Conversations Among Ghosts

By Ysabet

Chapter One:  Just the Facts

The wind whistled shrilly across the cemetery, sending the occasional scatter of dried leaves scattering like frightened children through the crowded markers.  It was early fall, and the sweet taste of smoke in the air mingled with the first bite of chill as the last rays of the sun died the stones crimson and gold.

Detective Sato Miwako, a member of Tokyo's finest, had come to say a final goodbye to her former partner.

She stood before his marker, her sleek head bowed; twin streams of smoke rose silently from the incense burning in the holder at her feet.  Behind her still figure a small group of friends waited in silent respect, watching patiently: one young woman, one small boy and two officers, among which stood her current partner.

Said partner watched her anxiously, running one hand through his dark hair; concern crinkled his eyes and made his rather boyish face look even younger than it was.  Had he known this he probably wouldn't have cared, not really; Detective Takagi Wataru was sincerely worried about his partner and it showed.

(He was also most sincerely in love with her, and to hell with the regulations; that showed too.)

Takagi sighed, the sound blending in with the whispering of the wind through the stones.  His gaze strayed reluctantly from his partner's quiet figure, sliding lower and closer to home to rest atop the small, dark head that came to not-quite-waist level, that of one Edogawa Conan.  The boy stood silent and composed, one hand clutching that of his not-quite-guardian, Mouri Ran; the young woman looked down at the boy, her eyes softening in affection.

Takagi's eyes narrowed; what he was feeling right now for young Conan-kun wasn't exactly affection…..  The kid made him just the slightest bit nervous, and he really hated that—

--- especially since he kind of liked the little guy.  Mouri-tantei's pint-sized tagalong was unusually bright, remarkably unafraid, and generally a good kid.  Or at least, that's what he had thought up 'til now.

A good kid…..

Actually, he had to admit that what he was feeling had a great deal more of kinship to fear than anything else.  It wasn't that he was scared of a kid, no way—but this kid… well, he wasn't exactly kid-like and he wasn't exactly normal and he wasn't exactly---

There were a lot of things that Takagi was finding out that little Edogawa Conan "wasn't exactly."  Like, for instance, a legally-registered citizen of Japan.  Oh, there was a birth certificate on file, all right; a damn fine example of forgery it was, too—Takagi'd give a lot to know who had done it.  There were school records, a passport, all sorts of this and that—the minutiae that even a seven-year-old collects from birth on outwards….. and they were all perfect.

Perfect.  Not an error, not an unreadable line or lost document or— and that's where the unknown forger failed.  Takagi had seen it before, when a forgery 'artist' got a little too caught up in making everything nice and tidy.

It was amazing what you could find when you took the trouble to look around, you know?

From the way he figured it, something weird had happened—oh, about a year past or maybe a little less.  For reasons unknown, a little kid had been neatly inserted into society from out of nowhere—records had been forged, an identity created, a careful coverup initiated….. not immediately, but a few weeks after the boy had appeared on the scene.  One hell of a lot of work had been done-----

All for one short little pipsqueak of a kid.

You'd have to be crazy  to believe something like that, of course—until you met Edogawa Conan.

Or, maybe, got trapped inside an elevator with him…..

It was the Tokyo Bomber case, of course, the one where the guy who had killed Sato's last partner was trying to off her as well and wasn't discriminating much about having messy kills.  If he got a few more police officers, fine; if he killed a few civilians, oh well.

They knew where he had hid the bomb—approximately where, anyway—somewhere in the Tokyo Tower.  Just where it was *exactly*….. that was another matter.  The evacuation was nearly finished when Takagi heard about the toddler stuck in the elevator, and somehow he found himself taking Conan-kun along.  Something about how maybe one kid would listen to another….. 

To cut to the chase, the gradeschooler had talked the toddler out like a professional hostage negotiator—but he and Takagi had gotten themselves stuck in the same situation.  Embarrassing, really—not much they could do about it, though.  Takagi had felt really horrible about that; it was one thing for an officer to die in the line of duty, but a *kid*…..

