EDIT 6/29/16: Replaced the previous version of this chapter with the revised one! This is the last of the revised chapters, folks, the new ones start from next chapter on!
Blood and Snow
"Oi, Kazuha, ya comin'?"
"Just a minute, Heiji!" Kazuha called out, stuffing another shirt into her suitcase and pausing there, mulling over what she had already packed. Did she have everything she needed? She thought she had packed enough clothes, and it wasn't like she couldn't use the washing machine at Ran's place, or the hotel if they had one, if she ran out of clean clothes. She had packed hygiene items, bandages in case she needed them, various odds and ends, she'd remembered her cell phone this time, her precious charm was right where it should be...
Nodding her head, Kazuha decided that she had everything she could possibly need for her trip to Beika to visit her good friend, Ran. It had been two months since she had last seen her in person, when she had stopped in Osaka briefly in order to pick up Conan. It was hard to believe that time had gone by so quickly since then. Zipping up her suitcase, she headed outside, where Heiji was waiting for her, his bags already packed, a locked cooler slung over one arm, attached to a strap.
"Ya got everythin' this time?" Heiji asked her as they headed out the front door, stopping to say goodbye to Kazuha's parents. They headed towards the train station, planning on taking the bullet train to Tokyo.
"Of course I do, idiot. What about you?" Kazuha asked, glancing over at him, grinning a little. "Did you remember your all important charm~?"
It was definitely a mistake to tell her about it protectin' me. Heiji thought to himself, rolling his eyes as he pulled it out from underneath his shirt. "Yeah, it's right here. Satisfied?"
Kazuha did indeed seem pleased by this, taking Heiji's free hand in hers. "Indeed I am!" She told him cheerfully. "You made sure you got the hotel reservations in order before you left, right? I don't really see any reason that we can't stay at the Detective Agency like we always do."
"We're goin' to be in Tokyo all durin' the break, I think Neechan and that Uncle might think somethin's a little strange 'bout me after awhile." Heiji pointed out. "'Sides, given that uncle's track record, what do ya think would happen if he stumbled upon me sleepin'? He would call the police right away and that would be awfully hard to explain."
"Ah, that's true." Kazuha laughed. "Can you blame people though, Heiji? It's a little bit disturbing. You look exactly like a corpse when you're sleeping."
"It can't be helped." Heiji almost pouted. "Technically I should be a corpse, Kazuha, grim soundin' as that is." He frowned a little, then shrugged his shoulders, the expression quickly becoming replaced by an easy grin. "Maybe we should do a haunted house at the school festival this year? I bet I could cause a real riot."
"Rejected." Kazuha glared at him. "You might just cause a real riot that way."
"Well, isn't that what I just sai-oh." The context of Kazuha's words quickly dawned on him. "Well, that's true I guess. It'd be kinda funny though, right?" He asked her, grinning from ear to ear as usual.
"Idiot, as if the rumors aren't bad enough already. They got even worse after that whole vampire hunter affair, you should be glad nothing like that has happened since then." Kazuha told him. The school had indeed been stirred up with all sorts of rumors after Heiji had returned to school after a week long absence, after being supposedly attacked by the serial killer, Okubo Karen. There were still students in school who thought that the women was really a vampire hunter, and thus, having been attacked by her, Heiji must have really been a vampire as well. They were correct, of course, but that was a secret.
Two months had passed since then, without any major incidents- there were a few cases her and there for Heiji, but nothing to the tune of the vampire hunter case. Claire had never turned up, and it was thought she had escaped overseas after all, using guild connections. Karen had been tried and convicted pretty quickly, and was facing life in prison. The bodies had been given proper burials, reunited with their heads. Efforts had been made to seek out the family of the second victim- who on the surface was a homeless child- but no trace of them could be found. Probably because they were long since dead, after all. Heiji had managed to connect the priest of the church where the three heads were buried as an accomplice to the crimes, and he had been convicted as well, being given a much lighter sentence than Karen.
Heiji had fully recovered from his two fights with the vampire hunters for the most part. Two of the smaller wounds made by Karen's silver knives, melted down crosses doused in holy water, had lingered on his lower torso. Kazuha had noted that combined with the burn scar over his right eye, and various other scars that he had gotten from before becoming a vampire, he was starting to gain an impressive collection of them- and that he should also really knock it off.
It had taken Heiji half a month to be able to properly use his right arm again, which had regenerated after being chopped off by Claire. It had been a half month filled with more dropped and crushed items than he could count, before he finally regained normal use of it. No other hunters turned up in the meantime, and Kazuha and Heiji were able to relax for awhile, enjoying each others company. Things seemed to have returned to normal- or as normal as they were ever going to get anymore, at least.
