Hakuba finally arrived at the Budokan and paused for a full thirty seven point six seconds to catch his breath, wipe his brow of sweat, and adjust various articles of his clothing to look presentable, including fixing his cuffs until exactly half an inch of their pristine whiteness showed from under his overcoat. More than half of him wanted to just dive into the octagonal building and start demanding answers, but he ultimately refused to let Kaito think his possible imprisonment had that much of an affect on him and besides, he rationalized, he needed to look presentable. He was representing his father and he didn't want to be mistaken for anything less than perfect.
Taking a deep breath, he stuffed his gloved hands into his pockets and strode into the Budokan, eyes darting back and forth to find any source of activity. The building was huge, holding many events at once, and it was likely that the murder was being quietly pushed to one side. The blond was about to pull out his cell and text Aoko where she was when,
Turning his head, Hakuba found himself staring at a girl in a karate uniform, long dark hair falling behind her back. She looked familiar, but Hakuba wasn't sure from where. "Yes?" he asked, courtesy taking over.
"We thought it would be a good idea for me to lead you up to the conference room where the investigation is being held," she offered by way of explanation, stepping ahead of him and already making impressive strides. Hakuba quickly followed, trying to place where'd he seen the girl from even as he processed the information.
"You were talking to Aoko-kun," he conjectured.
"Yes," she replied. "We met before the tournament; she was watching Conan-kun for me while I was competing. I've been... helping her and Kaito-san through this."
Conan... now that was a name he knew, the boy popping up on many a Kid heist and butting his nose in. Nakamori spoke of the boy on occasion and his irritating guardian, Mori Kogo-- "We met at the Sunset Mansion, did we not?" he queried. "When the detectives were all gathered and 'killed' off in search of the treasure that Kaitou Kid was rumored to be looking for. Kaitou Kid impersonated your father."
"You have a good memory, Hakuba-san," the girl, Ran, that was her name, said. "Yes, we've met before."
"I see." Filing that away for later use, Hakuba continued to follow her, hoping to get an assessment of the situation. "Has anyone been arrested yet? I'd like to see the place of the murder if I can. Aoko-kun said something about a storage closet? Where is everyone now, and who is in charge of the investigation?"
"I'm sorry, Hakuba-san," Ran offered, "but I've been with Aoko-san the whole time, so I don't know all the details I know that you want. The one to talk to is Conan-kun."
"The boy? What on earth for?"
Exiting the elevator, Ran led Hakuba around the corner to a conference room. She simply smiled. "Because Conan-kun often sees little details that can break a case wide open. He's my father's good luck charm!" There was a pregnant pause as Hakuba stared at the girl, not quite believing what she was saying; after all, how could a child be a good luck charm? He couldn't deny that the boy had skill for noticing details; even he had picked up on who the murderer was at the Sunset Mansion, and he had been precocious enough to suggest that the old woman would confess to a child, but he hardly had any kind of assessment of the boy's abilities. He found it more than a little daunting that a kid could be that helpful on a case.
Still, he was hardly one to look a gift horse in the mouth, if the child really did notice details, then so much the better for Hakuba.
"I brought him up, Conan-kun," Ran said brightly. She stepped into the room, Hakuba close behind her. A large table was the centerpiece of the room, surrounded by black office chairs and, spinning in one of them, was the tiny child in glasses. He looked up with a bright and boyish face.
"Hi, Hakuba-nii-chan!" he chirped brightly. "Oh, where are my manners? Have a seat!"
............ Not exactly what Hakuba was expecting. The child looked just like that, a child. Frowning, the blond took a seat across from the child, suddenly fearful that this would be a waste of time.
"Mori-kun," he said, turning to the girl in the karate uniform. "I would like to look at the crime--!" He sucked in a breath as something stung at the base of his neck. He moved to put his palm on the sore, but it was too heavy, and the world was slowly fading from.... him... so tired..........
"Hakuba-nii-chan?" a muffled, far away voice asked. "Are you alright?"
Conan lowered his watch and crawled over the table. It was the first time he'd ever stung the half-British detective, and he wanted to be sure he got it right. Ran waited tensely at the door.
The boy sighed. "We're set," he said, turning to the love of his life. "Can you get everyone in here? Including Hoshizuki?"
"Yes, right away," Ran said quickly, ducking out of the door while Conan positioned the blond and hid under the table, pulling out his bowtie and adjusting the dial. He wondered dimly if Kid--Kuroba--had a device like this for his impersonations or if it was raw talent. Never mind, better to not think on that now. Conan took a deep breath and mentally rearranged his thought process and speech pattern to that of Hakuba's. His accent wasn't too strong, so he doubted he'd struggle as much as he did the one time he'd imitated Hattori.