And then they had found the bomb.  Or more specifically, Conan had, after he had asked for a boost up to the roof of the elevator—he had had that *look* in his eye, the one Takagi had seen before and had begun to watch for…  The look he got when the penny dropped, when the clues began to line up, when the puzzle took shape before that discerning, unchildlike gaze…..

No little kid looked like that, no matter how bright they were.  Even a seven-year-old genius was still a seven-year-old, and they would've been hopping up and down in excitement over their own discoveries.  But not this little guy—he was sa closed-mouth as somebody three times his age and ten times as cautious.  Despite Takagi's own worries (and not a little terror and regret at the prospect of being blown to smithereens), the young officer had been fascinated by the boy's composure.

It had been weird, really; the more serious the situation had become (and hell if he could figure out anything more serious than being stuck in a metal box with a detonator on top), the more the bright-little-boy mask had sloughed away—it was disturbing how the dark blue eyes had sharpened, how precise the voice and diction had become.  Only the timbre had remained the same, that and the small, slight body; at the time, Takagi had tried to ignore it as best he could in favor of survival, but…..

It was unnerving.  Even the body language had changed… and one thing a cop did not ignore was body language.  That was when the penny had finally dropped for him.

Thinking back, Takagi couldn't really remember why he had begun to pay attention to all the little disparities about Edogawa Conan.  It had started a while ago, though—maybe right after that thing where Sato-kun got herself handcuffed to the suspect in the bathroom?  Whatever…..  Something about the kid's attitude just hadn't sat right with him, and he had started watching, started keeping a little mental file about the boy.

So when Conan had asked him to boost him up onto the roof of the elevator, he had done it readily enough; and somehow, when the boy had told him quite calmly that they were—no, that HE was going to have to defuse the bomb there, Detective Takagi wasn't really as surprised as he might have been.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Conan glanced up sideways at the tall, suited figure standing on the other side of Ran; he felt his small fingers tighten a little in her grip, causing her to glance down in concern.  "Are you all right, Conan-kun?"

*Yeah, if you can count sweating buckets as 'all right', I guess.*  He fidgeted a little, just like any little boy might be expected to do in as solemn and scary a place as a cemetery.  "I'm okay….. Are we gonna go home soon, Ran-neechan?  I'm hungry!"  *Let's add 'boring' to that list—a gradeschooler'd find this all pretty dull going after a while, wouldn't he?  And I wouldn't mind stopping someplace for a bite.*

*Of course, what'd really make me happy right now would be Takagi leaving.  I wish he'd quite STARING at me.  I am, without a doubt, in Major Deep Trouble now…  Guess he'd have to be a real idiot not to suspect something fishy about me after my little exercise in bomb-disposal in the elevator, huh?  And he's no slouch.*

In the elevator….. Conan had had to drop all his masks and deceptions and be himself, using every bit of intellect he had.  There had been no time for pretense, not with their lives ticking away second by second; so he had tackled the problem of the bomb as Kudo Shinichi, not a precocious little kid—it didn't matter that the hands wielding the pliers and screwdrivers had been so small that they couldn't wear gloves, or that the eyes pouring over the diagrams had been set in a seven-year-old face.  Not with their lives on the line it didn't.

So much for his innocent little 'Edogawa Conan' identity; he'd finally blown it but good. Takagi-heji had been watching him like a hawk all afternoon.

He snuck another look up at the young detective's face; Takagi had turned his gaze to Sato-san now; his rather disturbing look of speculation had softened perceptibly, becoming something much warmer.  The boy grinned to himself despite his own case of nerves—you'd have to blind, deaf and a certified moron not to see how things were going with those two; he'd give a lot to know what had happened during the chase of the bomber to heat things up.  And things had heated up, what with all those intriguing little side-glances that kept passing back and forth between Takagi and Sato when each one thought the other wasn't looking…..

Slightly to one side and behind them he could see Chief Inspector Magure watching the two with what could only be called a soppy look on his face; he was attempting to hide his somewhat smug expression behind his moustache, but it was pretty evident that he found the interplay between his two subordinates highly amusing.

