AN: Well, it took me five months of hiatus (during which time I studied for, took, and passed my pharmacy technician certification test, which means I get to keep my job, whoo!), but I finally got this done and ready to post. That's right, A Perfect Act finally has a sequel, as promised. This will make a bit more sense if you've read APA, but I tried to include enough details in here that if you're just tuning in, you'll have an idea of what's going on.

I'm still messing about with the outline of this a little bit, but I'm posting this chapter as a sort of commitment that this fic will be written and will be completed. But enough of me babbling, it's time to get our story on! I hope you enjoy the opening. I don't own Detective Conan or Magic Kaito.

Invisible Patterns
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will
themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering
that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.
- Daniel Burnham

"Yo, Keibu!"

Nakamori Ginzo looked up from his desk at the familiar greeting, and was only slightly startled to see his daughter's best friend standing in the doorway, leaning lazily against the frame with one hand in his pocket, and something swinging loosely in his other hand. He was grinning from ear to ear.

The police inspector smiled dryly. "Kaito-kun, have I finally convinced you to start using the door like a normal person?"

Kaito shook his head; his grin grew a bit wider. "Not in a million years. It's more that I hadn't actually planned on coming out here to see you tonight, and so sadly I didn't have anything with me that I could use to scale the building." He pushed away from the doorframe and took a few casual steps into the office. "I actually come bearing a present from your lovely daughter."

The noise Nakamori made was somewhere between a snort and a growl. "Present?"

"She made the comment that you've been working far too hard lately, and she's extremely worried about you and your health. But fear not, inspector of mine!" He held out the item in his free hand—a brown paper bag—with a flourish. "I quelled the lovely Aoko's anger by promising her that I would stop in to check on you and make sure that you ate the dinner she prepared for you."

That earned a small laugh. "I suppose I should be grateful to you that I'm not going to catch hell when I get home, then?"

"So long as you go home fed, you should be fine."

With another chuckle, the inspector held out a hand to accept the proffered paper bag. He opened and slid out the enclosed sandwich and apple while Kaito dropped into the chair on the other side of the desk and made himself comfortable.

Six months ago, this scene never would have crossed Nakamori's mind. Sitting here with Kuroba Kaito in the police office, chatting like the best of friends about the strangest of things. After the events of a night that now seemed years ago, he hadn't been certain he would ever see Kaito again unless it was with bars between them.

Finding out Kaito was Kaitou Kid had been the shock of Nakamori's life. Finding out that singular fact after Kaito had been shot by a bullet intended for the inspector had made for a few very long, very terrifying days as they waited for the young man to awaken, to live or die, as they all tried to come to terms with the betrayal, the secrets, and the lies…and Kaito's new status.

The deal had kept him out of prison and given the police access to his considerable skill set. And the following months had given him plenty of time to prove himself in the eyes of the few law enforcement superiors privy to the arrangement. As was always the case with Kaito, he never did anything by halves; his first official case under the deal involved breaking up a child prostitution ring that had set up business in the city's seedier district and acquired their so-called "merchandise" via kidnapping.

Since then, he hadn't been involved in anything quite as extreme. A good deal of his time was spent at recon, gathering information, and speaking with those who would not otherwise offer any sort of assistance to the police. He had contacts in the underworld, people of a lesser reputation whose trust he had earned; they told him things because they trusted him not to improperly use their testimony or to tell anyone from whom or where he had garnered his information.

What had started as an uneasy, distrustful partnership had started to settle and blossom into a trusted union between two parties who ultimately had identical goals, but vastly different means of reaching those goals. Both parties benefitted from the arrangement; both parties were pleased.

After they had chatted for a few moments, Kaito piped up with a question. "So Aoko says you've been working late the last few nights, and that you seem sort of worried about something. What's up?"

"Just a lot of little things at first," Nakamori said between mouthfuls; he hadn't really realized how hungry he had been until the first meeting of apple and mouth. "But then an officer from another division brought over a file and asked for my opinion on it. I've been mulling over it for the last couple of days. It's sort of a bizarre case."

There was no denying that Kaito's eyes lit up the tiniest bit at the prospect of the unknown. "What kind of case is it?"

"A murder. And a damned odd one at that." One of Nakamori's hands disappeared down into a desk drawer, and when it reappeared it was clutching a standard beige file folder, which he passed across the desk to his young accomplice. "Here's the information. Maybe you can make something of it."