There had been a few awkward moments, a few bumps and hurdles along the way, but things were starting to settle down into a routine for the first time since Heiji had become a vampire. And Kazuha was glad for it, to be honest, and it seemed to do Heiji a world of good as well. He wasn't really one to talk about it much, but she knew there were things in the back of his mind, that bothered him. He would talk to her about them sometimes, but not often. He didn't really think about them all that often himself, either, it seemed.
"But, I can't wait to see Ran-chan again!" Kazuha grinned. "And I'll bet you're looking forward to seeing Conan-kun. You two really get along well, you know, like brothers or something!"
"Yeah, I guess." Heiji laughed a little, wondering what Kazuha would think if she ever learned that Edogawa Conan was really just the shrunken form of his rival, Kudo Shinichi. Not that he ever planned to tell her that, much as he slipped up with names from time to time. "By the way, Kazuha, did ya ever tell yer folks anythin'?"
"No, not really." Kazuha shook her head. "Your father didn't tell mine anything either. I don't really know how to bring it up, to be honest. What should I say, 'Hey mom and dad! Guess what? You know Heiji right, my childhood friend and current boyfriend? Yeah, did you know he's a vampire now?'" She glanced over at him. "Because that doesn't sound crazy. I think I can understand your dilemma a little better now, Heiji."
"Hey, only your current boyfriend?" Heiji asked, an expression of mock offense on his face. "Ya plannin' on datin' someone else besides me, Kazuha?"
"Hush, you know what I mean." Kazuha scolded him. "At any rate, I think I'll have to tell them eventually. I mean, it'll get pretty weird after awhile once we're like in our twenties and they realize you haven't changed at all since you were a teenager. Like you're stuck in some kind of long running manga where time can't flow properly for the sake of the plot."
Heiji laughed at that. "Yeah, like that would happen."
"Kazuha-chan!" Ran happily called out as she spotted her Osakan friend getting off the train, and eagerly waved to her, calling her over to where she was waiting with Conan. Smiling brightly, she caught Kazuha's attention, who pulled on Heiji's hand, and hurried over to go speak to her friend. They talked over the phone, of course, but it just wasn't the same as seeing the person in question in front of you.
"Ran-chan!" Kazuha hugged her, before kneeling down to do the same to Conan, who squirmed in her grip. "And you too, Conan-kun! You both came to pick us up?" She asked, glancing up at Ran.
"That's right. I thought we could drop your bags off at your hotel and then hang out with each other." Ran frowned a little, looking between them. "Are you two really not going to stay at the Detective Agency this time? You know you're always welcome there, in spite of what my father says."
"Yeah, don't worry 'bout us, Neechan." Heiji flashed a grin towards her. "We don't want to keep imposin' on ya after all. 'Sides, we're gonna be here fer awhile, the agency'll start gettin' cramped afore long."
"It's not really imposing though." Ran frowned, not seeming to understand. She had been looking forward to having a sleep over with Kazuha, after all.
Sensing the changing mood, Kazuha quickly changed the topic, clapping her hands. "I've been just dying to get some shopping done in Tokyo, Ran-chan! Why don't we let the boys be boys, while we go hunt for some good bargains? I promised my mom I would bring her back some souvenirs after all."
"Don't get caught up in another murder case this time, Kazuha." Heiji told her, shifting the cooler strap on his arm. He noticed Ran taking note of it, a brief look of puzzlement crossing her face- which mostly seemed to be directed at the lock.
"Idiot, of course I won't. I could say the same to you, Heiji." Kazuha shot him a look. "Don't go dragging Conan-kun off with you to some weird crime scene, okay?"
"I'll do my best!" Heiji grinned, giving her a mock salute. "So, then Ku-kid, it's just you an' me then. Ya got any places ya wanna go?" Heiji asked, kneeling down to be more on eye level with his shrunken friend. "Ya know, with yer best friend~?"
Conan glowered a little at his tone, before smiling brightly, slipping on his cute child mask. "Of course, Heiji-niichan! Are you sure you can get around without falling down any more stairs?"
Heiji twitched at that. Oh, so that was how he was going to play it, huh? "Don't worry about me, kid! I can see perfectly fine now. A lot better than some glasses wearin' shrimp."
The two detectives glowered at each other for awhile, before Conan finally let out a sigh and looked up at Heiji. "You know why I called you out to come here, right Hattori?" He asked him plainly, now that Kazuha and Ran had left.
"Yeah, I've got a pretty good idea." Heiji's expression changed, becoming grim. "The recent serial murders, right?" He asked Conan. "An' not just any ol' serial murders- all the victims died from blood loss, with the only sign of injury bein' two puncture wounds on their neck. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why ya called me up, Kudo."