*Listen to me—I sound like some old biddy gossiping over a fence about my neighbors' love-lives!  But it is sort of funny.  Bet they both think they're being reeeeeeally subtle about this.*  He fought back a snicker, earning another concerned glance from Ran.

"I guess I'd better get you home, hmm?"  She smiled down at him, speaking quietly.  The boy sighed an internal sigh of relief and nodded, grateful to get away from Takagi's suspicions.  *Works for me.  Thank you, Ran—you always come through for me, don't you?*  He shifted a little closer to 'Ran-neechan', holding onto her hand a little tighter, glad (for once) that he could act the exhausted child and just go home.

"S'cuse me, Ran-kun?" 

*Oh boy….. now what?*

Detective Takagi was *watching* him again, and this time his thoughtful eyes were fixed on Ran as well.  He smiled at her, indicating her small charge with a nod.  "Do you think I could have a little of Conan's time, Ran?  I need to clear up a few notes on what happened in the elevator—nothing much, just some details he might have noticed." 

The young policeman spoke softly so as not to disturb his partner, but Sato-san sighed and stepped back from the marker, her eyes distant with memories.  At Takagi's concerned grimace of apology, she shook her head with a slight smile.  "It's all right—I'm ready to leave, anyway.  Conan-kun?  Would you like to ride with Detective Takagi here?  I'm sure he wouldn't mind giving you a lift home, would you, Takagi-kun?  Magure-san, Ran and I'll take the squad-car, and you two can ride back in your old clunker; that way you can catch up on those details together."  She smiled down at the small boy—

--who was currently thinking frantic, somewhat panicky thoughts designed around a major theme of  Oh Shit, How Do I Get Out Of This One?

*Crap.  Big time crap.  Better not attract any more suspicion--*  Conan put on the best smile he could manage and nodded, hoping the officers would attribute any lack of sparkle to weariness on his part—it had been a really, really long day.

He could only hope that it wasn't about to get a hell of a lot longer.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

*Bye, Ran; hope you don't see me next in jail or something.  Takagi's gonna ask Pointed Questions, I just know it.*  The small boy clung rather forlornly to the young woman's hand until she left with Megure and Sato; her slender figure was outlined by the setting sun as she walked through the cemetery's gates, and the teenager-turned-gradeschooler spent a moment appreciating that fact.  Then, with a sigh, he shoved his glasses up his nose with one finger, gathered his courage and turned back to his erstwhile guardian and tormenter, Detective Takagi Wataru.

*Eeeep.*  Somehow Takagi seemed to be looming awfully tall all of a sudden…..

*Huh; funny, he doesn't exactly look too thrilled to be here with me either.  In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd say he looks pretty damned nervous.*  The young officer attempted a rather unsuccessful smile as he looked down at the boy; it slid a little as Conan stared solemnly up at him.  *Maybe I can intimidate my way out of this.  Hell, if I thought throwing a tantrum would get me off the hook I might try it!  WHY does he keep looking at me like—like I'm going to grow a second head any minute?  Or batwings and glowing eyes?*

"Well, Conan-kun….. let's head for the car.  I can ask you my questions while we drive, I guess."  Takagi hesitated, then turned away to walk towards the distant entrance to the cemetery grounds.  He glanced over his shoulder as his young charge slowly followed him, blinking in the dim light. 

"Awp!"  Arms flailing, Conan yelped as his tennishoed foot caught on a fallen stone; spinning quickly, the officer caught the boy by his arm and prevented his fall.  "Careful—don't trip; this'd be an unlucky place to hit your head at," he warned him seriously, and for a moment seemed almost to smile at the boy in earnest.

"Thanks, Takagi-san—I'll be more careful!"  The gradeschooler bent over, rubbing ruefully at his toes.  The young officer chuckled, his expression returning for a brief moment to its usual openness.

Only for a moment, though—that sharp, curious look came back over his face again as he stared back at Conan; some memory seemed to be passing before his eyes, making him grimace.  As the boy straightened Takagi Wataru seemed to steel himself, his jaw tightening a bit in resolution.  The young man's eyes dwelt on the gradeschooler's small form; then he shook his head, turning again towards the exit.