Slowly, the cast arrived.
The dove that had been perching intermittently on his shoulder cooed softly in his ear, dipping its head repeatedly as its master, Kuroba, arrived with Aoko in hand. Conan tensed as he realized he didn't know how Hakuba addressed them.
Aoko slammed her fists on the table, rattling it over the faux grade schooler's head. "Hakuba-kun! Where the hell have you been? You haven't answered any of my texts for the last hour and now you have the gall to sit there smugly in that chair and--"
Conan was quickly coming to fear a debauchery of his little charade, but Kuroba's voice interceded. "Aoko, hey, listen! I'm about to perform a miracle! Make sure you take this down!"
"What?" the girl growled.
"I'm going to defend Hakuba; isn't that cause for celebration? Or at least running away in terror?"
Even Conan, under the table, was shocked stupid.
"What? I'll get even odds he ran all the way here after he got off the train. He's probably out of breath and all hot and bothered so much he can't even think of talking to poor 'Aoko-kun and Kuroba-kun.' So? Am I right? Sagi-chi?"
Conan took a moment to balk at the nickname under the table before hastily speaking into his voice-changing necktie. "Are you really that desperate to go to jail, Kuroba-kun?" he asked in wry tones, "Surely you realize I can prove your innocence."
The thief fell silent, but Aoko exclaimed, "You can? Then do it now!"
"Patience, Aoko-kun," Conan offered. "Trickery of this level requires an appropriate stage to unravel, as I'm sure even Kuroba-kun would admit."
"Saguru-kun? What are you doing here?" That was the teacher, Katanaka, so Conan knew the quiet Junko was likely on her arm; this was confirmed as he saw two new sets of legs appear under the table. The dove ruffled its feathers on his shoulder and fluttered to his knee.
"I am here to clean up a mess, Katanaka-sensei," Conan said smoothly with Hakuba's voice. "One created by only the most vindictive and evil of acts, one created by murder."
"Who is this?" Hoshizuki's voice demanded as Ran quietly ushered him in.
"Hakuba Saguru," Conan said with confidence. "I heard of this travesty from Aoko-kun here, and came here to help clear the matter up."
"As if a teenager could solve this case as quickly as I have," the self-important man said with a smug veneer or contempt.
"That is perhaps true," Conan said in even tones, hearing a gasp from somewhere in the crowd, "I, a teenager, did solve this case - because I have uncovered the truth of this case; a truth that was so obvious that even someone such as you should have noticed, and I saw it as soon as everyone walked into this room."
There was a chorus of "Eeeeh?" that filled the conference room, and Conan offered a grim smile of satisfaction to the small dove on his knee. It faded quickly as he looked closely at the bird... was this the one he'd tended to, nursed to health before the Memories Egg Heist? He shook his head again, focusing on his presentation.
"I saw the utility closet before I came here," Conan said using Hakuba's voice. "The trick for the murder was efficiently simple." He paused, letting the information sink in. "The culprit clearly has a high set of skills to carry it out. The culprit, for whatever reason, could not get hold of a gun, and so created a skillful mock-up using a pipe, a custom made firing pin, and some string. Placing and weighting the pipe on a shelf in the utility closet, the culprit strung up the string to the door. When the door opened, the string pulled taught and cocked the mock-up; closing the door pulled the string again, causing the firing pin to do its job and the bullet was allowed to exit the pipe chamber and penetrate the victim."
"We already know this," Hoshizuki said with importance.
"But perhaps what was overlooked was the particular set of skills required to make such a mock-up. That level of precision and handling can't be done by just anyone."
"Of course, which is why Kuroba is the--"
"No," Conan said in a stern tone. "He does possess the skills, of course, any magician of his level has to in order to perpetrate high end magic, but he is not the only one. Katanaka-sensei has more than an adequate knowledge of guns, given she knew what the cocking of a gun sounds like and was able to identify the GSR on the murder weapon."
"How do you know that?" Katanaka demanded, "You just got here!"
"The boy, Conan-kun," Shinichi said, trying to hide a smug grin in his voice. "He has an excellent memory and relayed what he learned from his 'interview' with you." There was a pause, indicating acquiescence, and so Conan pressed on, holding his bowtie closer. "But while you have the knowledge, Katanaka-sensei, you do not have the skills.
"Isn't that right, Minagami Junko-kun?"
Conan paused again, letting the revelation settle over the group. The stunned silence was palpable, and Conan saw more than a few sets of legs go rigid. He waited for the reaction, having already guessed most of them.
