Disclaimer: I continue to own nothing. Except the Squad. I lay claim to them. And, I suppose, Higashiyama. Like anyone would want him.

Notes: This takes place roughly four months after Slip and Fall/Pride Goeth Before. While it isn't a sequel, per se, the events there have definite repercussions here and are discussed. Equally, most of the original characters appearing here were introduced in PGB. So, uh, yeah. You might want to read those.

Nakamori gets home late, as always. The length of the hours he works never makes any difference, but starting early and staying late long ago became habit. And besides, Kid has been irritatingly active lately, pulling heists with gleeful cheek and thumbing his nose at the police left, right and centre.

The lights are out, which is unusual. Aoko likes to stay up to make sure he gets home alright – a joke, since he's more likely to injure himself tripping over a kerb while drunk than in the pursuit of his duty. His shoes clatter on the tile of the entrance-way as he toes them off; that and the keys jangling in his pocket the only sounds in the dark house. It's just as well she's gone to bed, it's – he turns on the light to look at his watch and stops cold, one hand frozen in the motion of pulling up his cuff.

In the centre of the front room a broken vase lies on its side, water still leaking out in weak droplets to trickle onto damp flower stems below. The room around it is a portrait of chaos; the low table has been knocked over, cushions strewn about on the tatami floor, bookshelves spewing books from their hold, ornaments collected and coveted by Aoko over the years toppled and shattered. Flame-red tulips are tossed about like bloody fallen soldiers, damp and drooping. Aoko cut them yesterday from the back yard; he knows it without thinking.

Shock wins out over training only long enough for him to take in the scene from a stationary position in the corner, and then he's pulling his pistol from its holster with a steady hand and striding into the wreck. Fear is rushing into his pounding heart, with fury close on its heels. "Aoko?"

The house is absolutely silent and it seems eerie, unreal. Closer to a dream, or a nightmare. There should be noise – shouting, smashing, anything – to accompany the chaos. But there is only the weak rasp of his breaths and the gentle shuffle of his stocking feet on tatami.

It takes him less than a minute to check through the two downstairs rooms, the same again upstairs. There are no signs of a struggle there. Just his room, clean with the emptiness of a space used for nothing but sleeping, and Aoko's, clean with the effort of a perfectionist. And in the latter, a painfully empty bed.

Heart cold and sapping the warmth from his chest, Nakamori digs his cell out of his pocket. His fingers are just skirting over the number-pad when the phone suddenly begins shaking and shrieking in his palm. He curses and fumbles, the ring tone ear-shatteringly loud in the silence, wastes several rings trying not to drop it.


"Inspector?" Through his own fear and that in the voice on the other end he hardly recognises his lieutenant.


"Inspector – Emi. Emi's been taken. My wife, she says someone broke in, knocked her down and – and just took her."

Nakamori sits down hard on the stairs, gun held tight in a bloodless hand, other curled unattended on his knee. He's not a social man outside the Task Force, but inside the Force family is family, and Oogawa is closer to him than any of the others. He's one of the old squad, has been following Nakamori over rooftops for the better part of two decades chasing that elusive white cape. The man stuck with him through the bad years; had the inspector's back in the times when he didn't care whether anyone did or not. Oogawa Tsubasa is one of the few coppers' wives he still knows after losing most of the old squad one by one as the years passed and they vanished like ships in a fog, and he envies the man her; a cheerful outgoing woman who reminds him of the woman he lost thirteen years ago. Their daughter he recalls as a smiley little girl tottering around on chubby legs with short hair tied up in bright bows. She could be a poster-child for Sweet and Innocent. The shock he has just managed to mostly break through is swelling up again, and he tries to cut it off.

