Disclaimer: Gosho's characters belong to Gosho. Original characters do not. Due to Saguru's perspective, British spelling is generally maintained. Oh, and the following is all Vathara's fault.

Welcome to the crackbunny that would not die: an exercise in style, perspective, and story. Enjoy.


Shades of Grey: Silver


Monday, 23 February. 20:49:13.

Hand on the pocket watch, feel the open-face time tick by, seconds and minutes and hours pressing into fingertips that know the sharp arrow hands by heart.

Let the familiar rhythm set a measured pace for walking down the corridor, echoed by a calm heartbeat as feet pause in the doorway to the main exhibit. This is show time—finding out if it's possible to pass muster, or witness countless hours of work vanish like a collapsed house of cards.

"All right, let's synchronise our watches!" That voice is easily recognisable, Nakamori having dominated the interviews related to Kid's return, eight months worth of media to memorise. "The time is, um…"

There will be no better opportunity to make an entrance tonight. Pull out the watch to make the appearance just right and step inside, shoes silent on marble, white and white and white. "23rd of February, 20:51 and 16.05 seconds exactly."

It's not. Or at least, the fractions of a second are simply a guess. A century-old pocket watch will never delineate time with such precision, but no one is going to challenge that level of exactitude because there's nothing to compare it against.

Say it anyway, because if speaking the time aloud is a matter of routine, it might as well be to an outrageous degree. Time is the one constant, ten thousand disconnected moments held together by universal thread.

Pulse.

Across the room, someone—likely Nakamori—has turned in a squeak of shoes, attention arrested by the purposefully British lilt.

Timing is everything. "And for your information—" snap the case closed "—my watch deviates only .001 seconds in a year." Precision is a close second to timing; without it, the world blurs into half-truths.

"You—You're that detective from London!" Nakamori, definitely, voice a deep-throated growl. The man seems a likable sort, both as an officer of the law and as a man who won't suffer fools gladly.

Pause a breath… and then turn to face Kid's Task Force with a dazzling Westerner's smile.

"Hakuba Saguru, at your service."

Pulse.

The huddle of men has turned as one to look. Let them watch the foreign-broad smile, the deerstalker coat and hat, brim pulled low—if they're distracted by the costume, they aren't looking at the eyes. An eccentric reputation is manageable; that's only a few shades off normal, and it's going to crop up whether actively encouraged or not.

"Scram, this is no place for amateurs!" Even anticipated, Nakamori's casual dismissal grates. Spine straightening in reflex, mentally line up evidence of competence in logical progression—but then the thought is interrupted by unexpected pressure wrapping around both shoulders.

Don't twitch; don't react. Pulse.

Father's hand, arm, body, all etched as a rippling flash of white on black and shades of grey. He insisted on coming along tonight, to smooth the way.

"Oh, Nakamori-kun, don't be so stiff!" Father's voice, customarily jovial, as the arm presses uncomfortably against him.

Don't bristle.

Father means well, really, just is overprotective. He forgets that this move to Japan is primarily about independence in the first place. Chasing a criminal who is half pacifist, half stage-performer, and all genius, is perfect. Provided the Task Force's acceptance can be won.

Pressure eases as father moves and appeals to Nakamori's pride: an experienced officer teaching an amateur the harsh reality of law enforcement that exists behind the media's false glamour. Apparently Eric inherited the fine art of manipulation from father and mother both, because father turns Nakamori's irritation into outright enthusiasm before there's an opportunity to retake control of the exchange.

"If you have any questions, boy, just let me know!" Nakamori's hand claps on a shoulder, intended as a friendly gesture.

Don't flinch.

Loose a barrage of questions instead, none of which Nakamori can really be expected to know, much as they might wish otherwise. The only solid facts about Kid are the treasures he's stolen and his tricks of the trade. Even his gender is assumed from his white-suited appearance at heists, but that's hardly a guarantee given that the man has believably disguised as Nakamori's own daughter.

Pulse.

