are you going somewhere?"

"Yeah, and you're coming." Conan sent him a questioning look. "My partner was curious about you, so she invited us to dinner in order to meet you."

"Dinner?" Shinichi felt a knowing grin stretching over his face. "She?"

Takagi turned bright red. "Yes, well," he cleared his throat. "Anyway, we're going to dinner with her…and her mother."

"Her mother!" Conan echoed in disbelief. This lady had the perfect excuse to cover up a date – meeting him – and she was bringing her mother!

"Her mother is very interested in Satou-san's…colleagues…"

Conan grinned again. A woman that enjoyed playing matchmaker, huh? Maybe he could have fun with this…

On the other hand, maybe not. Instead of fawning over Takagi like the mother should have been, she was cooing over him. Heck, he didn't even know who she was yet. She hadn't waited for introductions before attacking Conan.

"Mother!" A pretty woman with short hair wearing an attractive low cut shirt and a skirt frowned. "Leave the kid alone!"

The lady complied, releasing her hold on Conan and the pretty woman smiled at him. "I'm Satou Miwako. I'm Takagi-kun's partner down at the precinct. That," She looked disparagingly up at the smiling female, "is my mother. You can ignore her." She glared.

Conan grinned. "Nice to meet you!"

"So, how did you end up with Takagi-kun?" Satou asked.

"Oh, I…well, I ran into him and he said I could stay with him." Conan answered hesitantly. That sounded terrible, but what could he say? He wasn't about to mention the fact that he was actually seventeen and that he'd run into Takagi, literally, when running away from a ton of other officers.

"Oh? How sweet of him." The mother cooed. "And, Takagi-san, how have you been getting along with my daughter?"

"Eh?" Takagi went bright red. "Um, w-we work well together." He said hesitantly. "Um, we solve lots of cases…"

"No, no, I don't mean your work."

"Mother!" Satou growled indignantly.

"Well, dear, I simply want to know what's going on with you. And seeing as you won't tell me anything…"

Miwako sighed deeply and slumped over the table. "Forget it. Anyway, Conan-kun, how are you enjoying staying with Takagi-kun?"

Conan blinked at her around a mouthful of his kids meal. Swallowing, he smiled innocently up at her, "It's really fun. Takagi-keiji always makes sure I'm okay."

Takagi blushed deeply and Miwako beamed. "Really? And how is school going for you? Takagi-kun mentioned you just started…today, was it?"

"Yeah. It's kinda…fun, I guess, but really boring." Shinichi answered absent-mindedly.

Wataru grinned at this. "You think the work is too easy for you?"

"Some of it." Conan nodded. The getting along with people ten years younger than him was the hardest part.

"Really? What sort of education background do you have?" Satou asked. Takagi opened his mouth to translate the big words that Conan shouldn't know, but was shocked when Conan answered simply.

"Well, I went to school in America before moving here and I was in a higher placement…thing."

"Oh, you're from America?" Miwako questioned, not noticing Takagi's state of shock as she cut her own meal. "I've always been interested in American culture. What was it like there?"

"Um, well, you know, it was sort of like anywhere. There wasn't a lot of…culture, so to speak. Everyone just sort of did their own thing." Shinichi answered, calling upon memories of trips to the United States to visit his parents.

Speaking of his parents, they would've been informed of their son's disappearance by now. What would they do about it? He zoned out of the conversation, wondering. His mother would no doubt be upset and his father…he'd be stern, the one in control, just like he always was. He'd demand the police for all the information they had on the case – which Shinichi was sure was nothing – and then he'd go about investigating on his own.

What if he found Conan? What would he do then?

He could just imagine the lectures his mother would give him for scaring her, hugging him all the while. And his father…oh, he'd be mad, Shinichi was sure. He'd be angry Shinichi hadn't called him the moment it had happened and asked for help.

But Shinichi wasn't going to ask for help. He could get by perfectly well on his own, had for years since they'd left him here and gone to America. Sure, things had changed a little, but he was sure he could deal. Besides, it wasn't like he was without support. He had Kuroba, who knew the secret and was willing to help him, and he had Takagi who, even though he didn't know who Conan really was, was always willing to support the kid. Besides, Takagi listened to him. None of the other adults he'd run into would.

"Conan? Conan-kun? Are you okay?" Speaking of Takagi…

"Eh? Oh, I'm fine." Conan smiled. "I was just thinking."