"It's only a hunch, Hattori, but I think they might be caused by the vampire who turned you." Conan said, a grim, decidedly unchildlike expression crossing his face.
"Seems like a pretty spot on assessment to me." Heiji said, eyes narrowing. "It's only strange that corpses haven't turned up before this. Judgin' from the impression I got of him, I don't think he'd be the type to hold himself back. I got the feelin' that somethin' is goin' on here."
"Maybe he knows you're looking for him?" Conan suggested.
"So he's makin' himself easier to find? Nah, I don't think it's that simple, Kudo. There must be some reason for it." Heiji frowned, mulling over the question. Unable to come up with any answers, he sighed, glancing down at his shrunken friend. "Well, just standin' here ain't gonna give us any answers. We headin' off to any crime scenes?"
"That we are." Conan gave Heiji a quick nod. "Another corpse turned up this morning. Yokohama Arisu, a nineteen year old college student. Majoring in botany, found dead on a remote part of the college campus this morning. Cause of death appeared to be blood loss, but there were no obvious external wounds, save for the two puncture wounds, and no blood in the area around her either. Naturally, the police are at a loss."
"'Cause they don't know the suspect they're lookin' fer is a vampire, huh?" Heiji mused, adjusting the strap of his bag, before he followed Conan out of the station. "Well, I'd be surprised if they did. None of 'em really look like they're the type to believe in that sort of thing, 'cept fer maybe that round one." He shrugged his shoulders. "Have all the victims been women so far?"
"Young, pretty women." Conan nodded his head. "Looks like our vampire is just as shallow about who he feeds on as he is about who he imitates, if it's the same one." Frowning, the shrunken detective glanced towards Heiji. "Well, the police of course don't think it's vampires, but there are rumors going around, so you should be careful, Hattori." He knew full well that rumors about Heiji were still swirling around underneath the surface back in Osaka, ever since the vampire hunter case- Kazuha had apparently picked up the habit of calling him to vent about them, of all things.
"No problem!" The Osakan vampire said cheerfully. "I brought along plenty of blood bags, an' we got Mitsuta-han workin' in this area, so I can get refills if I need 'em. Don't worry about me, Kudo, I've gotten a better handle on things recently. Nobody will know a thing, if all goes well."
"Don't get overconfident, Hattori." Conan warned him. "I was that cocky once, and look what happened to me." He gave a wave of his hand towards his shrunken body, emphasizing his point.
Heiji winced a little. "Yeah, that's true enough. Don't worry, Kudo, I'll keep a sharp eye out fer anythin' strange. Well, if I land myself in trouble, I can always use hypnosis to get myself out of it!" He said cheerfully. "It's a pretty handy power, you know?"
"You shouldn't depend on it so much, Hattori." Conan said. "You can only hypnotize one person at a time anyways. If something big happens, you'll be in trouble."
"Well yeah. I've never heard of any vampires who can do more at once though." Heiji shrugged. "Or at least, Mitsuta-han hasn't said anythin' to me about that sorta thing."
"Keep it in mind though, Hattori." Conan told him. "And? I take it from what I heard from Kazuha that she had no idea you're here to investigate these murders."
"No, she has some idea, I think." Heiji said. "She's heard about them, at any rate, and I think she knows just as well as we do about what's really goin' on here. The old man figured it out too. Almost didn't wanna let me go." He said, shaking his head. "Well, the good news is that he didn't ask me if I was behind them or anythin' like that and he hasn't been lookin' at me strangely or anythin' as late, which probably means he trusts me."
"I take it Kazuha's not too thrilled about you doing this investigation then." Conan observed.
"She's not, I don't think so." Heiji frowned. "She says she has a bad feelin' or somethin'. I think she's just worryin' too much. I'll be fine. What's the worst that could happen?"
"Don't ask things like that, you're only tempting fate when you do. See, for example- that one time you got your entire right arm cut off." Conan pointed out, frowning. "Well, just don't make her worry about you, Hattori. You shouldn't do that."
"You're hardly one to talk, Kudo." Heiji commented, glancing down at his shrunken friend. Conan merely shrugged his shoulders. "I know, I know. It's not by choice. But it sure would be nice if you could ferret out those Black Organization folk already." He flashed a grin at him, quickly cheering up. "Ya could use me fer it ya know! I bet they won't be prepared for a vampire!"
"Well, I'll keep that in mind. But you never know, they did invent a drug that shrinks people." Conan said. For the briefest moment, his mind's eye flickered to Vermouth, and he shuddered, deciding to quickly shove away even the vaguest possibility that the reason she didn't apparently age could be because she was a vampire. If the Black Organization had vampires in it- god, he didn't even want to think about that.