Kaito's face had immediately sobered at the nature of the case. He took the file and immediately began flipping through the information. It was all fairly standard reports at first: autopsy, victim information, and so forth. The victim was a twenty-two-year old man who worked as a software developer. Brown hair, blue eyes. Married, no children. A fairly normal guy who had gone out to the bar with a couple of friends, left early by himself, and vanished into the darkness. He had been found the next night.

Kaito's brow furrowed as he read over the details of the case proper. It was, to say the least, an extremely odd scene. The body had been found on a stage in a high school auditorium, where a janitor had stumbled across it during routine cleaning. The coroner had ruled the cause of death as aphyxiation; bruising patterns on the victim's neck were consistent with tape, and the lack of bruising on the face led police to speculate that the murder weapon was something as commonplace as a plastic bag. The only other wounds on the body were bruises on the wrists and ankles (indicative that the victim had been bound and conscious enough to struggle), and a wound to the back of the head, severe enough to render the victim unconscious, but not enough to kill.

The police's theory was straightforward and followed the evidence: the murderer had smacked the victim in the head with a blunt object hard enough to render him unconscious. While the man was out cold, he had been bound and moved. The story of a stuggle was marked in bruises, which meant that the victim had been at least partially conscious when the bag was pulled over his head and secured around his neck. He had suffocated, presumably while the murderer stood and watched.

But it was the staging of the scene that had baffled everyone the most, and was the clearest indication that the killer had borne witness to the death. When the victim was found, he had been laid out on his back…with a bullet in his chest; he had been shot posthumously. Beside him on the stage were several more bullets, all marked with different designs (as evidenced by a police photo in the file), and a plain white card inscribed with three typed words in English: Lower the curtain.

After he finished reading a few moments later, Kaito glanced back up. "I'm going to go out on a limb and say you don't really have any leads on this one?" It was one of the oddest things he personally had ever read outside of a fictional novel.

"Nothing. The perp didn't even leave a trace of evidence behind, not so much as a smudged fingerprint," Nakamori put his elbow on his desk and let his forehead lull forward into his palm. "Our only potential clue is the staging of the body. That card, the bullets…it's a message of some sort. We just don't have any idea what it could be."

"Was there anything with the victim or his family that this could be linked to?"

"We haven't found anything," Nakamori said. "Hana-san was a computer programmer. Loved baseball, reading, and his wife Maya. His mother said he hadn't been on a stage since his last high school culture festival. This was an up-and-up guy, Kaito-kun. The only skeleton in his closet was taking a candy bar from a convenience store when he was four."

Kaito's eyes dropped back to the assorted papers in his lap. "It's odd, but this feels sort of…I don't know, it's like I've read something like this before. Ever run into a person and you know you've got their name right on the tip of your tongue, but you just can't make it come out right? That's the feeling I've got looking at this."

Nakamori's head snapped up sharply to look at him. "Kaito, if you have anything at all—"

"Just a second, let me think…" Kaito pressed his palm against his forehead. He had a damn near perfect memory, but every now and then it was just a matter of rousing little-used information from where it was resting in the lower parts of his mind and dragging it forward. Now was one of those times.

Nakamori waited with as much patience as he could muster (which admittedly wasn't much), quietly hoping for Kaito to figure out whatever it was that he was trying to figure out. The seconds ticked steadily by on the wall clock as he waited, each feeling a bit longer than the last, just as they usually do when a person is waiting for something important.

When Kaito snapped his fingers and spoke with a triumphant bark, it was so sudden that Nakamori actually jumped in his desk chair, banging his knee on his desk hard enough to elicit a muted round of cursing from the inspector. "Chung Ling Soo!"

The inspector rubbed his aching knee and blinked at the teenager through slightly teary eyes, as though simply by staring he would make the words form some sort of sense. "What?"

Kaito, meanwhile, was smacking himself in the forehead and speaking very fast. "Chung Ling Soo was an American magician of Chinese descent. In order to build up a name for himself, he pretended to be outright Chinese. Changed his name, never spoke English in public, had a translater, started a big public feud with another Chinese performer and so on."

"Interesting, but…what exactly is your point?" Nakamori asked blankly.

"Chung Ling Soo's most famous trick was a magic bullet trick," Kaito said excitedly. "Two of his crew would come up on stage. Audience members would mark the bullets, and then the crew members would fire the guns at him. He would miraculously 'catch' the marked bullets." Kaito even felt the need to accent his statement by making finger-quotes at the appropriate time. "He would just palm them, really, and then pretend to catch them. Usually with his hand, but sometimes he would pretend to catch them in his mouth."

"I think I can guess where this is going…" Nakamori sighed. "The trick went wrong."