"All right." Takagi said, relieved. "So –" He was cut off but the ringing of his partner's cell phone, which she quickly answered, speaking fast.

Hanging up, she turned to them with an apologetic expression on her face. "I'm sorry. That was Megure-keibu. We need to get to the station, Takagi-kun. Apparently someone has come in with information concerning a recently discovered corpse. You know, the one from the fire two nights ago in Gunma Prefecture?" She said grimly. "The victim's ID left behind with the corpse gave us a picture to put on the news. Looks like someone knew them and came in with information.

Takagi grimaced. "I'll have to bring Conan-kun along. My apartment's on the other side of town, we wouldn't have time to drop him off."

Satou nodded. "My mother will have to come along as well." She turned to them, a stern look on her face. "You two need to stay out of the way, alright? This is serious business."

"Yes ma'am." Both Conan and the Satou matriarch said, rolling their eyes, although for separate reasons.

"Megure-keibu?" Takagi asked, entering the bullpen. Satou walked silently behind him and both Conan and the Satou Matriarch stood off to the side, the young boy as attentive as ever.

"Ah, Takagi-kun, good. I need you to double check the life insurance policy of Negishi Masaki-san, the victim. Our initial report said it was five hundred million yen, but obviously, with numbers that high, we'd like to double check. Satou-kun, come with me to get a statement from Mouri-kun." Megure ordered. Takagi nodded and headed out again, patting Conan briefly on the head. Conan was completely unresponsive, staring at Megure-keibu with a horrorstricken look on his face.

Mouri? No, it couldn't be, it just couldn't! How could –?

Miwako looked confused. "'Mouri-kun,' sir?"

"Yes. Mouri Kogoro. He used to work with the department, but…" Megure shook his head, "He became a freelance detective, but it didn't work out so well. Frankly, I was surprised when I got the call. It appears Mouri-kun was tailing that fire victim, Negishi-san, for three days. Why, I don't know. That's part of what we need to find out."

"I see." Satou turned back to her mother. "Stay here with Conan-kun, okay?"

"But –" Conan protested. Satou's glare made him fall silent. "Okay."

Conan rocked on his heels, frowning deeply. Dammit. He'd managed to get into a position where he could solve cases, except he couldn't because he was a child! He sighed. He was stupid to think he'd be able to do anything in this stupid body.

Deep in self-pity, he jumped in surprise when the door slammed open and Takagi reentered the station, escorting a stereotypical-looking businessman wearing glasses. He ushered the man into the room Megure and Satou had disappeared into before turning to Conan again.

"I'm sorry you're bored, Conan-kun." He said apologetically.

"Who was that man?" Conan asked, fishing for information.

"Abe Yutaka-san. He's the beneficiary of Negishi-san's will. Apparently, he also hired Mouri Kogoro-san to follow Negishi-san."

"But why would he do that?"

"I don't know. Anyway, I need you to stay quiet, okay? I'll take you home the first chance I get."

"Hai," Conan frowned, staring after Takagi as he left. If he could just follow them in and hear the information, he was sure he could solve the case. Biting his lip, he glanced over at the Satou matriarch, who was occupied chatting with passing officers and staring at the wall. Silently, he slid over bit by bit until he was right next to the door. Praying the no one would notice him, he stretched onto his tiptoes and edged the door open a crack, thankful that the doorknob handle allowed him to hang off of it, using his own weight to open the door.

He hated being so short. It made everything more complicated and difficult to do.

His stunt had done the trick, though. He couldn't see much through the crack, but seeing wasn't important anyway – he probably wouldn't be tall enough to see anything they indicated anyway. What was important, however, was the fact that he could hear people yelling – and yes, that was definitely Mouri Kogoro's unpleasant screech. Damn.

"We had known each other for twenty years since college. One day, when we were having a drink together, he said, 'we're forty-two now…not spring chickens anymore. You want to make a bet to see who can live longer?' Well, I told him it sounded like an interesting idea, so I agreed and we set the bet at five hundred million yen." Conan couldn't see the one talking, but he guessed it was the man Takagi had brought in. Turning, he settled himself against the wall next to the crack, grinning widely to himself. He may not be able to get into the police questioning, but he could still get the data he needed to solve the case.

A couple of passing officers stared at the strange boy with the evil-looking smirk on his face and gave him a wide berth. Kids these days were weird.

"So you both took out five hundred million yen life insurance policies with each other as the beneficiary?" Megure concluded.