As they walked, he began to… talk. Detective Takagi's voice seemed a little higher than usual, a little more controlled than the norm.  He sounded as if he were choosing his words carefully, working towards….. something, though his topics were commonplace, the sorts of things that an adult might chat casually about with a child.  But the boy was strongly reminded of his own methods, the ones he used when carefully trying to maneuver a murderer to convict himself by his own words. 

Conan began to sweat.  *Uh oh…..  Where is this going?*

"You know," said Takagi conversationally as they made their way through the maze of markers and stone shrines, "there're a lot of customs about cemeteries that most people aren't aware of…..  I took a class in college in Japanese Folk History, and we heard about all sorts of odd things like that."  He walked in front of Conan, keeping the pace on the narrow walkway slow to compensate for his charge's short legs.

And, incidentally, doing a nicely casual job of blocking the path out as well…..

Conan glanced up at the officer's back, carefully stepping over a broken marker.  "Really?  Like what, Takagi-heji?"  *Great; he's gonna try and give a little boy shivers with ghost stories.  Very funny, Officer Takagi.*

"Well…..  There's a tradition that you can find out who's going to die next if you wait by a cemetery on certain nights… and some of the old stories say that you can keep from getting sick for a whole year if you light incense for every shrine in a cemetery in one night.  And then there's another old tradition I've heard….. the priests say that a cemetery isn't really in this world--- it's in the next.  Sort of an annex to the Afterlife, you know?"

Conan felt his steps falter and slow as the man in front of him turned to look at him over his shoulder.  From his vantage point of scarcely more than a meter, he could see little of the policeman's face….. but what he saw was enough.  He came to a halt.

*The Afterlife---?  What IS he talking about?*

*Oh…..  Oh shit.*

Takagi-san had stopped; he stood still, looking forward now towards the cemetery gate.  "Something wrong, Conan-kun?  Something you want to talk about, maybe?"  His voice was very careful, very calm.  "Like, oh, that little promise of yours that you made in the elevator?"

The cemetery had grown very quiet.  The only sounds were the soft sighing of the wind and the distant calling of crows as they gathered in search of trees to sleep in for the night.  The mocking voices of the birds seemed to echo in his memory, echo the words that had been spoken while they waited for their world to end:

"Ummm--- I have just one thing left to ask….. Who in the world are you, Conan-kun?"

The boy had laughed quietly, looking down from his perch beside the bomb; his eyes were strangely fearless and clear.  "If you really want to know, I'll tell you--- in the Afterlife."  He had laughed again then, a self-depreciating laugh that should never have come from a little boy.

Who had just, by the way, managed to defuse most of a quite intricate bomb.  Right in front of Takagi.

And now there they were, standing in a lonely place that was by all accounts neither quite among the living nor the dead.  And Takagi was asking him once again:  "So; just who are you, Edogawa Conan?"

*Shit, shit, shit.  He's got me dead to rights.  I said I'd tell him if we--- of course, we didn't die, and we're not in the Afterlife, but we sort of are and I *DID* promise I'd tell him…..* 

Kudo Shinichi's mind ran little squirrel-circles in Edogawa Conan's seven-year-old head; he could feel his face paling, could feel the sweat gathering on the back of his neck.  *I wonder if looking really pathetic and confused would work?  Nahh, he sees that all the time in suspects.  How about—no, I won't stoop to getting teary-eyed.  I've used that on Ran, but---  Ah, crap.  I *DID* promise.*

*And you're a good cop and an intelligent man, Takagi-heji; if I have to tell somebody, I'd sure rather it was you than, oh, I dunno….. Shiratori.  Nice guy, but not much of a sense of humor.  Not as patient with kids as I'd like, either, speaking from a personal standpoint.  No, if somebody's got to find out, I guess it could be a hell of a lot worse.*

*CRAP.  Well, get it over with, Kudo; this is nobody's fault but your own.*

Drawing a deep breath, he dropped his gaze to the ground.  "Ummm.  Okay.  To start out with….. who do you think I am, Takagi-san?"

