The Case of the Haywire Heist
Mirror and Image
Note: As we mentioned back in The Case of the Hidden Epidemic, trying to translate how certain characters talk, especially where Japanese has so many levels of honorifics that English doesn't have, can be quite challenging. (Alas, we are mathematicians, not dialogue coaches... ) Hattori and Kazuha are from Osaka, also called the Kansai region and speak with an Osakan dialect, also called a Kansaiben. Translating that particular pattern of speech without regionalizing it to a specific accent is rather... difficult. Please bear with our attempts. Especially since several people mentioned it was difficult to read, we're trying to make it... less strong.
Heiji blinked at the alarm, disliking just how early it was. But this had been his habit for several months now. So he rubbed the sand out of his eyes and got out of bed. Slowly, he eased himself into stretches and various exercises to help rebuild the strength in his hip, which had been shot the previous fall. That day was his first back in kendo practice and he wanted to show that he was (almost) back in top form.
His recovery had been long, but he plowed through it with the same focus and determination he used when solving cases that came his way (or dropped in his lap). He did everything the doctors recommended and more to try and get back to his usual self as quickly as possible without pushing back his recovery. His physical therapist didn't know that he did additional exercises during his free time, but that didn't matter. Heiji was glad to finally have his full range of motion back as he slid into a kendo stance and started some simple patterns. The only thing he was really lacking in the hip was stamina, which was why he set the alarm extra early in order to go through some strength building exercises for an hour.
Down the hall, Heiji heard his parents starting to stir, so he eased out of his last stretch to go claim the shower. Kendo practice was before school, so he wanted to get going while he could. Once refreshed and dressed, he pounded downstairs, happy that he could do so at all. When he'd first gotten out of the hospital, his parents had set up a bed for him on the first floor since stairs were rather out of the question and Heiji had hated not sleeping in his own bed. He swore he would never take such small things for granted again.
"Son, are ya sure ya shouldn't be more careful?" came the concerned call of his mother from the kitchen.
"How many times I gotta say 'm fine!" he yelled back, though a slight grin twitched along his mouth.
Already dressed in a full kimono, Heiji's mother stepped out with a slight bow. "I believe that mor' now th'n when ya first came home," she smiled. "Now, c'mere so I can hug ya."
"Fine, fine," he mumbled, letting her smaller arms reach up around his shoulders.
"Now be careful at practice, kiddo," she smiled. "I 'ssume ye're skippin' breakfast again?"
"Nope," Heiji drawled. He stepped out of her embrace and grabbed his bag, noting that his mother had already placed a bento in one of the compartments. "A thermos o' juice 'n' a thick slice o' toast'll do me fine."
She tsked him, but stepped back into the kitchen long enough to bring out a thermos and a plate with not just one, but two thick slices bathed in fried eggs. Heiji stuffed the thermos into another section of his bag, shoving one of the slices into his mouth and holding the other.
"Some napk'ns?" she suggested, offering several.
"Sure thin'," he munched. He took them once he'd stepped into his shoes and leaned forward, kissing her on the cheek. "See ya late t'night," he said. "Practice's b'fore 'n' aft'r school today."
"Be careful, son."
He ran out, a warm feeling spreading through him. His mother really was the best, traditional or not. He kept jogging, the chilly, spring morning air keeping him cool. If today was his first day back, it wouldn't be any good to be late. And he'd missed kendo. Kendo was his self-defense. Kendo was his way to protect, because there were times where a murderer once cornered would fight back. And kendo, if Heiji was feeling more metaphysical than logical, was a part of his soul. It was good to take back another part of his life.
"Heiji!" came a familiar call behind him.
Swallowing the last of his first slice of toast, Heiji turned, jogging backwards down the empty street. "Kazuha!" he greeted. "I didn' know ya had practice 'is mornin'!"
Ponytail swinging, Kazuha caught up to him as he took another bite of his toast and turned to jog forward once more.
"Don't," she retorted. "But I figure ya'd be stupid 'nough to try 'n' go ta practice this mornin'."
"Ka-zu-ha," Heiji growled, "how many times do I gotta say I'm bett'r? It's been months. 'm back ta myself, I don't need a damn escort. I ain't goin' ta pitch over at th' drop of a hat!"
"I'll be th' judge o' that," she sniffed, glaring at him.