"Oogawa, listen. It's not just you. I just got home and – Aoko's gone." Feeling as though he's speaking through water, Nakamori swallows harshly and cleared his throat. Oogawa begins to speak, but he runs right over the man. "Listen," he repeats, trying to focus his subordinate, focus himself. "Who else has got kids? Odds are it's not just us. Who else?" They were a tight-knit group ten years ago, but the new Task Force was founded barely a year ago, last addition coming in two months back. Cops by their nature aren't the most open of people; it'll take time for him to get to know them, never mind their families. And then there's the further barrier of rank separating them from their superior, as well as Nakamori's own preference for privacy regarding his family matters which has doubtless diffused to the men. Oogawa's laboured breathing comes over the phone harsh and echoing for a moment, and then he pulls himself together.

"Yamamoto's got a son just going into junior high. Ueda's daughter just graduated from university – is she safe? Washio's got a kid, I think, but I don't know how old – you know how he is. Takarai's got the two in elementary. Oh, and Sawara's wife is expecting – sometime around the end of the month."

"Right," says Nakamori, sparing a second to be grateful for his lieutenant's reliability. "You call Washio, Takarai and Sawara. If they're okay, tell 'em to get the kids somewhere safe – the station. I'll call Yamamoto and Ueda. When you're done there call the rest starting from the top of the alphabet. Tell them to get any close relatives somewhere safe – out of town if possible. And tell 'em to meet in my office in an hour. I'll start from the bottom. And, tell 'em to keep it quiet."

"Yes, sir."

"And Oogawa?"

"Yes, sir?"

"We'll get them back."

It's harder than he had expected to get away from his house, to escape the forensics team taking prints and asking ridiculously unnecessary questions about the usual placement of every single one of Aoko's knick-knacks. They look at him askance for practically fighting his way out of the house, but he's used to that.

At his office he finds the scene he had been dreading, but expecting none the less. Most of the 15-man task force is lining the walls looking either outraged or uneasy – the lucky bachelors or childless husbands of the squad. Standing with Oogawa near his desk are Yamamoto, Washio, Takarai and Sawara. Yamamoto and Washio look palely furious, the latter in his shirt alone with dark patches on his collar; Nakamori's mind leaps to ink blots and then burns before he realises they are mascara smudges. Takarai at the edge of the group is confused and frantic, hair a mess and bangs stuck to his forehead with now-dry sweat. Sawara is leaning against the desk with Oogawa's arm around his shoulders, white as a sheet and looking sickly. Nakamori can't remember a time the usually cheerful man was without the vivid intensity which has always defined him in Nakamori's mind. Now, though, he looks almost corpse-like, and the inspector knows with terrible certainty exactly what that means.

The men shoot around to stare as he opens the door, an even mix of fear and rage in their faces. Nakamori wonders which would show on his, suspects it would vary by the minute. He's trying to present nothing but brisk control, but can't seriously imagine he's succeeding. There's a burst of chatter as he crosses the room to his desk, but it dies of its own accord before he reaches the far side of the office, leans back against the heavy wood and pauses before raising his face to his men.

"By now, you all know why we're here. I want a quick count of the missing." He looks to Oogawa, who nods and says in a clear, quiet voice which nevertheless carries through the room, "My daughter Emi, 4."

The lieutenant glances to Yamamoto, who answers briskly. "My son, Nozomi. 12."

"My sons Shin and Tsuyoshi, 7 and 9." Takarai's voice is weak and shaking, like the man.

Brief and sharp, Washio looks up. "Haruko, 7." He looks back down at the floor again, face twisted in cold rage rather than apprehension.

Oogawa says something quiet to Sawara who swallows audible and raises his white face. "My wife Reina, 8 months pregnant." Nakamori feels his own heart constrict; it's unfair to sympathise with one more than the others but emotions aren't governed by fairness, and Sawara is Old Squad. He and Reina have wanted kids for years, tried everything, had almost given up. It's no effort to remember the day the man came into the station to announce the pregnancy; the memory pours into Nakamori's mind now like mercury, bright and thick. The normally cheerful Sawara beaming almost blindingly, too dazed to stay in one place for more than a few minutes, slapping the back of every colleague he met and leaving early – at Nakamori's order – to take his wife out to dinner. His only memory of Reina is a shy woman hanging back in the crowd, polar opposite to Sawara's effusive affability, but lighting up like a spotlight in her husband's company.