He could hear the man's intake of breath, could nearly hear his heartbeat.  A quick flicker of a glance up showed that Takagi looked nearly as shaky as he felt.  *Huh; the guy's almost scared of me!*

The young officer laughed nervously, pushing his hair back from his forehead with a habitual gesture.  "I'm… not sure.  You look like a little kid, sound like a little kid….. until you forget to, or you stop bothering about it.  Like you did in the elevator."

*Yeah, well, YOU try keeping your 'cute-little-boy' act up when you're about to find yourself spread all over Tokyo in a thin red splatter.  Not.*

"But… y'know… you don't usually act like a little kid most of the time, not even when you're trying to.  You don't talk like a little kid—and your body language is ALL wrong; you keep still too long.  That's not natural for somebody your age."  He stopped, frowning.  "That is—I mean, somebody who's really a little kid….."  Takagi-san rocked back on his heels, hands in pockets; his eyebrows were drawn together in perplexity.

The boy felt his shoulders droop; he had forgotten just how good Takagi was at his job.  He had the "cop's radar" down pat, sure enough—it was like a dog that barked at something unfamiliar or strange, and apparently there was an entire kennel of big, loud K-9 units baying at Edogawa Conan right now.  "Uh huh….. anything else?" he asked, looking out away across the markers.

The officer frowned and rocked back on his heels a little, hands in pockets, obviously thinking hard.  "Lots of things, once I thought about it—and I've been thinking about it for a while now, I guess; it all just came to a head with the bomb and all.  Lots of stuff I sort of just pushed aside at the time—like when you made those kids you hang around with put on gloves in an evidence environment; like all those questions you've asked to draw attention to clues—"  He shrugged, the thin edge of a smile beginning to creep onto his rather boyish face.  "You overdo it sometimes, you know, acting like a cute little boy…..  If you really want people to believe you're a seven-year-old, you ought to be more of a brat sometimes.  No gradeschooler behaves that well—believe me, I know; I've got nephews."

Conan shrugged, giving a slightly disgruntled snort.  "Huh; try it sometime, Takagi-san—it's not as easy as it looks."  He scuffed at the leaves with the toe of one tennis-shoe.  "So…..  Anything more?"

The detective shot him a slightly guilty look.  "This last thing….. um, well, I was planning to save it for if you decided to try something cute like backing out of your promise--- leverage, you know?"  He laughed nervously, scratching at his head with one hand.  "Your records—your birth certificate, school records, that sort of thing—they're too good, too easy to access, too perfect.  That's what really got me wondering, first time I took a look—nobody's stuff is that readable or—or clean.  I don't know who did the forgery job for you, but they were just a *little* too artistic."  He shook his head, a gleam of admiration creeping into his eyes.  "They were awfully good, though….."

*Oh jeeze…..  I didn't think of THAT.  When Dad told me that he'd gotten somebody to "take care of my paperwork", I didn't bother to check on it myself.  Idiot!  Shit, Kudo, where was your brain?!?*  The boy fought to calm his expression.  He shoved his hands into his pockets, walking a few feet away and staring across the stones. 

A last wisp of incense teased at his nose as he drew in a long breath; this was harder than he had thought it would be.  "Huh; guess it'd take a cop to spot that, though… right?"  Behind him Takagi shrugged, unseen.  "Guess so.  I mean, I was looking for something weird….."

It was growing darker in the cemetery now; the sun had passed behind the buildings, and the shadows were beginning to stretch longer and longer.  Conan raised his face to the darkening sky, and he heard the detective catch his breath.  "What's wrong?"

"Uh… nothing."  Takagi sounded more than a little nervous.  The older man shuffled his feet on the graveled path slightly.  "It's just that—you don't really look like a kid anymore, not to me… you face, anyway.  Did you… do something?"