"Isn't that just some weird kinda alternate effect? I mean it's really supposed to be a poison, right?" Heiji asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"True enough, but that doesn't change the point that it was able to do that." Conan pointed out. "For all we know Apotoxion could even work on vampires."
"Right, right, I understand. But ya know I'm always ready to help ya out, Kudo. Ya've helped me out in the past after all, wouldn't do for me not to return the favor." Heiji nodded his head. Any further conversation between the two detectives was cut short by their arrival at their destination.
As expected, the college campus was almost empty, despite it being the early afternoon. Nobody else was around save for the police, who were still investigating the scene. Conan quickly recognized Detectives Takagi and Sato, the two of them discussing something off to one side of the actual crime scene. Takagi looked up first, noticing the two boys. "Oh, Conan-kun and Hattori-kun." He greeted them, causing Sato to look over in their direction as well. Glancing around, as if looking for Kogoro, Takagi frowned, turning back to look down at Conan. "Detective Mouri isn't with you today?"
"Nope! I'm helping out Heiji-niichan today!" Conan told the detective brightly, grinning from ear to ear. "He heard about the cases from Osaka and wanted to come help solve them himself!"
"Heh, is that so?" Sato asked, glancing over at Heiji. She frowned for a moment, tilting her head to the side, seeming to notice something. After a moment, she spoke up. "Have you done something different, Hattori-kun?" She asked him. "Something about you doesn't seem quite the same."
At this, Heiji paled a little. He knew from Conan that Detective Sato was rather sharp (it was why Conan didn't dare pull the Sleeping Kogoro act with her around), and suddenly felt as if he knew how the shrunken detective felt. "N-no, n-not really." Heiji stammered, scratching the back of his head and laughing nervously. "We just haven't seen each other fer awhile, right?"
Quickly assessing his friend's mood, Conan broke in, changing the topic. "We can see the crime scene, right?" He asked Detective Sato. "Heiji-niichan says he wants to help as much as possible!"
"Well, in that case, thank you for coming out here during your school break." Sato smiled, dismissing the strange feeling for a moment. "Well, we've already had the body taken away, but you're welcome to look at the crime scene as long as you don't disturb anything."
"Inspector Megure would have our heads if he found out about it though." Takagi half-joked.
"At this rate, I think the Inspector's gotten used to outsiders entering his crime scenes." Sato couldn't help but laugh, glancing back at Takagi. "I'm sure he'll be fine with it. Hattori-kun is a famous detective, after all."
"That's true." Takagi admitted, laughing a little, before a grave expression came over his face. "To be honest with you, Hattori-kun, we're at something of a loss here. We don't even understand how she died."
"So I've heard." Heiji frowned, as the quartet headed for the crime scene in question. It had been roped off by police tape, which they ducked underneath. It was easy enough to find the chalk outline marking where the body had been. Sure enough, as Conan had said, it seemed to be an isolated part of the campus, behind an old building that didn't serve for much more than storage. "Do ya have any pictures handy?" He asked, glancing back at Takagi and Sato.
"We do." Sato said, fishing them out and passing them over towards Heiji. Thinking of his shrunken friend, Heiji took them, and then knelt down, so that Conan could get a good look at them as well. "The way her body was found is strange, as if the culprit carefully arranged her. All the other corpses have been like that as well."
It was true, the victim was lying on her back, eyes and mouth closed. They could still, however, see vestiges of the horror that must have been etched into her expression as she died despite this care. Her arms were folded over her chest, her hands clasped together as if in prayer, and her legs were carefully paired up next to each other. Even her hair had been brushed back so that it framed her face in an appealing way. If Heiji didn't know any better, he would think this was less of a murder victim, and more of someone playing a corpse in a stage play, from the way everything was neatly arranged.
Heiji had spoken to Karen exactly once since she had been incarcerated, right after the first murder came to his attention. With the creeping feeling he had in the back of his mind that the vampire who had turned him was behind it, he had his father get him access to where she was being held. It was actually a little chilling, that despite being locked up in a maximum security woman's prison, Karen almost seemed strangely at ease there, at home in a way the rest of the prisoners weren't. Heiji had no doubt that if the guild she worked for wanted to, they could have broken her out at any moment.
It was a simple, quick conversation. Heiji showed her a picture of the victim and the crime scene that he'd acquired from his father. She'd taken one look at the photograph, and confirmed it was his work.
"He always had a great appreciation for art and beauty. The corpses he leaves are his art, Hattori-chan." She'd told him calmly, eyes level with his. "According to all the records I've seen of him, I've got no reason to doubt you're on the right path. In other words- you have the right vampire."
Handing the photographs back to Sato, Heiji stood up, a deep frown on his face. The detective took note of it, but as it looked like Heiji was lost in thought at the moment, she didn't bring it up.