A wave of muttering washes through the squad before Nakamori straightens away from the desk's support, action killing the sound. "And my daughter, Aoko. 17," he says flatly, gruff voice filling the silence. He feels the shock run through the room like a change in the weather, sees it register in the faces of his men. He begins again, before the protests can break out in the face of this new unexpected information.

"There is an obvious connection here," he says. "As far as I know, the Task Force has been the only squad attacked tonight." It only occurs to him as he speaks that he has no way to know if this is true. "Hoshino, Ohara," he singles out two men by the door with no immediate family he knows of; they straighten stiffly under his sharp eyes. "Go find out. Friends in other departments, dispatch, whatever." They nod and slip out.

"Assuming we are the sole target, who could be targeting us? What enemies have we made as a group?" He's thinking aloud more than anything else, falling into the role of police inspector. By habit he begins to reach into his pocket for a cigarette.

"Kaitou Kid," says Murata by the window, the two-month-old new comer. Nakamori's hand falls away from his pocket, muscles tensing. Silence falls like a veil, a state he has no trouble recognising the cause of: no one wants to speak out in defence of a criminal, of their enemy. But no one believes it either.

"That's true," says Nakamori, grudgingly aware of his reputation of being kinder to his quarry than he could be. At least, that's what it once was. The gods only know what it is now, what rumours the natural telepathy of a close-knit squad – so near to the hive-mind of flocks of birds and schools of fish that allows them to know which way to turn simultaneously – has spread about the incident in Tokyo General four months ago. "But at least two wives were present for the abductions, and were attacked and knocked unconscious." This is no way to conduct an investigation, by committee with almost no facts and a hell of a lot of bias.

"Kid doesn't kill, Inspector," says Murata, with a glance at the men standing at his side. Nakamori knows he and Washio are often partnered, but has no idea as to the depth of their friendship, if any. The new squad has potential but he still doesn't know them, not all of them. Doesn't have the absolute trust in them he did in the original Task Force, and he misses that strength to fall back on. Misses it with a sharp pain now.

"He doesn't hurt people either," his voice is growing rougher, temper thinner. Any other time, any other day, he could tell the kid to shut up, to fall in line. But his status here is uncertain; this is no official meeting of the Force, and families of kidnap victims do not conduct their investigations.

"Doesn't knock them out? Maybe not by violence, but…" The man doesn't have to voice his point; they all know Kid's not above using sleep-inducing drugs, and although the line is not a fine one in Nakamori's mind he knows he cannot keep defending the thief and retain the trust of all his men.

The point is one not previously considered by most of them, and a lively discussion breaks out, supporters hampered by the awareness that they're on the wrong side of the law and arguing against their own work.

Nakamori lets it run on for a few minutes, afraid to push the men into a schism, deeply uneasy about this bottom-up command. But beside him, the other men directly involved are standing quietly, an isolated island watching the fires of debate from afar.

"Alright," he barks out eventually, and the room quiets. "It might be the Kid. We can't discount that possibility, and I won't. As far as motive's concerned it's the most likely – although if you think Kid thinks we're enough of a threat to go to all this effort to stop us, then –" he cuts himself off before he can say anything unfortunate, reddening with irritation at the need to restrain himself. But in the faces of his men he sees embarrassment and agreement. Even from Murata.

"Kid aside, who else? It might not be the entire Force that's the target; maybe just enough of us they felt warranted in attacking everyone." Unlikely; the Force works as a team and in any case they're no threat to anyone but Kid and even there they haven't been much of one to date, although he intends that to change. Nakamori tries to review the previous stations of the men now under his command, but no noticeable common factor comes up. No unit that more than two or three of them had belonged to occurs to him.

"What about ransom, sir?" suggests Ishimura.

Nakamori blinks, then turns to the men standing by him. Oogawa catches his awkward glance and fields for him.