"Of course, I didn't think the game would end after only three months…" That other guy again. What did Takagi say his name was? Abe, right?

"So why did you send Mouri-kun to shadow him?" Megure asked. Conan frowned. Why had Takagi and Satou been called in if they weren't even asking any questions, anyway? Oh well. At least Megure was asking all the right questions. He could probably solve it, too, if Mouri butted out and didn't lead him down the wrong path.

"Oh…it was no major reason. A couple of days ago, he came to me and said, 'I'm being followed…I'm going to be killed soon.'"


"Yes. At first I thought he was joking, but his manner seemed too abnormal. I had him investigated for three days, to make sure he was safe. Right, Mouri-san?" A short growl answered him, presumably from Mouri. "Well, I have work, so I must leave you now. I am the president of a small company, so I am usually rather busy. I would appreciate if you could find the person who killed him."

"Sure," Mouri barked, "if we find out, I'll be sure to tell you first."

"I'll be eagerly awaiting you, Tantei-san." Footsteps echoed on the polished floor and Conan sidled far enough away from the door that he didn't look conspicuous. His eyes narrowed as they followed their only suspect's trail out of the station.

"Damn, I can't think of anyone who could have done it other than him," Megure groaned, "but he's got an alibi."

"A perfect alibi." Mouri confirmed. "Backed up by me, dammit. The body was found Thursday evening, the night of the Himatsuri, and I had been following him up until Wednesday night. Therefore, Negishi-san must've been killed sometime between Wednesday night after I halted surveillance and Thursday evening."

"Abe-san, however, was on a company trip during that time and didn't arrive until Friday night." A thud resounded, prompting Conan to look back inside the room. Apparently, Megure had simply slammed his fist onto the table.

"Hey, boya, you shouldn't be looking in there!" A familiar female voice scolded. He jumped a mile, banging his head against the doorknob. Eyes watering in pain, he turned to look at the visage of a girl he'd been friends with for as long as he could remember.

She was really tall. And scary looking, her face partially shadowed from the angle he was at, giving her eyes a creepy glowing quality. He swallowed. This wasn't really how he had wanted to meet his childhood friend again. At least she hadn't manhandled him or something, though.

"How did you even get in here? I wouldn't think the officers would let a child into the station to just lurk around." Mouri Ran put her hands on her hips, frowning contemplatively. "Oh well. Come on, you shouldn't be here. You can wait outside for whatever it is you need."

"Ah, wait, I'm not…" He yelped when she grabbed his arm, dragging him away from the room. He couldn't leave now; what if there was something more to the case! He also really didn't want to be alone with Ran right now, no matter how pleased he was to see her again. She knew him better than almost anyone and if she recognized him… "Satou-baasan!" He shrieked in an exaggerated whisper. Takagi had told him to be quiet, after all, and he didn't want to risk making an enemy out of Megure-keibu. The head of Division One could ensure that he never set foot in the station again if he didn't have a crime to report or a statement to give. Generally, he wouldn't mind that, but there was a possibility the police would work a case with those bastards that changed him involved. He'd do anything he could to find them. "Satou-baasan!" He called again, catching the attention of the officers whose desks in the bullpen were closest to them and, fortunately, Satou-baasan.

"Oh, Conan-chan. And who are you?" The older lady blinked at Ran.

"Oh! Um, is he with you?" Ran blushed brightly – or so he assumed, anyway. He'd known her long enough to know that a situation like this would embarrass her, but he couldn't actually see he face when he was standing by her side. Looking up simply gave him a view either up her skirt, which he was trying not to think to hard about, or of her, ahem, buxom assets – and released his arm immediately. "I'm so sorry, it's just, well, he was looking into that office there and he really shouldn't have been, so…"

"Oh, it's all right. I quite understand. He's not actually with me, but that Taki fellow is inside with Miwako and her boss." She smiled charmingly at Ran before turning to him with a frown. "Conan-chan, you should know better. Didn't Taki-san tell you to stay quiet over here?"

Conan laughed sheepishly, wincing internally at the chan. "It's, um, Takagi-keiji, actually. And I wanted to see what was going on!"

"Oh, is it? Oops," she giggled, daintily. "I'm sure Taki, er, Takagi-san will tell you later, Conan-chan."

"Haaai," Conan pouted, telling himself that it was to enforce his kiddy act and he wasn't really pouting.

