Saguru: I suppose this is why I should not expound upon my birthday gifts within earshot of Kuroba, much less directly to him.
Jo: You did that on purpose and you know it, you incorrigible flirt.
The Virgin's measure taken in the balance of the days.
A grain of coal lives at my heart: a droplet of his sacrifice.
I must make pilgrimage to gaze upon his whitened face:
He who undermines Death.
Saguru had found the note tucked into his school satchel at the end of the day, with the all-too-familiar caricature drawn cheerfully in the lower corner. Given the content, he supposed he should be grateful that there weren't little hearts or flowers doodled around the perimeter... and he should be equally grateful at the many hours spent inuring himself to embarassment.
He faxed a copy of the notice to Nakamori, with a remark that he'd bring the original in personally, and changed from his school uniform to a more professional suit and tie. A short train ride later, Saguru walked into the Task Forces' usual conference room to the steady growling of one Nakamori Ginzo.
"Dammit!" the man was saying as Saguru quietly shut the door. He gestured wildly, the notice flapping in his grip. "What do we get paid for if we can't figure out the target?"
Saguru blinked. Couldn't figure out...? But this had been perhaps the simplest notice Kid had ever delivered, barring the occasional non-riddle. "Sir, I thought it was obvious."
All eyes in the room landed on him.
Nakamori set the note down on the table, turning slowly on the spot to glower at Saguru. "Unless you know of a private collection we don't, Hakuba-kun..."
"I thought you did know, sir." Hadn't he ever mentioned...? "It's my own."
Huh. Come to think of it, he'd never had reason to discuss much of anything not directly related to an ongoing heist. Not that this would change that track record, considering. "I collect antique astrolabes," Saguru said quietly, shrugging. "There are a couple of pieces with gemstones... not particularly large or valuable," he added, watching Nakamori's eyes narrow, "but he's had a marked preference for stones with odd legends attached. My most recent acquisition has a garnet set into the pin, and has gained some small repute for... well... absorbing the immortal souls of its bearers ever since its commissioner died on pilgrimage to Assisi."
Nakamori stared levelly for a long moment. Then, he stepped over to the nearest wall and began pounding his head against it.
Saguru stared. That was new. But no one was stupid enough to try to catch Nakamori's attention now, fortunately enough... and then Doi-keiji edged over, offering another copy of the note. "If you would interpret your reasoning for us, Hakuba-kun?" he murmured.
Saguru took out his own copy, the original notice on its fine cardstock, with a quick glance to check that he remembered the wording perfectly. "The Virgin's measure taken in the balance of days-" Someone coughed in the middle of the clustered officers, and Saguru cast a cool glare out at them. "My Western zodiac sign is Virgo, whose description can be translated variously as 'maiden', 'unwed woman', or 'virgin' in the modern sense. The Virgin's measure means the item is a measurement device owned by this person, namely myself; hence, one of my astrolabes. In the balance of days is the date that Virgo changes to Libra, the balancing scales, which by the tropical count is the autumn equinox on September 22nd. So, midnight on the twenty-second, Saturday.
"A grain of coal lives at my heart: a droplet of his sacrifice. The word 'garnet' comes from the Latin for 'grain'; due to its color, the stone is also a type of carbuncle, which once meant 'live coal'. In Christian lore, which this note alludes heavily to, the garnet is seen as a symbol of Christ's sacrifice. At my heart refers to the location of the garnet on the pin at the center of the astrolabe.
"I must make pilgrimage to gaze upon his whitened face: He who undermines Death. Make pilgrimage merely means that he will travel. It's important to note that he specified whiteness and the relative location to Death; in Western thought, Death rides a pale horse. For Kid's purposes, a white horse." Haku-ba. "Undermine is a bit of a pun. I suspect it refers to the stone's reputation for causing death, in lieu of allowing it to occur 'naturally' so to speak, as well as to my and my father's roles in law enforcement and cases of murder... even as thankfully few as they have been for me."
Over at Nakamori's wall, the thumping stopped. Nakamori stalked back over, chewing on the end of his unlit cigar, and stared down Saguru like a bristling cat. (Saguru prudently ignored the reddening blotch on Nakamori's forehead.) "Hakuba-kun." Chomp the cigar end, keeping it intact only through dint of long practice. "Would you be willing to bring the... target... to a secure location for the heist?"
Saguru could all but hear the 'if you don't agree, your father's influence will NOT keep you on this Task Force' in that. "I was hoping to, actually," he answered. "Do you have anyplace in mind?"
"I... well, er..."
"I'll begin researching some suitably secure locations, then, shall I?"
He bowed and left, Nakamori sputtering in his wake.
"A police boat?" Nakamori echoed incredulously.
Saguru nodded. "It's available. It's affordable. It's controllable." All points that had placed it high in Saguru's short list of suitable locations. "There are only three approaches at sea: the sky, the water, and stowing away. On a small enough boat, we can eliminate that third possibility after casting off. There are no storm drains, no ventilation systems, no neighboring buildings, no crowds of bystanders; nowhere that he can sneak past officers without being seen. He'd have to cross as many kilometers of water or air as we choose, try to follow us all over the bay without showing up on the boat's radar or being seen. And we can pack the boat with as many officers as it can legally carry, all accounted for and cleared repeatedly through the night."