"Don't know about you, sir, but none've us are secretly just really philanthropic millionaires." The others give varying degrees of assent.

"Right. And we have no significant connections in the Force, nothing we could bargain for anything with." He himself has ties to the Section One Superintendant and Tokyo's Police General, but that's hardly common knowledge and besides these days he's used up all his favours in those quarters. We, in fact, have only one significant feature: our connection to Kaitou Kid. They're all thinking it. But he's damned if he can equate that with a ransom demand, unless some of Kid's more fanatic fans are trying to bargain for the Force to leave him alone. Not a promising theory.

He's about to go on when his thoughts are interrupted by his desk phone wailing. He starts about, then reaches over the desk to pick it up with a hesitant hand, well aware that the eyes of everyone in the room are on him. "Nakamori."

"Not many men would leave their house after their daughter was abducted, Inspector," says the voice. It has the harsh grit of a heavy smoker, overset with syrupy smugness.

"Who the hell is this?" he growls, looking sharply to Oogawa, whose eyes widen. A second later he's sprinting out the door, men tripping to get out of his way.

"A man with a request."

"And the price?" Stall, draw it out, burn time like paper, hiss his instincts in a voiceless thought. But there doesn't seem to be any hurry on the other end of the line, and that's worrying. Says ignorance or much too much assurance, and whoever orchestrated this isn't ignorant.

"For each day you go over deadline, one more bright face vanishes from this world." He can hear the sarcastic smile, damn the bastard.

"They're alright?" The men are bunching in around him, straining for the words, for reassurance, for their children's voices.


"That's not what I asked, dammit." Damn you.

"You don't say," drawls the voice.

"Let me talk to them. Nothing happens until then." Nothing happens without them. And if they're hurt… if Aoko is hurt… his shoulders aching from tenseness, he tries to force himself to relax. It's like putting on more speed going around a curve, just makes him feel closer to spinning out.

There is a rattling sound from the other side of the phone, it might be a sigh, or a laugh. Nakamori glances at the men around him, those closest watching him with desperate, hungry eyes.

"Daddy?" It's a the voice of a young boy, but all Nakamori knows is that it isn't Aoko. He holds the phone away from his ear, and the boy says again, "Daddy?" high voice cutting through the room.

Takarai starts forward on shaking legs, grabs the phone in white hands. "Shin? Are you alright?"

He can hear the high ramble of the boy's voice, but with the phone next to Takarai's ear can't make out the words. After a minute the man's eyes narrow. "You fucking bastard, you hurt them and I'll – " face contorting in fury, the first Nakamori has ever seen in him, he snarls and hands the phone back to the inspector.

"Well?" asks the voice sardonically. Nakamori looks to Takarai, standing at his left shoulder.

"Are they alright?"

"He says so, sir. Scared, and a little roughed up, but alright. Says Oba-san and Onee-chan are looking after them." The man is still ram-rod stiff, but already his eyes are beginning to loosen, face taking on the hunted look of earlier. Takarai isn't built to carry rage, is one of those men who can only cram it in and hold it at the height of emotional intensity.

Beside him Sawara sighs in relief, shoulders slumping. Nakamori, heart tight, turns his attention back to the phone.

"Alright. What do you want?"

"That's simple, Inspector. The same thing you do. Kaitou 1412."

For a minute, Nakamori freezes, mind unable to work. All the cogs and wheels stopped dead, frozen and dusty and utterly unable to turn out the thought that's called for. And then, "You want us to catch Kaitou Kid? We've been trying for the past 20 years, dammit. Wait like everyone else!"

"Unfortunately, we're rather impatient. We would like Kid, delivered, by midnight of the 24th."

"That's the day after tomorrow!"


"That's impossible; you think we can just try harder and he'll be in handcuffs?"

"I think, Inspector, that if you don't, you'll have the kids' blood on your hands. You should thank us for the motivation. But don't worry – the deadline isn't absolute. You have the chance to save some of them until we run out of hostages. And I'll add in a bonus: we'll accept him alive or dead. Feel free to shoot him on sight; should make your job easier."