Ran bowed to Satou-baasan, introducing herself. Satou responded in kind, although Conan had to speak up to introduce himself properly when she tried to address him as "Taki Conan-chan". As Ran and Satou-baasan began talking, both subsequently forgetting his presence entirely, he found himself smiling softly, backing up enough so that he could actually see Ran's face. It was good to see that she was okay, even if he could see traces of worry and pain in her slumped posture and dark eyes.

It hurt, to know that he was responsible for it. He'd never wanted to hurt his friend, never wanted her to face the harsh truth of his cases. He tried to tell her the bare minimum of every case, keeping everything simply factual. When you dealt only with fact, cases were nothing but a compilation of clues and evidence. It was only when you brought in the emotional factors that you realized that it was a dead body you dealt with and someone had taken their life, usually for some desperate, emotional reason. Emotions made the case real, made it hurt to understand. It was better if she never say that dimension to his work. Of course, there were times he couldn't shield her from it, like that case on the roller coaster the night he changed – that case and the successive events had been plaguing his dreams ever since, reminding him each and every time of how his friend had cried because of his work. Still, he tried as hard as he could to shelter her, only for it now to be brought upon her shoulders when he wasn't there to support her.

Her best friend was missing, possibly dead as far as she knew. And he couldn't tell her about Conan, couldn't even let her know that he was alright. It hurt, gods, it practically killed him to see the redness of her eyes that showed she'd been crying, but it was better for her to be in pain than to be a cold corpse no longer capable of feeling anything. Now, if he just told himself that enough times, maybe it would stop hurting so much.

He was startled out of his thoughts when the very person who'd been on his mind bent down in front of him, a gentle smile on her face. "I'm sorry for scolding you earlier, Conan-kun. For future reference, though, don't go wandering around the station without permission, okay? I remember a friend of mine used to get scolded for doing things like that. At any rate, it was nice to meet you. Bye, Conan-kun," she waved, moving to follow her father out of the station.

Blinking, he realized that the conference in the office must have finished as Megure, Satou, Mouri, and Takagi were all filing out, Megure heading to his desk, frowning at the stack of paperwork he was holding and the rest of them heading towards where Conan was to meet the individuals they had waiting for them. Takagi and Satou approached them, faces grim.

"Ah, Takagi-keiji! What happened?" Conan half-demanded, shaking the depressing thoughts off of him completely. He had a case to work on now and he couldn't afford to become distracted. He could worry about what he was doing to Ran later. For now, he had a killer to catch and an alibi to crack…somehow.

Takagi heaved a weary sigh. "Basically, we have one suspect for the corpse that was found in Gunma a few nights ago. Unfortunately, that suspect also has a perfect alibi." He groaned, "Megure-keibu gave us the suspect's schedule and pictures from his vacation – the reason he has a perfect alibi – but if we can't find any holes…we're stuck."

Miwako stared at him. "Jeez, Takagi-kun! How can you go revealing so much to a child!"

Takagi jumped as if he'd forgotten her presence. "Ah! W-well, he has helped before and it does sometimes help to say things aloud to help sort out the facts." He grinned sheepishly, a blush spreading across his cheeks. "I guess dinner is completely canceled since we need to work on this. Are you still hungry or anything, Conan-kun? I can grab something on the way home that we can fix at the house."

Conan nodded, "okay."

"Good. Let's get going then." He bowed slightly to the Satous before taking Conan's hand and ushering him out of the station.

"Are you just dropping me off?" Conan asked, already plotting some way to get his hands on those photos.

"No. Since I have to bring you home anyway and Satou-san has to drop off her mother and Mouri-san also requested a set of the photos, Megure-keibu just had a ton of copies made and sent us home to work on them all. We're to call in immediately if we find something, but we're fairly hopeless at this point. Fortunately, Abe-san can't leave any time soon, so it's not like we're working within a time limit."

"I see," Conan grinned. Good. Takagi would probably let him see the photographs. It was only a matter of time. He'd see through this Abe-san's lies no matter what and bring the killer to justice. That was his job, after all, no matter what size he currently was.

As soon as they got home, Takagi shoved everything off his cluttered table. Over one end, he spread the photos from Abe-san's trip. At the other, he pulled up two chairs and spread an array of snacks in bowls and plates. "Help yourself, Conan-kun, but be sure you don't get anything on the pictures, alright?"