"And there was really nothing on the body that related to the culprit?" Conan asked, sharing his friend's expression. This was a vampire they were talking about, not some kind of robot- at the very least, there should have been traces of saliva around the puncture wound.
"So it seems." Takagi told him. "Well, we're still investigating the actual crime scene, looking for any minutiae traces of the culprit, but so far we haven't turned up anything. It's sort of like the culprit is some kind of ghost."
"Well, that said, we still don't entirely know how the culprit killed the victim." Sato told the boys. "The cause of death, like the others, was clearly blood loss, but the only wound we found was much too small to have caused that much loss of blood. And as you can see," Sato said, spreading her hands out to her sides. "There's no other traces of blood anywhere around here, and no evidence that the body was moved other than to pose it. There should be traces of blood."
"Honda Ryou." Heiji said finally, without looking up, his eyes fixed on the chalk outline.
"Pardon?" Sato said, blinking, turning her attention back to Heiji.
"Honda Ryou." Heiji said again, turning back to look at Sato. "He's the culprit behind a string of murders in a mountain town." He told them.
"Ah, I remember hearing about that." Takagi said. "It was in revenge for his childhood friend, wasn't it? She was kidnapped and killed by the victims in question. If I recall, they cause of their deaths was..." The older detective paled, a look of realization crossing his face. "Oh. I get it now."
"That's right." Heiji said, shoving his hands inside of his pockets. "Although all of the victims had broken necks, that wasn't the cause of death." He said, frowning. "No, the cause of death was bein' drained of their bodily fluids, mainly their blood. Just like here."
"I see." Sato frowned, considering this information, placing a hand on her chin and narrowing her eyes. "Now that you mention it, I recall reading about that case as well. Are you suggesting the culprit in this case used a similar method to kill these victims?" She asked him, to which Heiji gave a quick nod. "It's true that when you think about it, these murders do seem like less brutal version of those murders."
"But, I heard Honda-san wasn't speaking to anyone about how he killed the victims?" Takagi said, glancing over at Heiji. "They even offered him a plea bargain if he confessed to how he did it, but he refused to take it. How would our murderer have found out the manner of their deaths themselves?"
"Who knows." Heiji shrugged his shoulders. "It may even be the other way around." The detective pointed out. "At any rate, he might be able to answer some questions, so we should have a few words with him."
"No, Hattori-kun, like I just said, Honda-san isn't speaking with anyone." Takagi reminded him.
"I know." Heiji glanced over at him. "But he'll speak to me. After all, the one who solved that case and got him to turn himself in was me, after all."
"Eh, really?" Takagi blinked, seeming taken aback. That hadn't been mentioned anywhere, unusual, because from what he knew of Heiji, he loved the attention. The fact that Heiji's name hadn't appeared in any of the articles vaguely reminded Takagi of Shinichi, Heiji's rival, who in his rare appearances these days, asked for the same thing. He briefly paused to wonder as to why the two high school detectives were doing this, but shrugged off the thought, deciding that at the moment, the reason why wasn't very important.
"Really." Heiji nodded his head. "If ya can bring 'em here, I'd appreciate it. I think he'd be more comfortable talkin' to me in person."
"Hattori-kun, you're suggesting that we transfer a condemned criminal simply so he can talk to someone who isn't even directly involved with the police force." Sato pointed out, quirking an eyebrow. "Are you really so confident he'll talk to you? And that he'll tell us something important?"
"Confident as I can get." Heiji grinned at them, giving the two detectives the idea that he was very confident indeed.
"Well, I'll bring it up with Inspector Megure, but I don't know if he'll go for it." Takagi said. "I'll give you a call when I have any news into that matter though, Hattori-kun. Is there anything else?"
"No." Heiji said, glancing around the crime scene again. "I think we've done about all we can here. Oi, Ku-no, Conan-kun, ya find anythin'?" He asked, glancing towards the shrunken detective in question. While he had been listening to their conversation, he had also been snooping around on his own, looking for anything the detectives might have overlooked.
"No, nothing." Conan said, straightening up and looking back at Heiji with a grim frown. Not being able to find anything was nothing short of bizarre, and Conan wondered briefly if his powers of observation were somehow starting to fail him. No, that wasn't it, he thought- they were, after all, going after a vampire who had hundreds of years of covering his tracks under his belt. A thought struck Conan then, and he frowned, deciding to hold on to it until he and Heiji were free and clear of any listening ears.
"Then, we'll be goin' then." Heiji told the detectives. "I promised Kazuha I'd meet up with her fer dinner."
"Ah!" Sato said suddenly, pounding her fist in her open palm, as if suddenly recalling something. "I got it! That's what's so different about you, Hattori-kun!"