First, Aoko: "Are you crazy? Bad enough that Kaito's being accused but now poor Junko-chan?"
Then Katanaka: "Saguru-kun, how one earth can you possibly think--?"
Hoshizuki: "I fail to see how--"
Conan lowered his tie and pulled himself out from under the table, startling the dove while he put on a sleepy boy face. "Neee," he whined, "I was almost asleeeep. You're all being ruuude." He only had time to see Ran quickly covering her mouth and hide a snort of laughter before he let himself drip back down to the ground and hide under the table. The dove cooed indignantly, but fluttered back over to his lap, nipping at the boy's sleeves.
"As I was saying," Conan continued in Hakuba's voice.
"How," came a soft whisper. "How can you say that I did that?"
"Because you have the skills," Conan said in cold tones. He had no sympathy for murderers, even in circumstances like hers. "You constructed the mock-up before coming here, but you needed time to set up the mechanism and the string. Likely it was why you were late for meeting your brother, coming upon him as he was making yet another scene with Kuroba-kun and Aoko-kun. You only had the one bullet, you could not risk it going off by accident; and so after you set everything up you left the door only slightly ajar, not completely closed, to save your precious bullet for the assigned target."
"But," the girl said in a low voice, "wasn't there a note from Kaito-kun to meet him there?"
"An obvious deception that your brother fell for, just as you wanted him to," Conan said with confidence. "The bitter argument between the two is well known, and Kuroba-kun makes an easy scapegoat. You set the murder up as you did so that you could be nowhere near the crime of course, but also because you could use the Magic Bullet to make Kuroba-kun an easy mark. You even staged that over-dramatized reaction, reminding everyone of the Magic Bullet; but that was your first trip up. For a student as quiet and unassuming as you, the reaction was a little strong - even for a girl who just lost her beloved brother."
"Even if..." the girl stuttered. Conan could see the girl gripping her fists under the table. "Even if what you say is true... what proof... there's no proof, is there?"
Conan's face hardened, the dove still cuddling in his lap.
"The burns," he said simply through the bowtie, Hakuba's voice as hard as his face.
He could feel the surprise radiate off the room.
"You've kept your hands carefully hidden this evening; hiding them with your hair as your cried into your hands, keeping your arms crossed or under a table, but just now when you entered the room, you slipped up. You put your hands on the table as you sat down, before your folded them under the table. Soldering often leaves burns, and for a mechanism as detailed as the one you made, it is more than logical for them to be on the fingertips, much like the burns on yours."
There was a pregnant pause as everyone swiveled their heads to stare at Junko, but she stubbornly kept her hands under the table. Conan lowered his bowtie and crawled under the table. Taking the dove, he gently tossed the bird onto the murderer's lap. The desired reaction happened, the girl startled and floundered backwards, involuntarily flapping her arms about in reaction.
From under the table Conan watched as Kuroba grabbed the girl's wrist while the dove at last joined his master, and the fingertip burns were plain for all to see.
"... Junko-kun..." Katanaka muttered in surprise.
"Why?" Aoko demanded. "Why? He was your brother!"
Conan lifted his bowtie. "Because he was too restrictive for her," he said in low tones. "His traditional opinions and domineering attitude prevented her from admitting the truth."
Kaito picked up. "That she was in love with Katanaka-sensei."
The teacher startled, her blue shawl falling off one shoulder. "What?"
The girl finally looked up, her face torn in anguish. "He said it was wrong, to like girls; he said it was disgusting." Her face suddenly hardened to the one she had when she leapt at Kuroba, as she turned to the magician. "He said it was your fault. It was; it was your fault that he found out. That joke, that infamous joke that you don't remember, you outed me! You impersonated Nii-san and told her," she jabbed her free thumb at Aoko, "to kiss me! I couldn't hide after that! It's all your fault! It's all--" her voice broke, "all your fault!" the energy seeped out of her, and she sank to her knees.
Conan stepped out from under the table, making himself known again. "If it was really Kaito-nii-chan's fault," he said softly, hands in his pockets. The dove floated back to his shoulder, "then why didn't you kill him? You didn't, because the only fault to be had is yours."
Junko could only continue to cry.
Kaito and the others watched the spectacle, his emotions all over the place. One part of him marveled at Kudo's presentation; it was masterfully done, from Hakuba's impersonation to his skillful manipulation of the crowd by playing the tired little boy to the ingenious use of his dove to expose Junko - artistically poetic, even ironic, and Kaito could only have deep admiration for the show, from one professional to another.