"'Kay," Conan chorused happily, jumping into one of the chairs. He grabbed a few handfuls of crackers and crunched idly on them while inspecting the photos over Takagi's shoulder.

Takagi ruffled through the photos time and time again, frowning deeply. "If it was a domestic trip, he could have taken the pictures and finished his business and still return on short notice. However, his alibi has no cracks. He was on a business trip from Wednesday morning to Friday night. All night Wednesday, he was playing Mahjong with his employees. He went on a bus tour all day Thursday and has the pictures to prove it. Negishi-san's murder is believed to have taken place Thursday night, so there's no way Abe-san could've made it back in time. The only time on Thursday the photos don't account for is a two hour period where he took a nap before noon. But still, there's not enough time to go from Kyushu to the murder scene. Ugh," Takagi groaned, running his hands through his hair in frustration and leaning back, mindful of the boy perched next to him. "It doesn't make sense! There's no one else with a motive to kill Negishi-san, but Abe-san can't have done it!"

Conan frowned around a cracker he was munching on and tried to clear his mind of predisposed notions. If he let himself be biased, he could botch the whole case. No, as Holmes said, he had to twist his theory to fit the facts, and not twist the facts to fit his theory. "Are you sure there's no one else with a motive? No one at all?"

"Yeah. Megure-keibu checked it out, but it really seems that Negishi-san had no real contact with anyone close to him during the time Mouri-tantei was trailing him, which was from Monday until Wednesday evening. The people close to him were already questioned and checked out anyway, and none of them had motives or even anything strange about their statements."

"Really?" Conan brought a hand to his chin, rubbing it contemplatively, a sight Takagi found terribly cute, especially since he still had half a cracker sticking out of his mouth that he was talking around. "So that does only leave…eh?" Brushing his hands off on his pants and pulling a handkerchief, he reached forward and grabbed a photo, brought it close to his face, discarded it, and grabbed another, repeating the process.

Takagi stared at him. 'Okay,' he thought to himself, 'I know I said that he should be careful not to get anything on the pictures, but what kind of kid carries around a handkerchief that they then use to avoid getting fingerprints on a photograph? I mean, wouldn't most kids just grab is without caring that they could smudge the picture?' He tilted his head to the side and regarded Conan closely before smiling slightly. 'Oh well. It's not like it matters. I should just be glad that Conan is considerate enough to avoid smudging the pictures. Wonder what caught his eye all of a sudden, anyway.'

"What is it, Conan-kun?" He asked curiously. "Did you notice something?"

"Eh?" Conan blinked at him, as if suddenly remembering that there was someone else there. "Oh! Uh," he laughed nervously, putting the pictures down and tucking his handkerchief away. "I-I just…it's, um, a bit weird, isn't it? I mean, maybe he just really likes clocks, but it's strange, isn't it? To get a shot with a clock in it for every single picture?"

Takagi blinked, scanning over the pictures to confirm that yes, there was a clock in each of them. "How strange," he murmured. "Even if he liked clocks, normally, he'd just get pictures of the clocks individually, right? Or maybe one or two with him standing near or holding a height-level clock. But to have a clock that he's usually not even taking notice of in every one of his pictures…it's strange."

"It's almost as if he took them just to corroborate his alibi!" Conan exclaimed, suddenly changing from a serious voice to a high pitched, excited, voice more naturally associated with children. "But why would he feel the need to prove his alibi before the murder ever happened?" He asked, wonder exaggerated in his tone.

Takagi sweatdropped. What was with this kid? Did he suffer from mood swings or something? That aside… "Yeah, you have a point. Unless he knew something was going to happen, there should have been no need to so meticulously prove that he was where he says he was at any specific time. Still," he shook his head, "that certainly makes Abe-san look suspicious, but it's much too thin to hold through as proof." He sighed, "if only we had something more…"

"Isn't there anything?" Conan questioned desperately. "Anything at all? Like…I don't know, maybe a statement regarding the suspect? Or…just something?"

Takagi shook his head. "Nothing at all. The only thing that made Abe-san suspicious in the first place was the life insurance policy and the fact that he hired Mouri-tantei to tail the victim. But beyond that and what we've just found…there's really nothing to tie him to the crime, especially considering that he does have the perfect alibi."

"Damn," Conan muttered, drawing a scolding look from Takagi. He chuckled nervously, rubbing the back of his head in a self-conscious way. He winced when doing so reminded him of the fact that he'd injured his head recently, even if the bandages had been removed. "Sorry."

