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Caught on Camera

Photograph: Tricks and Treats

He supposed he should have known that they would eventually see some Halloween pictures. At least this one was better than the cat suit from the year after. Hopefully, that wouldn't show up later in the album.

What Shinichi remembered best about this particular Halloween, however, hadn't been the costumes or the party at the Kurobas that had lasted long into the night (and during which this photo had been taken). No, it was the incident. Many of the officers he worked with in Division One still referred back to it on occasion, some in jest and others in irritation, yet he still didn't know how to respond when they did. It was just awkward all around…

. . . . . . . . .

Halloween was always an eventful time around the Kuroba household. Both Toichi and his son saw the time as a grand opportunity to cut loose and have fun. For those who lived with and around them however, it was a nerve-wracking time during which it was a wise survival tactic to develop the habit of checking around corners and looking over your shoulder.

If he were ever to rank his favorite holidays, Shinichi would have to place Halloween near the very bottom of his list. He didn't like candy, so the fact that you could get large amounts of it for free was unattractive. He also didn't like dressing up. He had enough of that when his mother went on shopping sprees, he didn't need more of it when the options suddenly started to include furry animal ears and other ridiculous and embarrassing things. Unfortunately, the fact that he didn't like dressing up never seemed to help.

Take this year, for instance.

He had gone to Kaito's place after school let out in order to help prepare for the party the Kurobas were throwing that year. The party was scheduled to take place after the traditional, evening trick-or-treat period. Kaito and Toichi being who they were, the decorations for the house had gotten more and more complex until they'd realized at the last minute that there was no more time left. They had to drop a few projects, and the outside of the house was almost entirely untouched. Kaito had been somewhat annoyed by this deficiency, but he had balked at Shinichi's suggestion that they just put a pumpkin by the door. No decorations, he'd claimed, were better than halfhearted decorations.

So, with the house properly adorned but for a few last minute adjustments being dealt with by the magicians, all that was left was the food which, naturally, had to be done late in the interest of freshness. Shinichi had offered to help Chikage with the preparation since he was good at following instructions and not adding things into her recipes that didn't belong just to see how it would turn out. They had to hurry since both elder Kurobas were to attend a different party in the evening before returning to start their own. Shinichi's own parents were out of town this week and therefore couldn't help like they usually did.

He didn't see Kaito upon arriving at the house, but the bangs and spates of random laughter echoing through the halls of the house (which now resembled the dark lord's castle) suggested that Kaito and his father were attempting to cram as many of their ideas into place as time would allow. With them safely occupied, the food preparation would go a lot more smoothly. The kitchen was already permeated with the aroma of fresh cooking when he arrived. Soon, the table began to fill up with plates of pasta, bowls of salad, platters of roasted meat, trays of cookies, pies, and more.

"Thank you so much, Shinichi," the woman said as she placed the last tray of muffins on the table. "I couldn't have finished all this without you."

"I'm glad I could help."

They returned to the living room turned throne room to find that both father and son magicians had finally finished their scheming. They were running a last survey of their work with identical, satisfied grins that made Shinichi wonder if he would have to spend the party later rescuing guests from booby-traps. Both Kurobas were also already in full costume. Shinichi noted in passing that he hadn't known that Kaito owned a set of bow and arrows (or a sword either, for that matter. They all looked real too. Knowing Kaito, they probably were. What was he supposed to be anyway?), but he was distracted as the elder Kurobas gave them a few last instructions. He and Kaito had volunteered to watch the house and hand out treats that evening while Kaito's parents were away. Then they were supposed to make sure everything was in order for the party guests before they arrived. Then Toichi had wrapped an arm around his wife, winked at the boys, and disappeared with Chikage in a swirl of orange smoke.

"Alone at last!" Kaito cheered before turning to Shinichi with a broad, toothy grin.

Thinking back, Shinichi thought that he should have realized what was going to happen when he finally figured out that Kaito had decided to be Robin Hood. But alas, he hadn't been thinking about it. By the time he noticed his mistake, it was already too late. Which was why he was now standing in a frilly, medieval dress.

"Kaito, where are my clothes?!"

"Hmm? What are you talking about?"

"The clothes I came in! Where are they?"

"Dunno. Where'd you take them off?"

"I didn't! You did!"

"I did?"

"Yes! When you put me in this." Shinichi gestured at his outfit, face flushing a little at the reminder of what he was wearing. He wasn't sure if it was more or less embarrassing that Kaito had been thorough and padded him out where necessary to make the stupid thing fit right.

"Aw, don't you look pretty."

Blushing even darker, he spun in a swish of skirts and left in search of his wayward garments.

Kaito's entire closet had vanished. So had Toichi and Chikage's (yes, he'd checked for hers too in the hopes of getting a hold of something less frilly. Or at least something that didn't include a corset). Clearly Kaito had thought ahead.

Back in the living room, Kaito grinned as he spotted signs of movement outside. A group of trick-or-treaters were making their way up to the front door. It was show time!

X

Outside, four teenagers and their three younger siblings approached the strangely ordinary house. They had heard from some of the people they'd bumped into in their trek through this neighborhood that the family in this particular home were rather eccentric people. They purportedly had awesome decorations most years and every now and then they set up the best haunted houses ever. Or at least that was what they'd been told. This year, everyone agreed, the house had been left strangely plain. This made everyone native to the neighborhood nervous.

If it weren't for the porch lights being on, the group might have thought the family had decided not to participate in any festivities this year. But since it was, they decided they might as well ring the bell. It couldn't hurt, right? Right.