"You – "

"We'll be in contact, Inspector. Better step up your performance." There's a click, then the soft beep-beep-beep of a dead line.

For a minute Nakamori holds the phone in a grip so tight the handset shakes while he grits his teeth until his jaw aches with the effort of not throwing the thing across the room. Then he expels all his breath at once, ribs contracting harshly, and slams it into its cradle hard enough to make the desk shake. Turns to the others.

"We have until midnight the day after tomorrow to deliver Kid, dead or alive, or they start killing the hostages – one a day." He thought hostages would be easier than children. It's not. Not when everyone knows exactly what it means.

Sawara slumps against the table, face hidden but shoulders trembling. Yamamoto crosses his arms across his wide chest, so tense he's shaking slightly.

The door opens slowly, and Oogawa steps back in, eyes narrowed and lip caught between his teeth. My god, they look horrible, he thinks. Turning towards Oogawa he catches sight of himself in the window turned into a mirror in the darkness, and is shocked to see his own face contracted in barely controlled fear, pain. He closes his eyes and tries once again to relax; it's like eating glass.


"The call came from a cell, sir. I'm running it through the company records, but odds are it was stolen. Probably in a dumpster by now. Location's down by the shipping yards. I sent some uniforms down, but ten to one…" they won't find anything goes unsaid. Oogawa technically has no power to give orders to any uniform other than those in the room unless in hot pursuit of the Kid – Section Two Superintendant Higashiyama saw to that after the hospital fiasco – but he's not the kind to let that stop him. Nakamori wonders who he bullied or bought, what favours he pulled in. He strides over to rejoin the group around the desk with calm movements and unfocused eyes.

"Well, we know at least whoever these bastards are, they've got a grudge against the Kid. Run checks on everyone he's stolen from, threatened to steal from, or just pissed off starting today and working backwards. Nishiki syndicate is top of the list; maybe they're trying to finish what they started four months back. We're looking for someone with enough manpower to hit five homes simultaneously." The fury pouring through his blood like liquid fire is enough to make him forget any worries about his authority for the moment; all he knows is that he's going to find these sons of bitches before they have a chance to hurt anyone.

The door opens again, and he pauses mid-order, teeth shutting with a click, as the men sent out earlier return. Hoshino's carrying a single piece of paper, Ohara is empty-handed.

"Sorry, sir, no – " begins Ohara.

"Yes, we know." He begins to address the rest again, "So – "

"Sir, this just came off the fax for the lieutenant." Hoshino hurries across the room and makes to hand it to Oogawa, who nods to indicate Nakamori. The inspector grabs the cheap paper and scans it, vision tightening. He's half crushed the paper before he even realises it.

"Sir?" asks Oogawa tersely from his right.

"It says the phone used belongs to one Nakamori Aoko, goddamn them to hell!" he rips the sheet in half and throws the pieces away, curses again when with the infuriating temerity of paper they come floating back to brush against his legs. He closes his eyes, presses the bridge of his nose with his right hand until his skull doesn't feel like it's about to shatter.

"All of you," he opens his eyes and singles out the men along the walls with a glance, "start digging." Here he pauses. All the men he would have put in charge, the men with seniority, are standing next to him. "Shimaishi, you're in charge; organize whatever turns up by order of likelihood; see if you can get any helpful details from the wives. At least we can exclude the Kid from the lists of suspects." Ten minutes ago he would have been happy; now he has no time or emotion to spare for it. "Don't go sticking your noses into Section One's investigation; as far as they're concerned we're just hypothesising."

"Yes, sir."

"Then get to it."

The men flee with a chorus of "yes, sir"s, leaving the room feeling suddenly large, cold and empty. As a victim, he has no right to be in command here. And as a victim, he doesn't want to hand it over to anyone else. There's an awkward transitioning pause as the men wait for him to speak and he waits for the strength to say what he has to say.