And, however Kid tried to approach, if he didn't fly he'd have to swim. With the fish. With the many many many fish that Saguru planned to lure near the boat. But that was a factor based upon his unsubstantiated opinion of who Kid was, and therefore unmentionable.
Nakamori grabbed a pen and circled the line of text in virulent red. "I like it. DOI! HOSODA! Get Requisitions on the line-"
The next day, Saguru couldn't help but smirk every time he looked at Kaito. It resulted in having his head piled high with a hideous mass of varicolored roses, but Saguru simply divided them into a number of smaller, coordinated bouquets and let the girls have them.
Once the frenzy died down, Saguru tucked away the last roses for Baaya and headed home.
Late Saturday evening, after they'd cast off, after they'd searched the entire boat from stem to stern - in every nook and cranny, in the closets and the underseat storage and the padding of the benches, dipping waterproof camcorders under the keel - after they'd pinched and pulled every single face and partnered officers up for a second search, Nakamori came huffing into the cabin where Saguru sat on the bench under a porthole, three separate cameras fixed on him.
"So. Where is it?"
Saguru unzipped his sweater down to his navel, revealing a drawstring bag on a lanyard around his neck. The bag was unbleached fine cotton, curator-grade, and looked dingy against his crisp white buttondown. Pulling on a pair of matching cotton gloves, Saguru opened the bag and drew out the astrolabe: a brass disk of curlicues and etched underplates about the size of a teacup saucer, gleaming a rich honey-brown in the dim cabin.
Nakamori frowned. "It's nice, I guess, but where's the garnet?" Saguru tapped at what, in the reddish light, looked like a faceted iron knob at the center of the disk. "That little thing?"
"It is the head of a pin, Nakamori-keibu." A relatively large nine-millimeter head, granted, but still. The craftsman had taken care to not let decoration become ostentation and ruin the device's functionality. Saguru turned the astrolabe to admire it again, feeling a fond little smile tug at the corner of his mouth. It was a bit sad, how highly advanced technology no longer coincided with beautiful ornamentation. Everything seemed to be seamless plastic sheathes anymore. The idealization of the clean line. "The piece's value is in its artistry and historical function, the precision of its calibration. Not so much the materials."
"It's the baseball all over again," Nakamori groaned.
Saguru reluctantly replaced his astrolabe in the protective bag, and zipped the sweater back up over it. A quick check of his mental clock, and, "It is twenty-nine after, Nakamori-keibu. Shouldn't you be heading out to keep watch for him?"
"Yeah." Nakamori brightened, like a hunting dog finally told 'go'. "And this time I'm gonna strangle him, dragging us out in the middle of the night chasing baseballs-" The door shut.
Without Nakamori, the room seemed to settle. Had they been ashore, it may have been still and quiet, but here the engine thrummed as loudly as a jet's, so familiar and yet at a different, far deeper pitch. The ride was certainly little like a jet's, either. The sea had developed a bit of chop as the night wore on, and now the little cabin jounced and rocked in a way that made Saguru want to head on deck and climb out onto the bow. It would be amazing to crouch there like a horse jockey, or a dragonrider as in so many movies and posters, with the sea spraying icy saltwater up into his face and the stars impossibly bright overhead.
Of course, all that saltwater would soak right through and damage the astrolabe.
Perhaps some other time. Perhaps some other heist, even.
Saguru turned to gaze out the porthole once more. Black water, black sky, and the pale gleam of the boat's running lights on the ship's foaming wake. He couldn't see the stars through the thick plastic. (It was still better than sitting in a bank vault or grubby basement somewhere, most likely with the media and crowds screaming outside because the fans somehow always found out.)
11:43 pm. Seventeen minutes until midnight. Kid had to be on the boat now... because although the equinox was today, and the date change into the sign of Libra was in seventeen minutes, the exact minute of equinox was in only six.
September 22nd. An 11-minute gap, from 11:49 to midnight. The reference to balance, to Libra and to equinox. Kid would not be Kid if he were to pass up such a correlation.
11:44 pm. In the next cabin, the security feed should be switching to a loop. Most likely, that loop had started recording at half past, just after Nakamori-keibu left. (After Saguru had chased him out.) If Kid was going to follow the pattern Saguru thought was self-evident, at least.
11:45. Saguru slowly, silently unzipped his sweater again.
11:46. He unbuttoned his shirt, tucked the astrolabe gently against the ribbed cotton of his undershirt, and buttoned it back up again. Again, just as slowly, and therefore just as silently, he zipped the sweater back up, all the way this time to make it more difficult for Kid to grab the astrolabe's cord. The pull clicked into place at the top, tiny and cool at the juncture of chin and throat.