Jeez, Shinichi grumbled internally, was it really that big of a deal for a kid to curse? Sure, it was rude and offensive and all that, but it wasn't like he'd even used a very serious curse. So really, Takagi's look shouldn't have made him feel guilty like it did. He'd done nothing to be guilty over! 'In the future, I think I'll add cursing to my "Watch What I Say" list'.

At any rate, this case wasn't adding up. Was it possible that Abe-san killed Negishi-san? But how? Mouri-jiisan was following Negishi-san the whole time and Abe-san has an alibi and…oh, wait.

"Ne, Takagi-keiji, if Mouri-tantei was following Negishi-san for Abe-san, wouldn't he have had to document his actions somehow? I mean, if you are hired by a man to follow his wife, you'd take pictures of the wife to show the husband, right?"

"That's true. But even if Mouri-tantei took pictures of the deceased, why should it matter? It's not like this was a suicide case." Takagi stated. "On the other hand, I suppose we have no other real leads. I'll phone Megure-keibu and let him know." He searched through his pockets until he finally found his cell phone, smiling sheepishly as Conan cocked an eyebrow at the pile of junk he'd pulled out of his pockets.

"Are these…sticky notes?" Conan asked, prodding one with his index finger.

"Ah, yeah. I write reminders to myself and stick them in my pockets, but I seem to forget about them too often for them to really be of any use."

"So I see," Conan grinned, brandishing a bright pink sticky note that read 'buy Christmas present for Mom' on it. Christmas was…a while ago.

Takagi blushed, sticking his tongue out at Conan as he dialed Megure's number. He quickly relayed the suspicious characteristics of the photographs and the request for Mouri-san's own pictures from his surveillance.

After he hung up, he began to sort through the sticky notes, adding a few more to the pile as he continued to empty out his pockets. Most of the notes looked as if they'd been through the wash more than once and a couple were even in shreds.

Conan had to laugh, even if it was more of a small, exasperated gust of air. Takagi was certainly an interesting guy.

School the next day was absolute torture, more so than the day before because he knew that Takagi was working on the case and all he could do was sit in kiddy school and pretend he didn't know what two plus three was. To make matters worse, the wonder of being the new kid had yet to wear off, so he kept getting looks from the other kids all through class and during breaks, a group of them would swarm around his desk and try to get him to answer questions.

The only good thing, he supposed, was that his 'new friends', Ayumi and Genta, took it upon themselves to protect him from the overwhelming attention of the rest of the class. The drawback was, however, that they accomplished this by forcing him to focus his attention on them and only them.

By the end of it all, Conan was absolutely exhausted. Dealing with kids was a lot harder than anyone would believe.

"Conan-kun, Genta-kun and I are going to the arcade after school. You should come! We invited Mitsuhiko-kun, too! Have you met him yet?" Without waiting for his reply, she turned and waved her hands wildly, shouting, "heeeeeey, Mitsuhiko-kuuuuuuun! Come over here and meet Conan-kun!"

Conan winced, grudgingly rubbing his ears. Why were kids so loud? Was there really any need to shout?

A young boy with freckles wandered over to them, a science book hanging from his fingers. "What is it, Ayumi-chan?"

"It's Conan-kun," she exclaimed, as if the matter was of all importance, "he hasn't met you yet!"

"Uh," Conan smiled awkwardly, "hi."

Mitsuhiko blinked, "hi." He looked from Ayumi to Conan in confusion before turning and glancing around him.

"Oh," Conan said, "you were absent yesterday, weren't you?" He grinned at Mitsuhiko's shocked face, "I'm new as of yesterday, so that would explain why you were so confused about where I came from."

"Um. Y-yeah, I guess." Mitsuhiko laughed sheepishly. "I'm Tsuburaya Mitsuhiko. Pleased to meet you." He bowed slightly.

Conan nodded. "Edogawa Conan. Nice to meet you."

"So, you're coming to the arcade with us after school, right Conan-kun?" Ayumi asked him, hands clasped in front of her in a begging gesture.

…He wondered what it said about him that he was terrified of telling a little girl 'no'. After all, it wasn't like she was Ran. She wouldn't blindside him just because he wasn't cooperating properly…right?