The skeleton pressed the doorbell. At the same time, the smallest of the kids, currently a bumblebee, banged on the door, giggling at the private amusement of the incredibly young.

To the whole group's surprise, the door swung open at the bee's touch and the kid nearly fell in to what turned out to be a dark hallway. Thanks to his older sister, he was saved the fall. Instead, something—or rather, someone—fell out. It was human shaped except it had no head. The porch light gleamed dully off of blood drenched clothes.

The headless body landed with a heavy thud at their feet. Yet more crimson liquid oozed to puddle beneath it.

They screamed.

X

Returning from his fruitless search, Shinichi found Kaito popping a white chocolate ghost into his mouth as he sat on the dark lord's throne. He crossed his arms, still a bit miffed. "Aren't those supposed to be for the trick-or-treaters? I'm pretty sure I remember your mother saying you couldn't eat any until after we're done passing them out."

He was a little surprised when the magician heaved a heavy sigh. "I know, but no one's coming!"

"But I thought I heard the bell ring earlier."

"Well, okay, so there was one group, but they ran away before I could even say hello!"

"You can't exactly blame them. I mean, just look at what you and Toichi-san have done to this place!" He waved a hand at the aged, 'stone' walls. Overhead, something rustled and twittered like a nest of bats. Gauzy cobwebs cast pale shadows in the darkness of the corners of the ceiling. The electric lights had also been passed over in favor of flickering braziers. If he hadn't known better, it would have been easy to believe they really were in some ancient, medieval castle that had long fallen from grace to be haunted by dark creatures and restless ghosts.

Kaito cast a critical eye over it all then shrugged, unwrapping another ghost and biting off its head. "It's Halloween though. People should be expecting this kind of stuff. They're all cowards, that's what it is! They don't deserve candy." He nodded decisively and finished off the ghost before fishing a bat out of the candy basket. "Want one? I think the scarecrows might be coffee flavored."

Interested despite himself, Shinichi wandered over to peer into the candy basket. Inside were ghosts and pumpkins, bats and scarecrows, witches' hats and black cats. Most were chocolate of some kind, but here and there lay a gummy lollipop or a pack of bubblegum. Reaching in, he selected a scarecrow and unwrapped it.

Kaito took the opportunity to set the basket aside and pull Shinichi onto his lap. It got him a light smack on the shoulder, but he could tell that the detective didn't really mind.

"It's going to be boring if no one comes." Shinichi observed. "Do you want to put a movie in?"

"We can if you want to," the magician said absently. He'd buried his nose in the crook of Shinichi's neck. "Or we can just stay here."

Shinichi sighed, torn between rolling his eyes and tilting his head to give Kaito better access. In the end, he did neither as his phone chose that moment to ring (the magician had had the courtesy to leave him his cell despite his costume change). Recognizing the ringtone he'd assigned to all his police contacts, Shinichi answered it.

"Kudo-kun! There's been a murder but we can't find the body."

Shinichi blinked, placing his free hand against Kaito's shoulder to push him away a bit. "What? So how do you know there's been a murder?"

"Seven people saw the headless corpse. We're sitting on the house right now, but we don't see any sign of it. We're still waiting on the warrant, but we were hoping you could come down and give us a hand."

"Where—" Shinichi cut himself off with a stifled gasp. Kaito had just leaned down again and bitten him on the neck. "Stop that!" he hissed, blushing as he covered the microphone with his hand. "I need to go. There's been a murder. The police need my help."

"If you ask me, they need your help way too often," the magician retorted, making no move to let Shinichi go.

"Kudo-kun? Are you still there?"

"Oh, uh, yes, I am, sorry," Shinichi said quickly, batting Kaito's hand away from where it was wandering. "So where is the house?"

Megure rattled off an address.

"…Can you say that again?"

The inspector repeated himself.

"Hold on a moment please, Megure-keibu." He pulled the phone from his ear. "Kai, would you happen to know anything about a headless corpse that was seen falling out of your front door?"

The magician pulled back from where he had settled to nibbling along the detective's neck to laugh. "Oh, that. Just a little surprise I set up to test the trick-or-treaters. Remember how I told you the first group ran away?"

"Apparently they ran to report it to the police."

"Really? Guess I did a pretty good job."

"But what did you do with the body?"

"I put it back for the next group, of course. Though I guess it'll probably end up welcoming the guests instead."

"…" Shinichi turned back to the phone. "Megure-keibu, it was a Halloween prank. I'm in the house right now. It's Kaito's house," he added as an afterthought.

There was a moment of silence before the inspector sighed. "Why am I not surprised? Right then. Thank you, Kudo-kun."

"I'm really sorry."

"No, I'm sure you had nothing to do with it."

. . . . . . . . .

…"Imagine our surprise when we ran into some of the neighbors on our way back and heard there'd been police cars outside the house," said Chikage, shaking her head before she laughed. "It caused quite the excitement. They kept asking if someone had been killed."

"Was it the old couple from across the street then?"

"As a matter of fact, it was." The woman gave her son a look with raised eyebrows. "But how did you know that?"

"They were always like that. They used to wait around on their front porch for Shinichi and me to pass by. Then they'd ask about all the cases Shin-chan was working on and whatnot. Then they'd go on and on about who they thought was involved in criminal activity that he should look into. Remember, Shin-chan? I think they'd accused just about everyone living on this street of murder by the time we finished high school."

The detective laughed a little, scratching at the back of his head. "I remember. They always sounded really enthusiastic about it too. I guess maybe they just wanted something to be excited over."

TBC


A.N: I'm starting to feel in a rather holiday mood lately. ^_^ Anyhow, hope you had fun reading this. See ya!