11:48. Saguru stood, bouncing a little on the balls of his feet. He'd long since gotten his sea legs, but he had been sitting for a while. Fifteen seconds, and this time Kuroba's watch wasn't running fast. Ten. (Saguru had long since borrowed and reset it.)
Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
Ready to leap forward into the room, Saguru was not braced to be yanked from behind. A gloved hand clamped over his mouth; he landed with a thump on the padded bench, metal clacking sharply around his wrists.
"Fancy meeting you here, Tantei-san," Kid purred into his ear.
A quick tug proved the cuffs were threaded through some structural item, probably one of the bench supports. Kid pressed up warm against Saguru and shifted; more metal, a chain this time, tightened around Saguru's ankles and pulled them firmly backwards. It stopped just when Saguru thought he might be bent backwards and somehow hogtied upright, trapping him in exactly the most comfortable position to not be able to thump out an SOS.
It wasn't actually comfortable at all, but it could be far worse.
"Let's see." Kid's other hand, the one not muffling Saguru's mouth, patted down over his chest. Shoulder to shoulder, down each side to the navel, back up with a playful tweak to each pectoral, and then back down the center until it landed full on the flat disk of the astrolabe. "Aha. Here you are~"
Kid paused. "I'm so sorry, Tantei-san," he said, slumping a bit. It almost felt disappointed. "I was so looking forward to a long and merry chase, too. But... well. The facilities are a bit tight." Soft suede brushed against Saguru's throat, Kid dragging the zipper pull silently down.
The buttondown wasn't going to give more than ten extra seconds. Saguru twisted his wrists, fine wool rasping against his fingertips. A sliver of metal under his watchband fell free into his cupped left hand; at the same moment, he pinched hard with his right.
Kid jerked away. "Ow."
Hah. Got him.
"That hurt," Kid whispered pitifully. "Do you even know what you just pinched?"
It hadn't felt like a zipper, so Saguru was guessing thigh. He smirked against Kid's hand anyway. (Two could play at misdirection: he transferred the key to his right hand and began the finicky work of getting it into the handcuffs' lock.)
"So cruel. My mean Tantei-san- ah." The zipper clicked free, and Saguru's sweater fell open. The astrolabe was clearly not right in the open for the taking. Kid's monocle pressed against Saguru's cheek, a cool metal curve and the softer touch of the chain and charm, then Kid snickered warmly. "Really, Tantei-san?"
Ten seconds. Suede tickled as Kid flicked his top button open ("This collar really doesn't work with that sweater, you know.") and the charm slid into the soft spot above Saguru's collarbones. Eight seconds. Twist the key, huff to cover the click and the fact that the tiny strip of skin bared above his undershirt might be ticklish. Six seconds. One cuff open. Four. Catch the attached chain, feeling the length about his ankles loosen. Two. A strangled squeak as deft fingers wriggled over his stomach, as the chain puddled to the floor and he slipped his feet free.
Zero. Kid's hand closed over the astrolabe.
Saguru grinned against Kid's hand. In a burst of motion, he twisted free and pinned Kid against the bulkhead. (Inside the bulkhead, in a shallow compartment; it looked like Kid had installed an entire false wall at some point. He'd probably been hiding in it since before they left shore.)
Kid gaped, eyes huge and burning behind the monocle, as Saguru leaned in close, his head tilting the hat brim back just an inch. "Got you."
And oh look, how convenient, Saguru had a pair of handcuffs with one end still locked around his wrist. He pressed more firmly (more inescapably) against Kid as he caught the open cuff with his fingertips, and closed it under the glove around Kid's wrist.
Kid's arm twisted in Saguru's grip, muscles tightening. The eternal knife-edge grin sharpened - was that panic or plotting, aha-you-have-fallen-into-my-trap-again? - and then Kid surged that last inch forward.
"Mmph?" Kid's mouth opened under Saguru's, tasting like warm water (he'd been in the compartment for hours, must have taken and saved a small bag of water until now, until he needed to be hydrated for the performance)-
Kid vanished. Saguru's arms yanked down, the wall smacked him on the head ("Ow!"), and then Saguru found himself on the floor with the thief twisting out from under him.
The door crashed open. "KAITOU KID! STOP IN THE NAME OF THE LAW!"
"Ah, good morning, keibu-san!"
Light exploded. Flashbombs, Saguru thought as shouts went up. He grabbed at his wrist (the other cuff was empty again) then just in front of him (fabric brushed against his fingertips, the back of his hand, then the cord burned across the back of his neck and snapped; the astrolabe vanished).
"GET HIM! FIND HIM! HE'S STILL ON THIS FUCKING BOAT!" Nakamori shouted over the commotion.
"Bai bai, keibu-san, tantei-san!"
Saguru stumbled out into the hallway, tears blurring what was left of his vision, officers stumbling just as blindly into him as they ran pell-mell everywhere.
Up on deck. Fresh salt air, just enough light to actually see, and, high above, four Kaitou Kids gliding away in four vaguely landward directions. Saguru pushed his way to the nearest railing and looked down.
He could almost see a human shape, black as night (black as scuba gear), vanish in the foam of their wake.