"E-eh?" Heiji blanched, color draining from his face. "W-what do ya mean?"
"Your right eye!" Sato said, and Heiji had to avoid letting out a sigh of relief. "You didn't have that scar there before." She said. "So that's it, I was wondering what it was. Did you get hurt somewhere, Hattori-kun?" She asked.
"Ah, yeah." Heiji told her, placing one hand over the burn scar he'd gotten over his right eye from the holy water. "During a case. Well, it's all pretty much healed up, so it's nothing to really worry about."
"I see." Sato nodded her head, seemingly satisfied for the moment with this explanation. Somehow though, it didn't entirely make the strange feeling that she had go away. "Then, if there's nothing else for now, you two should head on. If we find anything new, we'll either call you or Conan-kun." She told him, briefly glancing over at Conan.
"Right." Heiji nodded his head. "Let's go, Conan-kun. We don't want ta keep the girls waitin'."
"So?" Conan asked, glancing up at Heiji. They had made some distance between the campus now, and they thought it safe to discuss matters where there were no ears that cared about their conversation. "Why the sudden interest in Honda-san again, Hattori? You already know exactly how those murders happen, I don't think he could really provide you with any information you don't already know." Conan told him. "And I doubt he's going to tell the police that vampires are behind it- that, and I'm pretty sure you don't want the police to know that either." He pointed out.
"It's true." Heiji shrugged. "But there is a reason I need Honda-han here." He told him, looking over at Conan. "Remember what I told you? Honda-han has a strong sixth sense. Even with the aura blockin' stuff," Heiji said, motioning to the ear cuffs he wore. "...he still knew right away I was a vampire. Judgin' from his level of preparedness, I think he knew it even 'afore he met me in person. That's some crazy strong sixth sense."
"And you think this sixth sense could be of some help here?" Conan asked him.
"It's worth a shot. Could help us narrow down- or rather, find some suspects. I doubt our vampiric friend is hangin' out in the same circles as the play nice vampires that Mitsuta-han knows, after all. If we can get Honda-han over here, he could pick out the unknowns fer us real fast, I bet. Sides, he might know a trick or two- Okubo-han keeps all of her methods to herself unless she wants to brag." Heiji told him, twitching a little at the mention of the vampire hunter. "I don't like workin' in the dark, Kudo. I like to know what kinda people I'm dealin' with."
"True enough." Conan nodded his head. "I had a thought though when I was looking over the crime scene that might answer at least one question."
"Oh?" Heiji asked, arching an eyebrow. "Do tell."
"Our vampire's a shapeshifter of some kind, right?" Conan asked, suddenly unable to believe he had asked that question seriously for a moment. He shook the feeling off however, and continued. "According to what Okubo-san said, he had the majority of his shapeshifting powers sealed away, so it's nearly a one and done deal if he wants to keep the form. But what if even with his powers sealed, he can still alter his form temporarily? If he imitated the victim if only during the time in which it takes to drain them, then the only traces left behind would be the victim's."
"I see!" Heiji's expression brightened, something finally clicking into place. "It wouldn't be that strange if the only traces of a person that can be found on the victim is from the victim themselves." Nodding his head, he beamed at Conan, reaching down to ruffle his hair. "Good job, Kudo! That's probably how he's been able to erase his traces all this time! Mitsuta-han did say that all a shapeshifting vampire needs to be able to morph into someone is a little bit of their blood, or even something like a hair."
Conan looked a little weirded out at that. "So what, like, he would eat the hair or something?"
"Yeah, I guess." Heiji laughed a little. "When ya bring it up, it really does sound gross though. Well, if it were blood, there'd at least be some traces of him on her, so my best guess is he used somethin' like hair after all. If it's just pluckin' a hair from someone's head, anyone can do that fairly easy, especially if it's in a crowded place. Stuff comes out pretty easy with the smallest amount of force an' in a crowd, even if ya noticed, it would be hard to see who did it. Even easier if ya can just erase memories with a glance. Which means he'd probably marked her, an' the other victims earlier."
"Sounds likely enough." Conan agreed, though still visibly a little grossed out at the idea of someone eating human hair. Blood, he could get used to, but hair? No thank you.
"Conan-kun? I'm going to go throw out the garbage! Can you watch the place for a few minutes?" Ran called out, hoisting the aforementioned garbage bag up. As usual, her father was asleep in something of a drunken stupor on his desk, and Conan was busy looking over the newspaper. Somehow Ran wasn't terribly surprised when she'd learned from Kazuha that she had suspected that Heiji was really using visiting her and Conan as an excuse to investigate the latest string of murders that had been occurring in Tokyo. When she caught Conan looking up various articles on the murders in question after he came back home from his afternoon out with Heiji, it confirmed Ran's suspicions, suspicions which she passed on to Kazuha. As she suspected, her Osakan friend didn't seem pleased to hear it, and somehow, it made Ran wonder.