Another side of him felt nothing but gratitude towards the teen toddler. He spent most of the time mentally cheering for Kudo at the top of his lungs: "Go Kudo! Go, go Kudo!" Knowing that the moment of his exoneration was finally at hand, it was everything he could do to not bounce on his feet in anticipation.
A third piece, however, as he learned who the murderer was and why, brought only negative feelings in him. He remembered the comment now, running from Aoko and her mop and doing a quick-change into Minagami and simply saying, "Kiss my sister Junko and we'll call it even." It was so harmless at the time, the entire school knew that Junko liked girls, and Kaito really didn't think anything of it. That it precipitated this, that it caused Junko to be pushed so far into a corner by her brother that she felt murder was the only option... It was sobering. He wondered dimly if all the people he stole from, all the reputations he ruined, all the general upset he caused with his night work caused other tragedies like this. He never paid much attention to people after a heist; it was done, there was no reason to revisit it, but now he felt the irrepressible urge to check up on all his old marks, to see how they were doing.
Then Conan stepped out from under the table, Kaito's dove again flapping her wings to join him, and he spoke. "If it was really Kaito-nii-chan's fault, why didn't you kill him?" The teen magician blinked. "You didn't, because the only fault to be had is yours." The disguised detective looked up to Kaito as Junko continued to wail, his eyes narrow but somehow soft. "Kaito-nii-chan, he's a jerk and he's a jokester, and he's a pain in the butt, but he never sets out to hurt people." Lowering his gaze back to Junko, he continued, "But you know? If you told people and asked for help, you wouldn't have had to do that to your own brother."
A silent moment hung in the air, everyone staring at Junko, balling on the floor and unable to stop. Nobody knew quite what to do, even Kaito, but even as he looked to the chibi Kudo he saw the boy was already one step ahead.
He gave a great yawn, loud and drawn out, coupled with an arc of his back and an impressive stretch of his arms over his head. "Ne, Ran-nee-chan," he asked in a whiny voice. "Can we go home now? I think it's past my bedtime."
It seemed to break everyone out of their daze - even Hakuba, the teen magician noticed, as the blond rubbed his eyes and stilled, trying to assess what just happened without showing his panic at the blank in his memory.
The girlfriend, Ran, came over and took Conan's tiny hand in hers, offering a small smile and turning to the detective in charge, Hoshizuki. "Well?" she asked expectantly, "Aren't you going to arrest her? Hoshizuki-san?"
"Excuse me," the detective said in self-important tones, "but please address me by my title."
Conan looked up, his eyes a little too bright for a sleepy boy. "Ne, ne, Hoshizuki-nii-chan, just what is your title? You never said."
Kaito put it together quicker than anyone else, and his head swiveled over to the egotistical man. "The kid's right," he said quickly, "you never gave us your title, and you've had to bully the other cops to get them to do what you want, and you act like a total rookie. Just what kind of officer are you? If all this trouble was because of--"
Hakuba stood from his chair, stepping around the table to intercede. Kaito could see he was still trying to figure out what happened, and an evil corner in the back of his head wanted to milk this, but the situation wasn't appropriate for it. "This can very easily be cleared up," the blond said smoothly, "Just show me your credentials and we can put the matter to bed."
Kaito did everything he could to hide the snort at the comment.
"I've no reason to listen to the impudent demands of a teenage--"
"A teenage detective who solved the case instead of just butting his nose in looking important!" Aoko cried out. Kaito could see her fingers itching for a mop. "I want to see your credentials, too! My father's a cop and I know what an authentic badge looks like, so cough it up!"
"Ne, ne," Conan added, his smug little face entirely too bright, "Can I see, too? Do they look like Ojii-chan's? Or Megure-keibu's? Or Takagi-keiji's or Sato-nee-chan's or Shiratori-keiji's?"
Hoshizuki, suddenly crowded by teenagers - and a teen turned toddler - was balking at what to do, but Hakuba cut off any protests the small man was going to make.
"If I were a betting man," the blond half-Brit said in cold eloquence, "I would imagine you're not affiliated with Inspector Megure; no, judging from what I've witnessed, I don't think you've even made it to the Major Crimes Unit. You're still a beat cop, looking to utilize this case as a means to boost your career. Am I right?"
Kaito stepped back and watched the show: Aoko's reactions were always beautiful, after all; and he couldn't stop an appreciative smile when she turned beat red.
"THAT'S FALSE PRETENSES!"
And that was how the riot began.