"Excellent guess, and one hundred percent right," Kaito nodded. "Improper handling and maintenance of the guns had led to a build-up of gunpowder. One night, when he performed the trick, the build-up led the gun to fire the normal way instead of the stage way. He was shot square on, right in front of his audience. And he said something like, 'Something has gone wrong. Lower the curtain.'"

"That's what the card we found with the body said," the inspector said, comprehension dawning. "And the bullets were—"

"Marked," Kaito said. "For the record, that was the first and last time that Chung Ling Soo ever spoke English in public. He died the following day from his injuries. At the inquest, his wife revealed how the trick was done, and it was ruled an accidental death."

Nakamori managed to look both interested and skeptical at the same time. "So you think that after the murder was committed, the killer staged the scene with the body to be reminiscient of this magician, Chung—what was it again?"

"Chung Ling Soo," Kaito repeated. "And it's the only thing I can think of that uses all the pieces." He glanced back down at the photographs in his lap. "Lower the curtain could be a metaphor for the body being found on the stage, but it doesn't explain a posthumous gunshot to the chest, nor does it explain the marked bullets." With a sigh, Kaito closed the folder and passed it back across the desk to the inspector. "It's extremely twisted, Keibu, and it's theatrical even by my standards, and I couldn't even begin to tell you the reasons behind it, but that's what I think. All the pieces fit together that way."

"Emulating the death of a famous magician," Nakamori murmured. He reached across the desk and grabbed the phone. "Just stay put for a moment, would you Kaito-kun?" A quick dial later, and Nakamori was on the phone with one of his superiors. One of the ones who was in the know regarding Kaito's arrangement with the police.

Kaito waited obediently while the inspector told the man on the other end of the line about the possibility of a new development in the bizarre murder case. As he listened, he found himself realizing that he may have just inadvertantly gotten himself involved in a murder investigation, whether he really wanted to be involved or not.

-o-

"So Dad tells me that you're helping him with a case?" Aoko asked in That Tone. It was a specific tone of voice that she used when the question itself was innocent and conversational, but the discussion that promised to follow would most likely be anything but, and she wanted him to be aware of it.

He grinned at her over his shoulder from where he stood at the sink, washing some dishes for his mother; Aoko had stayed for dinner while her father was once again working late. "He speaks the truth. He showed me something related to a case he's working on, and I noticed something about it. Seems to have given the investigation a bit of a jump-start. I'm being brought on as a consultant. As myself this time, no less. Not as…well, my alter ego."

Kid still stood between them, but it was less a painful matter now as it was more something they were both wholly aware of, but more often than not just did not discuss. It was easier that way. Aoko had made her grudging peace with the fact that her best friend was a criminal (of sorts, given his current situation), but she still preferred not to outright talk about it.

"Tell me about the case," she said in that same tone. If he did not answer, he was in big trouble. That much was certain. "Or at least tell me whatever you can about it." There had been a few times where he outright couldn't say anything, as much for her protection as for his own and everyone else's.

He could have played the confidential card, but he didn't feel like it, and he was tired of keeping Aoko out of the loop. "It's a murder case. Someone killed a man, then staged the scene around his body to look like the very strange death of a famous magician. It's pretty bizarre."

"Since Dad barely knows anything about magicians beyond the one card trick your dad taught him years ago, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you were the one who made that connection," Aoko postulated. She had moved from the table to lean against the counter next to Kaito as he rinsed the next newly-cleaned plate.

"I was," he admitted without bragging. "Sounds like the whole department was stumped over this one, and the researchers hadn't found the necessary connection yet. It just doesn't make any sense why someone would go to all that trouble, ya know?"

"So what are you going to do now?" she asked.

"Your dad is getting together some files for me. Unsolved murders. This whole thing doesn't feel like the work of an amatuer, and a first-time killer probably wouldn't start with anything this fancy. Way too risky. It's all too specific. So—"

"You're going back through the old files and hoping to find some others that might send up red flags," Aoko finished his sentence for him. "Look for a pattern, and try to determine whether or not you've got a serial killer on your hands." At his raised eyebrow, she grinned. "I'm a police officer's daughter, Kaito. I've picked up a thing or two over the years."

"I know, I know," he chuckled. "At least this time I can be open with my assistance, not acting like a secret agent and hiding in the shadows. That'll be a nice change of pace." The last clean glass was put in the drainer to dry, and he turned to face he completely, drying his hands on the dishtowel. "We'll see what happens, I guess."

One of Aoko's hands came up to brush a piece of lint away from his sleeve before resting on his shoulder. "Just promise me you'll be careful, okay? Don't need you nearly getting yourself killed again."