"Look, you four… this investigation should be headed by someone else," he says finally, forcing an emotionless tone against all feeling. Looks to Oogawa before the man can stand up for him and silences him with a stare, Sawara still staring dumbly at the floor.

"Sir, we all know you're the most experienced man in the Force when it comes to the Kid, and anyone involving him. Bringing someone else in … they'll take two days just trying to round up suspects. And we don't have two days." Yamamoto, calm and controlled, manages even the last sentence almost smoothly.

"I have no impartiality," he argues.

"Good," growls Washio.

"I can't give orders to men in the same situation as myself." He can expect them to obey orders they disagree with when it comes to the Kid, or their comrades, or even themselves. But their children? It does not and cannot work; any cop knows that.

"Sir, we all understand the chain of command." Oogawa, gentle, quiet as though speaking to a small animal. He knows just as well as Nakamori that parental instincts trump training every time. But they don't have a lot of options. At least, not that they can accept. "If we're going to work this case backwards, only the Task Force has the necessary knowledge to stand a chance of succeeding in the time frame. And … if we need to find the Kid … you've got the best chance of doing it. Sir."

"Can't you pull in a favour, sir?" says Takarai in an uneven voice, and the room freezes.

Nakamori turns to him, face white. None of the Force has spoken aloud of the Kid's escape from Tokyo Gen., and although Nakamori is sure they all have their suspicions neatly lined up only four men know the truth. That Nakamori ordered the officers out of the room to clear the way for Kid's disappearance. And that they lied to protect their superior.

"Takarai," hisses Oogawa, furious. Nakamori ignores him, lets the confrontation slip away, still-birthed.

"Sawara? What do you think?"

"I want my wife back," says the man thinly. He looks up at Nakamori with cold eyes, hard and brittle as flint. "I'll do anything to get her back. But I don't trust anyone outside the Squad to do it."

Nakamori sighs. "Fine. We'll conduct our own operation. You and your families will comply with the Section One investigation. No doubt your wives can," he pauses at the sudden fear which passes almost simultaneously across the men's faces. And remembers – a ghost of a memory, pictures and sound without any feeling – what it meant to have a wife. To have someone who shared his love for Aoko. To have someone he loved and protected as an equal. It sounds ridiculous and trite, but it has been so long – so long – since he last thought of a wife as something other than a hand to help with the house or a possible witness in an investigation. "Sorry. I forgot – " forgot something 13 years ago he thought he'd never be able to, not even with the help of an entire bar's worth of liquor, not with anything short of a bullet to the brain. He doesn't want to remember, not if it means going back those days of undirected grief and rage, but gods it hurts to realise he's forgotten. He sees compassion in Oogawa, who doubtless remembers those days and the aftermath, and vague confusion from the rest.

"You should go home to your wives," he says gruffly. "They must be frantic."

"Sir, with respect, they'd be a damn sight happier knowing we were doing something to get the kids back, rather than moping at home." Washio, terse and irritated. The others don't contradict him.

Nakamori nods. "At your discretion, then." He leans back against the desk. And pauses. He's been considering options since the call come in – all of them have. But whoever's behind this is no idiot. And unless they catch a break, two days is no better than a death sentence.

"There's another option," he says at last, staring pointedly into the distance. The option he knew it would come down to as soon as he hung up. "We arrange a meeting with the Kid." He draws the words out long and thin, stretching the string of his reluctance out as far as he can.

"A trap?" breaks in Washio impatiently. "How?"

"Kid's responded to forged letters before," says Oogawa slowly. Nakamori can feel his lieutenant's eyes on him.

"So we catch him and hand him over?" asks Washio, very carefully.

Nakamori turns to look at him with hard eyes, trying to read the man's thoughts and running straight into a wall. Washio's never been open, never been personable, and Nakamori doesn't know him. Doesn't know if he hates the Kid, or respects him, or is completely indifferent. Doesn't know which way he'll jump on any number of questions which could be the difference between success and tragedy, and that's damn scary. If he could he would take him off the case, but the very reason the man's likely to be particularly dangerous is the reason he has to be on it. "That's a possibility," Nakamori says flatly, and there is no hesitation or procrastination here. "But it's not one I can agree to. I will step down rather than authorize it."