Conan half-turned in place, eyeing the policeman with one eyebrow quirked up.  "No, not really; just dropped my masks, I guess—you know, body language?  I'm not trying to look like a little kid anymore, not for you.  What—did you think I was some sort of magician or something?  Trust me, I'm not gonna suddenly go 'poof!' and turn into an adult in front of you."  He snorted, a very unchildlike sound that made Takagi jump slightly.  "Hah; I wish….."  He could hear the note of wistfulness that had crept into his own voice.

*Man, he really IS sort of scared of me, isn't he?  And here I am, freaking out at him!  Maybe this won't be so bad after all…..* 

*Wonder what he'd do if I suddenly screamed "BOO!"?........  Behave, Kudo; he can still drag you off to jail for impersonating a minor if he gets pissed off.  Kind of a tempting thought, though, isn't it?*

"Look," he said abruptly, shoving his hands into his pockets; "Do you want the whole story, or just the basic facts?  I mean, it's getting late; it'll be dark soon, and I for one don't really feel like sitting around in a cemetery after nightfall."  He shot the older man a slightly crooked grin.  "I don't know what you think I am, Takagi-san, but I can promise you I'm nothing supernatural."  Conan snickered despite himself at the slow flush of embarrassment that crept across the detective's face, just visible in the dim light.  "Hey—don't tell me you're superstitious, are you?"

"Don't be an idiot," growled the older man as he reddened.  "Give me a break, whoever you are—I'm on unknown ground here!  For all I know you're, uh-----"  His voice trailed off; Conan cocked his head to one side and stared up at him with interest.  He had been wondering what sort of explanations Takagi might have come up with for him…..  "'For all you know I'm—what?" he prompted, his grin widening a little.

The detective stopped where he stood, scratching his head.  "Hell if I know….." he confessed rather sheepishly.  He looked remarkably young for a moment, and the boy recalled belatedly that he was really only about five or six years his senior.

The small boy regarded him with crossed arms, quirking one eyebrow up.  "Oh, c'mon….. if I'm gonna have to be honest here, you can take the plunge too.  Besides, I always considered you truthful to a fault, really—so tell me: 'For all you know, I'm…..'"


Conan waited expectantly.  This was almost fun, compared with how stressed-out he had been a moment before.  It was kind of interesting to have somebody else regarding him with apprehension, rather than the other way around.

Takagi cleared his throat nervously.  "Well—I thought at first that you might be a midget or something; but your proportions are all wrong for that.  So… then I thought maybe you, umm, might be the result of some sort of experimentation, or maybe… I, uhh, started wondering about….." his words ground to a halt and he stopped, flushing deeply.

"Hm?" prompted Conan.  He was starting to enjoy this.

"…..err….. possession….. y'know….. ghosts and that sort of thing?"

For a moment the transformed young man's head reeled, and he fought down what would have probably been slightly hysterical laughter.  *Ohhhh MAN, could I have fun with this if I wanted to!  "I am the ghost of Kudo Shinichi, and I possess the body of this cute little kid whenever the hell I feel like it and make him solve mysteries!  He's searching for my murderer, a guy in a black trenchcoat named Gin….. seen him around anywhere?"  Sounds like a plot for a really cheesy movie.  Huh; a pity I didn't use that one on Hattori!*

A little of his amusement escaped him in an involuntary snort, too brief to be called laughter but too audible to be anything else.  Takagi turned a little redder, crossing his own arms and looking down from his height at the boy.  "Don't laugh…..  I mean, what was I supposed to think?  You look like a little kid—my eyes keep telling me you're a little kid—but you're not a little kid."

Conan grinned up at him, shaking his head as they continued along the path.  "This has really been bugging you for a while, hasn't it?   Why didn't you say something a while ago?"

The detective pushed the rusty gate open on squeaking hinges, shooting the small figure by his side a slightly dirty look.  "Like what?  'Hey, I noticed that you don't act like a normal kid—are you a mutant or something?'  Or maybe 'Hey, Ran-kun, did you ever think that Conan-kun might be from another planet?'……. What?  Something like that?"