"I don't think there's much chance of anything happening to me on this case," Kaito said. "But I promise." As he leaned down to steal a quick kiss, he reflected, not for the first time, how glad he was that he no longer had to lie to her about things.

-o-

Of all the things Kaito should have felt over this case, he felt sort of bad that one of the main things he felt was amusement. It wasn't so much amusement at there being a potential serial killer on the loose, nor was it amusement at people being killed.

It was amusement at the fact that he had been put through the confidentiality rigamarole before being allowed into the file room in the first place. Really, he could have just snuck in during the night and taken care of it without anyone even knowing he was here. But oh well, such was the way of things.

Besides, as he'd told Aoko, it was rather nice to be able to help out openly with a case under his own name and with his own face, instead of being the 'anonymous source' in the darkness who brought the police information and witness testimony before vanishing once more into the night and the seedy shadows of the criminal underworld.

He had been down here for several hours now, sifting through stacks of police files. All of them murders, and all of them cases that had gone cold within the last two years. If it was deemed necessary, he would go back further. In the meantime, this was a starting point.

There were two piles of folders sitting on the table around him. The far larger one consisted of ones that didn't seem to ring any bells or set off any red flags in his mind. Those were the ones he would eventually put back onto the shelves with the rest of the unsolved crimes to await the day that some intrepid detective would reopen the files and finally piece together what had happened and close the case for the victim.

At the moment he could not help those poor souls. He tried not to feel guilty about it, focusing on his task instead. The Chung Ling Soo copycat had left a bad taste in his mouth.

The smaller pile actually consisted of only two folders at the moment. These were ones that were strange and merited a second look, to Kaito's mind. If his hunch was correct, then those were the ones that could potentially link to the body that had surfaced a week ago and give them the official nod that there was a lot more going on than they had first suspected.

Finally, he finished and set about putting the majority of the files away. The pile that he had mentally labeled "Case of Possible Relevance" now consisted of an astonishing five folders, though he would freely admit that it was entirely possible that he was wrong about some or all of them.

But his gut told him that he wasn't, no matter how much he desperately wished that he was.

-o-

The table in the conference room was surrounded by people, primarily homicide detectives. Nakamori was there as well, having brought the serial killer possibility to light and for having suggested Kaito as a consultant in the first place. Two of the higher-ups were also in attendance. Everyone was no little alarmed at the possibility of there having been a serial killer right under their noses for any length of time without them knowing about it or doing anything actively to try and stop it.

Finally, Nakamori rose and cleared his throat. The room fell silent quickly. "All right, let's get this meeting started. My name is Nakamori. I usually work on theft cases, Kaitou Kid heists in particular. As most of you know, it appears that we have a very big problem on our hands: a potential serial killer. Due to the nature of this case, we have a couple of expert consultants who have been brought on board to assist in getting this matter settled as quickly as possible."

The unspoken coda to that statement was 'before there are more victims.' No one said it, but everyone heard it, and nodded their assent.

"This is Kuroba Kaito," Nakamori gestured to the young man sitting beside him. "Don't let his age fool you, he knows just about everything there is to know about magic and magicians. He's the one who actually tipped us off in the first place." While Nakamori's superiors knew the truth, the official story being fed was that Kaito had spoken of Chung Ling Soo during a dinner conversation with the inspector and his daughter Aoko, and the pieces had fallen into place from there.

"Kaito-kun has been going through some of our cold cases, and he has a few that he thinks might be relevent to the recent homicide," Nakamori went on, gesturing towards the folders on the table in front of the younger man.

Kaito inclined his head in greeting. "I'll be glad to assist in any way that I can."

Nakamori sat down. On the other side of the table, another man rose. This one was shorter and rather portly. Kaito recognized him quickly as Megure-keibu, of homicide, and was confirmed when the man introduced himself as such and mentioned the other consultant who was joining them and had only just arrived due to other obligations.

When the other consultant stepped through the door, Kaito was pretty sure his heart stopped. This was not at all what he expected, nor had he been aware of it, and if there was one thing that could prove to be a problem and a threat to his secret, this was it.

The other consultant smiled and nodded a greeting. "Kudo Shinichi, detective. Nice to meet you."


AN: And scene! Yes, Shinichi gets to be in this one. Figured that was as good a place as any to end this chapter. Got most of the next one figured out. It's after that when I'm still tweaking a bit, so we'll see how it all goes. And for the record, when the idea first bit me I actually did some research on magicians' deaths. Some of those guys died in weird ways. Learn something new every day!

Hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading, all! Much love!