"Would you sacrifice your child – all the children – to protect the Kid?" The same careful tone, no implication, no partiality. Only curiosity, the intense need to know where matters stand.

"I will not resort to kidnapping and bargaining with lives; fucking Hollywood can give you all the reasons you need. But I won't sacrifice anyone either. No." He pauses, lets his blood cool and then looks around with sharp eyes. "But the option I have to suggest doesn't come without a cost. I suggest we ask the Kid for his help."

There's a long silence.

"Do you think he'll give it?" Takarai, carefully sticking his hand into the fire again.

"Kid hates loss of life. And I believe after all these years, he may have a soft spot for the Task Force. I think he'll help." He did before, without request, without benefit, without anything except a huge list of reasons not to. "I'll put an ad in the paper and meet Kid, alone. Any cop caught meeting or dealing with him will lose his job regardless of circumstance. Higashiyama will see to that." The Superintendant made that point abundantly clear after Tokyo General.

"Sir," says Yamamoto wryly, "we'd rather lose our jobs than our families."

"You don't have to."

"Yes, we do." Sawara, quiet and firm.

"Fine. I'll put the ad in. Meeting time 10pm, that'll give Kid the security of darkness. Place – the roof here'd be easiest, but if we didn't catch him in our own station Higashiyama'd can the whole Squad."

"Sir, is there any way you could communicate more privately? Whoever's got the kids'll see the paper as well, and if we don't show up with the Kid after that…" Takarai flushes and keeps his gaze from Oogawa.

"Contrary to popular opinion, I don't actually know who the Kid is, nor do I have a goddamn private line to him," growls Nakamori. And then pauses. Because while he doesn't know the thief's identity, he does know one thing that's not common knowledge. That the world-famous Kaitou is in fact a high school student. An exceptionally bright high school student of means who has been particularly active in the city's bay area.

"There is," he continues, "a possibility of narrowing the circulation. But if it doesn't work, we'll be up the river without even a canoe, never mind the paddles." He passes dark eyes over the others.

"Do you think it will work, sir?" Yamamoto is watching him with hungry eyes. Hungry eyes which want to believe.

"I think … there's a good chance. But there're plenty of ways it could go wrong."

"More wrong than those bastards finding out we've laid a trap for the Kid and haven't turned up with him?" Washio, still blunt and abrasive. Nakamori is unsure how strongly the man had been considering handing the thief over; whether he still wants to. Wishes like hell he could know.

"No. But if it fails we'll have to advertise in the mass media and have less than 24 hours – 12 from time of circulation – to arrange a plan." Nakamori closes his eyes, fingers itching for a cigarette but feeling somehow incapable of lighting one.

"If it were up to you alone, sir?"

"If it were up to me… I would keep it out of the papers as long as possible." He feels more than sees Oogawa nod, turns to look to the others. Yamamoto follows suit almost immediately. Takarai pauses, eyes wide and uncertain, before doing the same.

"Yes," whispers Sawara without looking. Nakamori turns to Washio, the unknown element. 4 months in the Task Force, not even close to Oogawa. No one to help him read the man, to reassure him, and hating the fact that he has to distrust a man due to privacy, which he of all people believes is a right. Washio glances at the others and then back to Nakamori, eyes watchful. "Alright, sir." There's a reluctance there which Nakamori can't fault but doesn't like all the same.

"Then go home. Cooperate with the investigations. Shimaishi'll contact you if anything turns up. I'll set the meeting for 10pm tomorrow, on the roof."

"Will he come here? It's an obvious trap."

"Not anymore than any of his announced heists; we're always on scene long beforehand there. No; if he gets it, he'll come."

"How can you be so sure, sir?" Takarai.

"Because the bait will be the only inheritance of any value in the Nakamori family."