Father has stepped out, mission accomplished; the officers are silent, unmoving. Nakamori seems justifiably harried, and it's difficult to tell if the man's gaze is focused or not. "I… I don't know…"

"Then excuse me." Turn away, hat pulled low, and retrace the steps to the exit by memory. No one should be a bother for the rest of the evening, provided any investigating doesn't draw undue attention.

If Kid continues to escape in the future, building a criminal profile from scratch will be a good exercise.


21:08:37.

Walk outside, trading indoor warmth for snow-sharp air, and ignore the sudden ache of hands and eyes and patches of torso. Temperate weather is infinitely preferable, but a similar snowstorm in London means Japan is no worse of a location. With almost an hour before 22:00, Kid's predicted arrival, there is plenty of time to investigate the thief's escape plans.

Pulse.

Find the stairs, descending white and grey to open space's featureless black, and hold against them to compensate for the lack of handrail. No one will notice if the snow underfoot is crunched a little bit more than it used to be.

There's a white shape partway down the stairs that isn't the snow it's half-buried beneath, rectangular with grey kanji contours etched on top. A police notebook, lying where no police notebook should be, but the seven guards around the entrance are too busy watching the air to be paying attention to the ground.

Slide an evidence glove onto one hand, carefully kneel to pick it up by the corner and gently shake it off. A hiss escapes unconsciously at the cold burn of frozen water through the white cloth; bag the notebook and slip both bag and glove inside the coat's large inner pocket. The coat isn't only for show, after all. And if Kid is going to be careless enough to drop a piece of his disguise tonight, perhaps he can also be foolish enough to have touched the misplaced object barehanded.

It's worth a try, at any rate, and can be handed over for processing after the heist bears out proof of Kid's chosen disguise. Until then, there's the question of whether said disguise was obtained beforehand, or if some poor sod is sitting in his knickers somewhere.

…Kid isn't cruel. Crazy, perhaps, but not cruel. The only safe place to leave an officer out here is one of the two police cars parked in the roundabout at the foot of the museum's entrance stairs. The hum of both engines running is audible even before reaching the sidewalk, heaters working to block out the cold.

Pulse. And hold, still soft as breath, against the surfaces.

One is sealed up tight: white panels and white tires and white windows that show nothing. But the other…

Don't smirk. Pride in England is hubris in Japan.

The second car has a back window cracked open, enough to be able to find the interior behind the opaque glass.

"What the…" There is a man trussed up in the back seat, and the faintest of grey lines reveals the gag of tape over his mouth. The discovery itself isn't surprising, but rather by the goose egg on the man's skull where it rests on the far seat. Hardly a serious injury, but it proves that Kid is willing to inflict small hurts to both person and dignity for the sake of his goal.

Of course, there's no record of Kid having any other options when it comes to knocking people out, either. If Kid knew about it, he would probably favor the anaesthetic gas that one of Grandfather's research labs finished the prototype testing stages for only a few months ago. Grandfather had waxed eloquent about it last week when he'd provided a tour of the labs and a key card, encouraged turning to science rather than criminology.

...Come to think of it, if Kid gets away this time, there's no reason why some couldn't be borrowed for a controlled experiment. What better target than a criminal?

Belatedly realise that if the heat escaping through the window crack is anything to go by, the windows are hiding this man from his fellow officers by dint of being fogged. Eccentric is one thing, but staring at a fogged-up window for a good minute without bothering to wipe it off is not going to lend credence to being a normal genius high school detective. A quick check reveals that four officers are oriented toward the street, could be watching.

When you have an audience, appearances are everything.

Wipe the glass with both hands and lean in for three breaths time. Turn away to continue investigating, shoving throbbing-cold hands deep into warm pockets, and absently wish for the hundredth time for gloves that retain heat without feeling claustrophobic.

Pulse, out and up.

Orient to two intriguing facts. One: there is a dual-banner display above the museum's entrance, presumably with writing, tethered by several thick ropes decorated by other rectangles of hanging cloth. Two: One of the tether ropes for the second-story banner isn't a tether rope at all, but apparently anchors a blimp hidden behind the banner.

How very interesting.


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Ocianne

3/10