Somehow he sounded a lot more relaxed now.  Exasperation could do that; so could embarrassment.  The boy chuckled, watching his steps as they moved towards where Takagi's rather dilapidated car was parked.  "Well, I'm not a mutant and I'm not from another planet…. You're not an anime fan by any chance, are you?"

Takagi's grunt of annoyance as he climbed into his car could have been taken for either a 'yes' or a 'no'; Conan decided to ignore it entirely.  He tugged on the car's door-handle; it refused to budge, and he tried again with all his child-body's strength.  "Hmph—door's stuck.  Crap, I hate being small….. Takagi-heiji, could you---?"

The young officer shot him a slightly odd look from inside the car as he reached across to open the door with a shove.  "So you're no stronger than a regular little kid, huh?"

Conan shrugged, fastening his belt.  "I *AM* a little kid, physically….. it's up here—" and he tapped his head with one finger "—that I'm different."  He sighed.  "So; basic facts or the whole story?"

Takagi frowned, but the expression seemed more directed at his car than at the boy beside him; the vehicle was sputtering and coughing as he attempted to turn the engine over.  "Uhhh… basic facts, to begin with, I guess….."  He seemed to brace himself.

The young boy took a deep breath, trying to figure out how to begin.  *I've never had to sum things up quick like this before—when I told Hattori I had enough time to lay it out plain.  Well, here goes…..*

"Okay.  My real name…..  My real name is Kudo Shinichi, and I'm actually eighteen; we've met before, you and I—the first time was during a murder that took place on a commercial plane flight.  About a year ago I ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, saw too much, and was forced to take an untested poison called APTX-4869 by a thug who worked for a huge invisible crime syndicate called the Black Organization.  The poison was supposed to kill me, but instead it reverted my body to a seven-year-old's, so I had to pretend I was one and hide out under a fake identity to keep them from hunting me down and finishing the job."

He glanced sideways at the policeman beside him.  "Got all that?"

There was a pregnant pause as the old vehicle shivered and clattered, pistons pinging.

Takagi stared at the boy.  "You're kidding."

The engine shuddered and died.


YSABET'S NOTES:  Hi there…..  Well, this one's a bit hard to explain.  My Japanese is somewhere between hopeful and pathetic, so mostly I rely on a number of trusty dictionaries, a JWP program, my hard-won-but-finally-memorized Hiragana, and my very good friend and Japanese teacher Bridget for *really* getting the sense out of those pesky volumes of manga.  I'm pretty sure I've got the story down right regarding the bomber plot from volumes 36-37—I sure HOPE so, because what you've just read is Chapter One of a little twist on the Conan world: what might have happened if Takagi decided that he just HAD to know Conan's secret.  I like Takagi; I really do.  Of all the police-types there, he's my favorite—he's sweet, boyish, determined, cute, intelligent, and just makes me want to ruffle his hair and shove him into Sato-san's arms with an admonition to "Kiss her, you fool!"  (Actually, Sato's far more likely to take the lead unless something drastic happens; I could murder Megure myself for walking in at the wrong moment in that alley in Volume 37…..  Go Sato!!!  Rah Rah Rah!!!)  But maybe that's just me; did I mention that I think he's cute?--  Anyway, back to the storyline.  Oh yeah—uh, this one's gonna be a lot more light-hearted than my "Second Wind" series was (and please don't eviscerate me, you who are currently waiting for Chapter 10 to come out—it's almost done!  I swear!  But this was bugging the hell out of me and just HAD to be written…..); despite the title, it will NOT, I repeat NOT BE A GHOST STORY!!!  There.  The ghosts in this fic are the ghosts of memory—and they can be much scarier than a wandering spirit, you know.  And much, much more personal.

Anyway….. please let me know what you think of this.  Oh, and by the way—no, I *didn't* have to have Conan Explain Things in such a short fashion, but I had a bet with myself that I could get him to tell everything in three sentences.  I think I won!  Or lost!  Or whatever…..  Oh, and the 'batwings and glowing eyes' thing—Icka, please pardon me—I just couldn't resist the reference to your Shinigami fic!  ^_^