Heiji ignored her, taking another bite of his second slice of toast, finishing it off. It wasn't that he didn't understand her concern. He did. She, his mother, his father - they were all scared when he'd been shot. Especially once they'd seen his clothes covered in not only his blood, but Kudo's as well. (Not that they knew it was Kudo's. Only a very select few knew that Edogawa Conan was the shrunken version of Kudo.) His father, in particular, had grilled him, demanding to know what he was doing there and why he didn't call for the police, etc, etc. Heiji knew they were worried about him, but that didn't stop the sheer annoyance. He knew that he did the right thing, Kudo wouldn't have had a chance otherwise, but there was no denying that it was scary for everyone else to see him in such a state.
Muttering a swear, Heiji just ignored his childhood best friend and continued to jog to school. Kazuha offered many an opinion on that, none of them printable.
"Ahou!" was probably the most common.
Heiji was barely winded when the arrived at school, and this was a pleasant thing for him as he raced through the gates, heading to the gym. Kazuha threw some cusses his way and he ignored them as well. He wanted to get back into kendo.
Spread out across a back counter, Heiji looked out at the cold spring drizzle outside. Practice that morning had been good. His team had cheered when he'd arrived, surprised since he hadn't informed them of his impending return. His coach had immediately put him right to the mat to see how he was and all were impressed with how he preformed. Admittedly, Heiji had been concerned that his lack of practice would hinder his ability in kendo. It was good to be back at the sport he loved and excelled in and to know that he hadn't lost his touch due to inactivity. That afternoon would be the real test, however, as that practice was longer. Nothing was hurting him or even feeling the strain, but that afternoon would be the equivalent of a marathon.
Kazuha wasn't speaking to him, still annoyed that he ignored her that morning. That was fine by him. Some peace and quiet did his tender ears some good. The akido master just nagged so much sometimes.
The electronic ringing of his mobile phone, however, interrupted Heiji's peace and quiet. Surprised, he checked the caller ID and couldn't help but grin.
"Hey, Kudo, how're ya doin'? Haven't heard fr'm ya in a while."
"Ran texted me," the minimized detective replied. "Your girlfriend is bugging mine about you going to practice this morning."
Heiji sat up with a speed that would astonish any who had known he'd been hospitalized and shouted, "She ain't m' girlfriend!"
The other students in the room turned, surprised at the volume, but immediately started laughing and jibing Heiji about his non-relationship with a certain akido practitioner.
Growling, he told his phone, "Gimme a minute to get rid o' these losers, then 'm gonna kill ya over th' damn phone."
"Go ahead and try," was the wry response.
Heiji grumbled and grunted, but he left the classroom and the jeers of his peers, heading for the stairs to the roof. The actual roof might be out of the question with the rain, but the stairway itself was rather secluded and at least gave him a little bit of privacy.
"'kay Kudo, pr'pare ta die."
"...Ne, Hattori? Are you really okay?"
Heiji was getting rather tired of that question. And as much as he wanted to bite Kudo's head off, there was something in that childish voice that made him pause. Of all the various people who really should be asking him that thrice-be-damned question, Kudo probably had the most right. God knew that Heiji had inquired on Kudo's health almost weekly after that awful day that Heiji'd been shot and Kudo lost two pints of his own blood into a bucket. But Kudo had only asked once, when they were both in the hospital. But that slightest hint in Kudo's phoned voice implied that the shrunken sleuth had been very worried. And given Kudo's track record, probably blaming himself for Heiji's injury.
He let out a small sigh. "Ya worry too much," he muttered. "I did just fine at practice 'is mornin', despite whatever Kazuha wuz tellin' Nee-chan. No pain. No twinges. No nothin'. Just a matt'r o' building up strength."
Now Heiji started swearing. "How many times d' I gotta tell everyone that 'm fine?"
"Fine, fine," Kudo replied, and Heiji could pick up the relief in the not-child's voice. "So, any good cases recently? I'm afraid our papers don't always pick up your exploits."
Heiji laughed. No, part of the rivalry between Osaka and Tokyo seemed to involve not talking about the other's achievements. "Ya mighta read 'bout me solvin' a case about a murdered politician's bastard son."
"With nothing but a rug burn and an unlit match? Oh yes. Occhan was fuming that he wasn't called in for something so prestigious and that the 'damn Osakan brat' had taken his glory."
"Ha! I wasn' even s'pposed ta be there, but one o' th' officer's who got called in was drivin' me home from my physical ther'py."
"It worked out rather well for you regardless."
"Yep. There wuz also 'nother interestin' case that fits more up yer alley. Murder weapon wuz a feather."
Kudo snorted. "A feather?"
"Uh huh. A feather dusted with 'nough junk ta bring down a bull-elephant."
"That's one for the record books."
Heiji buffed his nails on his school jacket. "Rather thought so m'self. You?"
There was a slight pause. "My most publicized case recently, though I wasn't mentioned, was the murder at the Budokan."
