Filing in Triplicate
"DON'T CALL ME AOKO LIKE THAT!" Thwack. Another perfectly normal day at Ekoda High, in perfectly normal classroom 2B (and its handwritten sign "or not 2B", which had long since worn out its welcome), with its perfectly normal high-decibel ruckus echoing off the beams and clattering across steel-reinforced desks.
Saguru pressed cool fingers to his forehead, a thumb against his pounding temple, calculating trajectories. Thwap-fwoosh-thwap. Yukimura-san's desk, Koizumi-kun's desk, monkey-swing off the ceiling pipe, and... Saguru's arm lashed out, hand catching on one strong ankle and sending Kuroba smashing into his own desk.
"Kuroba-kun." Saguru half-closed his eyes, all the better to not see the hem of Aoko's skirt mere centimeters from his nose. "I was up late three nights ago analyzing a notice from your thrice-damned idol. I was up late two nights ago chasing said damned idol. I was up late last night doing the paperwork. I will be up late tonight with my backlog of homework. I am developing a raging headache. If you have a shred of basic human decency, you will sit down, shut up, and put on a riveting performance of the meek, docile, attentive student you are not."
Silence rang throughout the classroom.
Well. He'd gotten somebody to shut up, at least. Slowly, Saguru released Kuroba's ankle, and watched sidelong in astonishment as the erstwhile thief sheepishly, silently, righted his desk and slunk into it. He barely noticed Aoko doing the same, creeping off his desktop and settling her mop in the corner before returning to her seat.
The teacher stuttered back into her lecture, and blessed silence reigned... for exactly seventeen minutes and twelve seconds, before a light knock came at the door.
Saguru, along with the rest of the class, looked up curiously as a man (police officer, Nakamori's rank, stranger) slid the door open with an apologetic smile. A small figure (short hair, glasses, Edogawa-kun) hovered sullenly (cooperatively) at his side. "Ah, sensei, I'm sorry to interrupt," the officer said easily, tipping his hat in a poor semblence of a salute. "But I'm afraid Hakuba Saguru needs to come with me. His father, you know."
Ah. Strange cop plus cooperative Edogawa plus gun safely snapped away in the holster equals...
Saguru shut his notebook and packed it into his school satchel. "My apologies, sensei," he said as he stood and bowed. "Kuroba-kun, if you would," he added, holding the bag out, "I'm not certain how long this will take. Would you ensure this reaches my house after school? I'd hate to lose track of it at the station."
"Sure." Kuroba offered a little smirk, friendly enough, at him, and took the satchel. A flicker of warmth, and a tiny patch of cloth inside Saguru's uniform cuff changed texture.
"Thank you." Saguru left, passing by the officer and setting his hand on Edogawa-kun's shoulder. "Shall we?"
The officer nodded, and followed them towards the school's entrance. Their shoes squeaked faintly on the floor's linoleum, Saguru's more softly than either the officer's or Edogawa-kun's, until they reached the locker bay where Saguru could switch to outdoor shoes. Then they headed out into a brisk autumn day, and the officer rolled open the door to the waiting police van.
The middle seats were empty. The back seat... was not. A third officer held a little, tea-blonde girl pinned in his lap, a knife to her throat. Bingo. Hostage three: Edogawa to make me come quietly, and her to make Edogawa cooperate.
She shot Edogawa a withering look as he climbed into the van, then switched the glare to Saguru as he followed. "Please don't," Saguru said, over the sound of the door sliding shut. "I have enough of a headache without you attempting to eviscerate me with your mind." He slumped as best he could against the seat back and pressed a hand over his eyes.
The van lurched into motion. Behind him, Saguru heard fabric rustle and the shifting of weight, then seatbelts zipping into place. Then,
"Aren't you going to watch where we're going?" the fake officer in the back asked.
"Why not?" he asked more gruffly, suspicion thickening his voice.
"You went to the trouble of taking two hostages to ensure both my behavior and the boy's. I'm not stupid enough to think that you don't have arrangements to hide our route from me."
That shut the kidnapper up.
They wove in and out of traffic for well over an hour. Saguru couldn't have paid much attention even if he'd cared to: his head throbbed, the ache starting to center behind his eyes. If he'd been home he would've had to take a nighttime pain reliever and sleep the pain off.
The van turned and the road dipped, and the little glints of red-tinted light at the edges of Saguru's vision went dark. An underground space of some sort, then... no, Saguru thought as the van stopped, a parking garage.
The girl grunted, a high-pitched annoyed sound through her nose that managed to not be a squeak, and seatbelts snapped open. "All right then, let's go," the backseat kidnapper said.