She knew that Kazuha worried about Heiji, of course she did. Heiji could be rather reckless after all, so it wasn't like Ran could blame her. Having a detective boyfriend herself, rather, she understood all to well what she thought Kazuha was feeling. She felt it every day these days, save for those rare times when Shinichi called, or the even rarer times he showed up in person, confirming that yes, he was in fact, still alive and not lying dead in a gutter somewhere.
Ran tried not to dwell on it often, of course, but the thought was always there in the back of her mind. It didn't help matters much that Shinichi wouldn't even share the details of this mysterious case he had been on during all of this time with her. Was it really so dangerous to let her know? And if it was, how dangerous was it for Shinichi, who was wrapped up in all of this? She shuddered briefly at the thought, pushing it away, instead smiling when she heard Conan call out that he would watch the apartment.
To be honest though, there was something about these latest murders that set Ran sort of on edge. She didn't know what it was, exactly, but she always got a cold shiver up her spine whenever she read about them. It probably had to do something with something silly Sonoko had said to her the other day, after the second murder had happened. She had claimed with a good bit of resolution, that it must have been the work of vampires! After all, what else could drain the blood out of the body and leave just two pinprick marks on the neck behind? There was nothing else, of course! The police were just covering up the truth, claiming not to know who the culprit was, or what the cause of death was.
They wouldn't do that though, would they? At least, Ran didn't think any of the officers she had met would. And vampires? Ran shivered again, hauling the garbage bag behind her as she rounded the corner to find the garbage collection point, tossing the bag out with the rest. Dusting off her hands, Ran turned back around, heading back towards the Detective Agency.
"Don't be silly, Ran." She lightly scolded herself. "There's no such thing as vampires. Those only exist in movies and books." She nodded her head. "Sonoko was only trying to scare you." And she'd done a pretty good job at it too, Ran winced, suddenly recalling the scream she had let out during Sonoko's story. Really, that Sonoko, she had too much fun trying to scare her sometimes- someday, Ran would get her back. Perhaps she could get Conan and Heiji to help.
Thinking of Heiji made Ran purse her lips, frowning, her eyebrows furrowing. She felt like there was something she was forgetting about Heiji, something important. It was a strange feeling, and Ran didn't quite understand it either, and didn't like it either. She had caught herself looking at Heiji strangely a few times after they had met up again later in the afternoon. They had a late lunch together, although Heiji had barely touched his food, she recalled. For some reason, Ran couldn't help but think there was something slightly off about the Osakan Detective, but she just couldn't put her finger on it.
Conan and Kazuha didn't act like there was anything strange though, so perhaps Ran was only imagining things. Nodding her head, Ran decided that must have been it. It had just been awhile since they had last seen each other, and that must have been what was causing it. Shivering a little, realizing that the real reason behind her case of the sudden chills was not in fact, her imagination overreacting to strange thoughts, but the fact that tonight was actually a bit chilly. Strange- had it been like this earlier? She couldn't help but wonder, giving her arms a quick rub. Perhaps it was going to rain soon? At any rate, if it kept up like this, perhaps she should set out an extra blanket for Conan tonight, knowing how the young boy often got colds.
Too many colds, Ran thought, sometimes worrying that he missed too much school because of them. Then again, Conan's grades were always great, so she didn't have to worry too much about them.
Ran paused, stopping in her tracks, blinking a little. What was that sound? Glancing around, she looked for the source of it. There was a sudden rush of cold air, which caused Ran to shiver all the more, wrapping her arms around her. It was almost summer, so why was it suddenly this cold?
There it was, another strange sound. Ran's eyes narrowed, and she peered behind her, trying to find what it was. Her eyes, however, met with another pair of eyes, pure black pupils staring back into hers. As if she was drawn into than, Ran found herself freezing in place, despite the fact that her brain was now screaming at her to make a break for it to the Detective Agency just steps in front of her. Not fight- but run.
And Ran could more than handle herself in a fight.
But something, something in the back of her mind, some kind of base instinct told her that this would not be a fight she could win.
But she couldn't move, couldn't turn away, couldn't even blink. Those eyes were transfixed upon hers, and she felt herself slowly drawn more and more into them. There were words, she thought, he was speaking words to her? What were they- she suddenly had lost her ability to understand. She was sure he was speaking Japanese, at least, it seemed that way to her. But she couldn't understand what he was saying, and yet, somehow, his words sunk into her, wrapping themselves about her brain, coiling like a snake. She found herself slowly nodding as this man's words- was it a man, she thought it was a man, Ran couldn't tell, all she could see of him were the eyes.