When Megure was called and finally arrived - with the added incentive that the fool Hoshizuki had deliberately given the wrong address to buy more time to make a fool of himself - the tiny man was reduced to a blubbering sack of fear over having to deal with not only Aoko, but all the other suspects that had been mistreated by him to say nothing of the investigators who'd suffered his abuse, to say nothing of Hakuba's quiet disapproval.
Yes, it was better than any matinee, and Kaito was suddenly inspired to become a detective - shows like this were worth seeing. In fact, why not help matters along...
Kaito slid up to the blond Hakuba. "You know," he drawled, slinging an arm over the Brit's shoulder, "I was just thinking about being a detective."
The teen raised a honey-colored eyebrow. "What?" he demanded in a flat voice.
"Sure! No magic show I could ever produce would generate a show like this - and this was spontaneous! Say, you think if I work hard enough I can even join the Kaitou Kid Task Force? Those matinee's must be great!" Under his field of vision, Conan choked.
"We don't do this for the show," Hakuba said, pushing Kaito's hand off his shoulder and turning to face his (alleged) nemesis fully. "We do it for the justice of bringing a culprit down."
"Aw, but 'Guru-myon," Kaito said brightly, loving the blond's wince at the nickname, "Then why were you so dramatic when you pointed out Junko-chan was the murderer?"
Hakuba froze. Oh yes, Kaito was going to milk this, and Milk this Good. "Come on," he drawled, "Don't look so surprised. I've never seen you command a crowd like that; and using my dove was a stroke of genius. How'd you grab it from the ankle-biter? She's been glued to him all evening."
Hakuba's look of I-don't-know-what-you're-talking-about-but-am-stubbornly-refusing-to-let-it-show look was too good for words, and Kaito could only grin widely.
Thank you tantei-kun, he thought to himself, Thank you for saving my life, and thank you for giving me this INCREDIBLE inside joke.
A month later, Nakamori Ginzo was standing in the audience of the rock concert, stubbornly wearing earplugs to keep his ears from ringing days afterward. The band was all right for a rock band, but it just wasn't his style.
Why was he there?
Because Kaitou Kid was going to steal the Eternal Will, a spahlerite that was part of the costume for the lead singer. Of all the ludicrous things! But Nakamori was hardly one to pass up a chance to catch the Kid. After the murder case involving his precious daughter and young Kaito, Nakamori had become very familiar with the Budokan, having wanted to understand every detail of the case. He thought it rather gave him an edge now; surely Kaitou Kid didn't know he had all this inside knowledge of the Budokan.
So imagine his surprise when after a planned puff of smoke there were two lead singers on stage, the two mirroring each other perfectly until they both realized the other was there.
The one on the left turned to the audience.
"Ladies and Gentlemen!"
And the heist began.
Author's Notes: ^_^ Finally! All done with this one. Of the three stories we have in this little series of ours, this is our least favorite. There's just something in the essence and the telling of it that don't feel completely right and just a little bit forced. There are scenes that we like (Kaito's injoke with Hakuba for starters...) but something's just missing when we reread through the story. Meh.
Nobody (save one) predicted that Hakuba would be Conan's puppet for the finale. We like to think we still manage to surprise you readers once in a while. Especially since the vast majority of you guessed (correctly) that it was Junko who was the murderer and some of you even picked up on the fact that she was in in love with Katanaka-sensei. Mysteries are one of the hardest genres out there for us to write, and this shows that we clearly need practice. Ah well. The next story doesn't focus on the mystery so much, so hopefully that will go a bit better.
Before everyone starts asking about Akako, we must painfully admit that we forgot to include her in the grand reveal. Let's just chalk it up to Conan not trusting that she may or may not be Black Organization and doesn't want to deal with her as such. Plus, he has no outright proof that she falsified evidence, so there's not much he can do about it. (Magic doesn't exist, after all...)
We know that all of you are now going to start (im)patiently awaiting the next story, The Case of the Haywire Heist. Well, we're both prepping to give (and then GRADE) final exams, so we don't expect to be alive until the end of June. Expect the next story around then. Plus, as always, we want a sufficient buffer from our beta so we can keep to our usual two-week schedule. This doesn't mean that you have a permanent dry spell until Haywire Heist goes up. We have another Conan cross over that we'll be posting soon, called Previous Engagement. that should tide you over until we can start posting the Haywire Heist.
(Please note, all this scheduling is tentative, depending on when our beta can get back to us on things...)
The Case of the Haywire Heist: Kaitou Kid promised to give one Hattori Heiji a proper heist as thanks for things that happened with a psycho psychologist. It's too bad that things get complicated really fast with Hakuba horning in on Hattori's territory and Conan oddly conflicted on what to do.