"Ah, um…I…I really can't, Ayumi-chan," he said softly, hoping desperately that she wouldn't do something scary like cry, "I'm really sorry, but I gotta go straight home after school. It's really important." After all, Takagi should be getting the pictures form Mouri-jiisan. There was no way he was letting this case pass him by. He had faith that the police could solve it – hopefully – but he needed this case, strange as it sounded. After everything that had happened with the shrinking and all, he needed the stability of a good case and he wasn't going to let anything keep him from solving it. "Sorry."

Ayumi gave him a heartbroken look, as if it really hurt that someone she hardly knew would turn her down. "But...but, Conan-kun…don't you want to play with your friends?"

Conan blinked. Friends? They'd hardly met. How could she consider them friends already?

He'd never made a friend that easily before. Even with Ran, whom he'd been friends with practically all his life. With Ran, it had taken them a long while to actually get along. It wasn't that they didn't like each other, but more…their parents had forced them together, left them alone together with nothing to do while they went off and conversed. So they'd been stuck, staring awkwardly at each other until Ran had finally decided that enough was enough and standing around staring for four hours was a bit much. So she'd marched up to him, bowed clumsily, and smiled. 'Come on,' she had said, 'there's no point in just standing here. Let's play something.'

Conan shook his head, bringing himself back to the present, but he couldn't stop the soft smile that had formed on his lips, both at the precious memory and at the young girl in front of him that had brought it to mind. "I would like to, Ayumi-chan," he said kindly, "but I really do have to go home. I'm sorry. Maybe another time?"

Ayumi beamed and he was slightly surprised when the boys behind her – Genta-kun had arrived at some point during the conversation – grinned at him as well, completely forgetting that they were glaring at him earlier for making Ayumi-chan sad.

Kids were weird.

Still, their smiles made him happy, for some odd reason, and he cheerfully grinned back, in a better mood than he had been since that night at Tropical Land.

School seemed to pass by much more quickly after that. When the bell finally did ring, Shinichi found that his good mood had persisted and he sent a grateful smile to Ayumi-chan as he passed by her on the way to the parking lot. It was kind of nice to end the day on a good note.

"Oh, Conan-kun, hold on!" Ayumi shouted suddenly. He turned to her in surprise. "I know you can't go to the arcade," she said at his look, "but I was thinking…you get picked up from school, right?"


"Well, no matter how far away you live, we wouldn't mind walking you home! It would be fun and it would give us a chance to hang out even when you have to go somewhere later!"

Conan blinked. That was…unexpected. "Thanks, Ayumi-chan. I don't know if my…guardian would allow that, though. I'll have to check, 'kay?"

"All right," she nodded excited, "but let us know! It'll be lots of fun, I promise!"

Conan smiled softly. "Yeah, I bet it will be. Thanks, Ayumi-chan." He waved cheerfully, "bye, guys!"

The trio of friends looked strangely delighted when Conan acknowledged them so personally. "See you, Conan-kun!" They hollered after him.

When the boy met Takagi in the parking lot, the police officer was pleasantly surprised at the warm reception he got. "You seem to be in a good mood, Conan-kun."

"Yeah, I guess. It looks like I've found myself with some nice friends." He laughed lightly, surprising Takagi. It was the first time he'd heard such a jovial sound come from the boy. "So, did you find anything about the case?" Conan asked, suddenly serious, though there was still a bright light in his eyes that had been missing from all of their previous meetings.

"A-ah, we got the pictures from Mouri-tantei. They're a bit…strange. For one, the victim dressed rather oddly, especially considering the heat. And…there's something else. I don't know exactly, but there's something about the pictures that really bothers me. At any rate, I requested copies and brought them with me. I figured, since you noticed what was wrong with the other pictures, you might be able to help me with this one. Besides, it's always good to get another perspective when you can."

Conan grinned. Looks like he was already well on his way to being able to help out the police. Good.

"Okay! I'll see if I can find what's bothering you about them!"

It was harder than he'd thought. When he found it, he was truly annoyed at himself. How could he have missed something so perfectly obvious!

But it was rather understandable, really. He'd been expecting something small to be the problem, something little and generally unimportant until one realized that hey, this wasn't right. He'd been too focused on the details and, as such, had missed the big picture.

Idiot, he scolded himself. He was supposed to be a detective, a good one. How could he let expectations cloud his judgment so thoroughly?