Blink. "Wait, that wuz you who breezed through? I thought it wuz that jackass Brit."
Kudo gave a small bark of laughter. "I rather think my attempt at a British accent wasn't so bad."
Heiji burst out laughing, with a long guffaw thrown in for good measure. "Oh Kudo," he wheezed between laughs, "ya just made any 'ncounter I'll have with that jerk from now 'til next year more bearable!" He laughed some more. "I'll have ta look up the case 'n' get all th' juicy details so I c'n keep laughin' at that moron."
"So glad to amuse you."
With a small chuckle, Kudo continued. "My most bizarre was probably also the least publicized. A garbage man used some VHS tapes, pulled out the actual tape part, and used it to strangle his wife's lover."
"I think the feather beats out the VHS."
"No doubt. At least until next time."
Heiji grinned. It was an ongoing silent competition between them, to see who got the most unusual and peculiar cases. It also, in a way, helped reassure both of them that they weren't the only ones dealing with the crazies of the world. Sometimes seeing the worst that people had to offer could take its toll. But being able to sit back and laugh at the weirdness of things helped to take the edge off.
"Ya know," Heiji offered, "I think Nee-chan 'n' ya need ta come down for a visit. We ain't seen ya in a while 'n' it'll be good ta catch up properly, not just o'er the phone."
"Maybe," Kudo agreed. "Ran and I will need to somehow bring it up to Occhan, but we'll see."
"Email me when ya know f'r sure. I'll set up 'nother gran' tour o' Osaka."
"Gotta go. Ayumi's coming over with that look in her eye." Kudo hung up and Heiji just laughed. The compacted detective always seemed to have a woman keeping an eye on him, no matter what his size was.
It was on the walk home that Heiji and Kazuha finally started speaking again. Heiji himself was tired after the loooong kendo practice that afternoon. His hip still wasn't as strong as it used to be, and he'd had to hit the benches almost a half-hour before practice was supposed to end because he just couldn't push anymore. But he was still rather pleased with the progress he'd made.
"So," he chided his best friend, poking her side, "Didn' I tell ya I wuz fine?"
Kazuha sniffed. "Yeah, yeah," she grumbled. But as the walked home, she turned with a small smile. "Seriously, Heiji, it is good ta see ya back on y're feet 'n' back ta normal."
"Normal?" Heiji asked, faking a perplexed face. "What's that?"
He laughed. "'s nice ta see ya convinced at last. Doesn' anythin' get through that thick skull o' yers?"
"Ha! Yer skull's so thick, it could poun' a nail through concrete!"
"Ya'll never get a guy with that pers'nal'ty o' yers, get some femininity!"
"And ya won't ever get a gal with that mat'rity! Grow up!"
Ah, it was good to be back to normal.
They bickered the whole walk back, shooting jibes and insults in between inquiring how the other's day went and lamenting the tests coming up. It wasn't until they arrived at Heiji's home that they finally paused.
"Look, Kazuha," Heiji started. As annoying as it had been, he did appreciate her concern. It was nice to know people cared about him and waited for him to come home. And Heiji knew he was lucky to have people in his corner.
"Heiji?" the girl interrupted, her eyes looking elsewhere. "Why's there a b'lloon at yer window?"
Heiji followed her line of sight and blinked. Sure enough, tied to a branch right outside his window, was a balloon. A balloon with what looked like some paper caught in the string. "Huh. C'mon, let's go have a look."
They both went in, calling a greeting to Heiji's mother, before heading up to his room and opening his window. "That's strange," he mumbled. The balloon was within perfect reaching distance, and the paper wasn't caught in the string, it was tied in the string.
Feeling his Bizarre Meter rising, Heiji grabbed the string right around the note and pulled the balloon in, Kazuha untying the knot on the branch and closing the window against the chill.
"This had t' 've been placed here w'thin an hour," Heiji muttered, "'therwise the rain woulda ruined it." He pulled the note easily out of the string, letting the balloon float up to his ceiling. Unrolling it, Heiji was once more thrown back to the night that he'd been shot. And a promise made to him by an elusive thief who preferred monocles and capes. "Next time I'm in Osaka, I'll send a proper invite."
"Well hell, he kept his word."
Author's Note: So, we've finally started this. ^_^ Another story with some very specific scenes in mind. Not for a while yet, but we're looking forward to reactions as always. Heiji was kinda fun to write, but writing any Osakan accent can be such a pain. So many apostrophes and abbreviations, but still legible; and trying not to make it sound regional, etc. But Hattori and Kudo talking was rather fun, comparing cases and such.
Next time: Well, we've checked in with Hattori, now we need to check in with Kudo.