And then suddenly, with a jolt, nothing. No man, no cold air, no words, no eyes. Ran blinked, glancing around her, eyes darting around the empty street. A strange feeling came over her then, and her eyebrows knitted together, as the memory all but slipped from her grasp. Puzzled, she put a hand to her chin, for a brief moment, feeling that she had felt this sensation before.
And then it was gone, and she couldn't recall what she had just been thinking about. The memory of her strange encounter slipped away from her, as if it had never happened. Blinking, Ran glanced around in confusion about her, before she scratched her head. "Why am I just standing here?" She asked herself, sounding puzzled. Unable to find an answer to that, she simply shrugged her shoulders, not making a big deal out of it, and headed back inside.
"Conan-kun?" She peered back into her father's office, where the young boy was sitting on the couch. She smiled as she spotted him. "Everything fine here?" She asked.
"Sure, Ran-neechan!" Conan grinned over at her, looking up from the newspaper he was reading. He blinked a little as he saw her, noticing that she looked slightly frazzled in a way she hadn't when she had left to take out the garbage. "What about you, Ran-neechan?" Conan asked carefully, feeling a strange knot form in the pit of his stomach. "You look a little strange."
"Eh, do I?" Ran blinked, frowning a little. "Is there something on my face?" She asked, instinctively raising a hand to it, horrified that she might have had a piece of rice or something stuck to it all this time.
"No, it's not that." Conan shook his head, another knot tying in his stomach. "Did you see something outside?" He asked her. Somehow, he wasn't sure if he wanted her to say no or yes in this case, he wasn't sure which one would be better.
"No, I didn't see anything." Ran frowned, looking a little confused as to why Conan was asking this. She smiled then a little. "Oh, I get it." She said after a moment, coming over to give the boy's shoulder a squeeze. "You're worried about me because of all the murders that have happened recently. Well, you shouldn't, Conan-kun. You know I know how to protect myself." She said, giving the boy a fierce grin, playfully giving him a light chop to the forehead as if to demonstrate. "Ah, although, I did daze off a bit for a second there, outside the office." She laughed a little, sounding sheepish. "Don't tell anyone though. It's a bit embarrassing, just standing around like a fool!"
Ran's words hardly did anything to reassure Conan. Rather, the color drained from his face entirely, leaving the young boy sheet white, a sinking feeling as he realized exactly what that nervous sensation in his stomach had been about. He had been here. Here, right in front of the Detective Agency, where he had spoken to Ran- told her something, had done something. He had been so close to him, so close to Ran, and Conan hadn't noticed a thing. Judging from Ran's words, he had erased her memories afterwards. Frantically, Conan's eyes darted up towards Ran's neck, letting out a small sigh of relief to see that it was unblemished.
But the queasy feeling did not go away. What was it that Heiji had suggested to Conan just earlier that afternoon, right after they had been at the crime scene of the latest murder? That the vampire tracked down his victims before hand, they weren't randomly selected when he was hungry.
And he had met with Ran. There was little to no doubt of this in Conan's mind.
The vampire was targeting Ran. It was chilling for two reasons, the most obvious being that Ran was the girl that he loved, and cared for more than anyone else in the world. The second, was because somehow, Conan knew that the vampire knew who Heiji was, how they were related, and was possibly playing a game with them. His earlier theory from the train station quickly came back to haunt him- the idea that the vampire was making his presence known on purpose. Was this possibly some kind of trap for Heiji? For what purpose? Surely if it just kept to the shadows, even a skilled detective like Heiji would have difficulty tracking him down- why now, all of a sudden?
Conan didn't care for any of this one bit. Swallowing, and barely noticing Ran's concerned expression, as she looked distraught about how he had paled suddenly, he felt her warm hand on his forehead, barely heard her express relief that he didn't seem to have a fever. "R-Ran-neechan." Conan stammered, brushing her hand away and standing up. "I need to go call Heiji-niichan." He told her slowly.
"Hattori-kun?" Ran asked, blinking a little. "Sure. Are you sure you're feeling alright though, Conan-kun? You don't have a fever, but you look a bit pale."
Conan gave her his best smile, trying not to make her worry. "No, I'm fine Ran-neechan! I'm not getting sick or anything." He assured her. "I'm going upstairs, okay?" Smiling, Conan made his way upstairs.
Frowning, Ran watched him go, a perplexed look on her face. If she didn't know any better, it almost seemed as if Conan had been scared. Afraid of something. But she wasn't sure what- Conan was a pretty brave kid, after all! Shaking her head, she put it out of her mind, and instead, busied herself, with cleaning up the discarded beer cans her father had lying about the table.
Well, whatever it was, she would ask Conan about it a little later.