He was slightly gratified that he wasn't the only one that had made such an error. Takagi, and likely the rest of the taskforce, as they probably would have seen these photos, had, too. "Ne, Takagi-keiji," he called when he'd finally finished scolding himself. "Isn't this strange? In this picture, Negishi-san is left-handed. But in the others, he was right-handed! Oh, but this one has him left-handed, too! How strange."

Takagi blinked. "Right-handed, then left-handed? Maybe he was ambidexterious?"

"But according to the dates on the photos, he only used his left hand on the Wednesday that Mouri-jiisan was following him. Why would he do that?"

"Hmm. C-could it be that it wasn't Negishi-san on Wednesday? I-I mean, we'd have to double check, be sure Negishi-san didn't just have a strange habit like that and make sure that he was originally right-handed to prove that it was him in the Monday-Tuesday pictures, but if it wasn't Negishi-san…if it wasn't the victim, Abe-san's alibi falls apart. He started his trip on Wednesday. But if Negishi-san was killed before then…" Takagi turned to Conan with an excited air about him. "This is great, Conan-kun. Of course, we have to make sure first, but if it's true, then we have motive and opportunity. Means is a bit of a moot point in this case, as anyone can set fire to a person if they know how and access to the fire during Himatsuri would have been easy enough. The shrine is hardly guarded and if the body was left there, out of sight, until the fire was lit, then the culprit wouldn't have needed to be around to dispose of the body. He just left the wallet so that we could identify him – and so that he could collect on the insurance – and in the mean time, he establishes himself a perfect alibi."

Conan grinned up at the police officer. Takagi was a bit timid, yeah, but he was obviously a pretty good investigator. It made Conan glad he had wound up living with him rather than, say, Mouri-jiisan, whose detective business had been in the dumps since it had been started.

"You said he had a motive?" Conan prompted.

"Yeah," Takagi nodded absently. It felt a little strange relaying the information the police had to a little boy, but Conan had helped him. Besides, he already knew plenty about the investigation and it wasn't like they were keeping it under wraps from the media. "Abe-san's company is currently three hundred million yen in debt. Considering Negishi-san's life insurance policy pays five hundred million…" He glanced at his watch and yelped. "Sorry, Conan-kun, but I need to get this information to Megure-keibu. Abe-san was going to leave for another business trip tonight at nine, and unless we can present a reasonable suspicion that he committed the crime, we can't hold him. His trip is supposed to be overseas, too."

Conan looked at the clock over the stove. 5:47. They had to hurry. "Can I come with you?" He asked eagerly.

"Um, I don't know that you should, exactly. I mean, it is police business and all."

"I promise I won't interfere!" Much.

"Well…okay, but you need to stay out of the way, alright?"

"'kay!" Conan readily agreed.

They quickly gathered up the necessary things, such as the pictures, and filed into the car. As they approached the station, Takagi pulled out his cell phone and dialed swiftly.

"Satou-san?" He called into the receiver. "I've had an idea on the Negishi-case. Can you check out what his prominent hand was? And if he had any weird quirks as far as that was concerned? I'm going to double check the time of death, too. Thanks. Bye." He hurriedly shoved his phone away, grabbing the wheel with both hands as he turned into the parking lot in front of the Metro Station.

As soon as the car was motionless, both of them leaped out of the car, hardly paying attention to Takagi's lousy parking. Instead, they raced inside and slammed open the door to Megure-keibu's office.

The surprised inspector jumped and whirled around to stare at them. "Takagi-kun, what –?"

"Sir, I think we've discovered a hole in Abe-san's alibi. Sato-san is checking part of it now, but we also need to double-check the time of death, as best the coroner can estimate it. See," he outlined the findings of Conan and himself.

"I see." Megure said, "in that way, he'd be able to fake the time of death and establish a working alibi for himself." He picked up his phone and quickly dialed the morgue. A quick conversation later and Megure hung up the phone. "The coroner says he died sometime either late Tuesday or early Wednesday, granted, that's hard to be certain of because of the fire. Still, it's pretty certain that he was dead well before the fire. I'd say that means we need to head to the airport. Shiratori-kun," he ducked his head into the bullpen to call, "you're in charge here while we head to the airport. When Sato-kun calls in, direct her to follow us. Let's go," he said to Takagi, sparing a slight glance at Conan. He looked like he wanted to say something, but decided not to, allowing the young boy to accompany them on the way to the airport. If Shinichi weren't so concentrated on the case, he might've been worried about what Megure's easy acceptance of his presence implied. As it was, he didn't notice at all.