Saguru lifted his arm and opened his eyes, finding his deductions (location: a parking garage; little girl: knife at throat once more) to be correct. The driver and kidnapper in the front seat got out of the car, the driver getting into a small, muddy delivery truck as the other kidnapper opened their van.
Into the back of the delivery truck, surprise surprise, and the other kidnapper chained Saguru's hands and ankles together in a crude but effective hogtie, snapped on a padlock, and let him drop to the chipped, cruddy plank floor.
Edogawa got a similar treatment, with cheap rough twine that made Saguru's vision darken at the edges with rage - a child, there was no need to inflict that sort of raw skin-flaying pain on a child when an old necktie could do the same job - and then the girl got tossed in behind them and the truck door fell shut. Outside, the lock clunked into place, and Saguru could hear the men laughing. The truck rocked from side to side as they climbed into the front seats, and the motor started and the van swayed on its way.
A moment later, a light clicked on. The girl's watch shone like a flashlight, and she panned it across the small space until it landed on Saguru. "Hold on," she said, low and controlled, before snapping open her little red purse. She came out with a couple of oblong blue pills cupped in her little hand. "Can you swallow these dry?"
"Yes." Why on earth was she carrying naproxen sodium? A question to consider later, he thought, as she fed him the pills one by one. Then she turned to Edogawa, who'd wisely not moved at all.
"Haibara, can you get the knots?"
She shuffled behind Edogawa, peering closely with her flashlight. Her expression didn't change, but something in her half-hidden eyes darkened enough that Saguru said, "There should be a razor blade hidden in the heel of my left shoe."
One pale eyebrow shot upwards. "Very James Bond of you."
"Yes, well, you chase the Kaitou Kid enough and you'll be secreting all sorts of useful items wherever they may be inspired as well." Shoes were generally safe from Kid's costuming thefts, replacements, and mishaps, though watches had been getting increasingly endangered as of late.
He flexed his foot to allow Haibara better access to his heel, then lay patiently as she sawed carefully through Edogawa's ropes. It was highly likely they had the luxury of patience for now; the kidnappers did not seem careless enough to secrete their traded vehicle remotely near their final destination.
The truck turned sharply and slowed, and Saguru tensed, reassessing that thought. Next to him, Edogawa jerked up into a crouch, one hand hovering near his belt buckle and the other at the side of his shoe. As Haibara took the boy's watch, flicking the face up as if targeting something, tiny sparks began to crackle under Edogawa's fingers.
Then the truck rocked, wheels thumping up a scarce centimeter, and the sound of rushing jet sprays fizzled through the truck's frame. The children relaxed as abruptly as they'd gone on the defensive: they'd entered a car wash.
Parking garage cameras show a conspicuously dirty truck? Wash it. Obvious. Saguru wouldn't make any bets against the license plates having been carefully dabbled with mud to change the numbers, either.
Edogawa left his watch in Haibara's possession, and settled in behind Saguru to eye the padlock.
"Cheap," the boy said flatly.
Saguru smirked. You get what you pay for, after all, and single-dial padlocks - while not the least secure type - were notorious for having overly generous digit tolerances, not to mention mechanical weaknesses for the third digit. Also, if Edogawa didn't know the mathematical formulas relating the third digit to the previous two, Saguru would eat Kid's hat.
As the car wash thundered outside, Saguru's chains pulled slightly tighter, rattling felt through the lock more than heard as Edogawa spun the dial.
The chains slithered free. "Thank you," Saguru said, sitting up. "I do believe we have some slight advantage now. Even if only that of surprise."
Edogawa gave him a measuring look, eyes lingering on Saguru's hands. "How are you at unarmed combat?"
"First dan in judo, but I'm afraid grappling is my worst skill."
A sharp little nod. "If you can disarm them," which should be possible, though he'd be more certain of his odds without targets to defend, "both Haibara and I are crack shots."
Give guns to children? Saguru bit his tongue to keep himself quiet. Reacting badly would not go over well right now. Besides, as long as the children knew which end to not point at themselves or each other, they'd have few other lines of defense against a grown adult - even attempting hand-to-hand would be ludicrous. "Well, then," Saguru said tightly, "I would rather have a chance to verify that, but I will take your word for it. Not to mention that I am, quite frankly, a miserable marksman."
Something flashed through Edogawa's eyes - respect, Saguru thought, only visible in how it hadn't been present before. But he'd seen something like this in Edogawa on previous occasions, between him and Hattori... equality, perhaps?
"We have a knockout dart," Edogawa offered unexpectedly, tipping his chin towards the little watch in Haibara's hands. "And a projectile weapon which is... um. Hard to explain."
Saguru raised an eyebrow. "Would this be the soccer ball with which you somehow managed to hit Kid in the face from some thirty-two meters away?"
"... Yeah, that."
"I'd wondered where you found one." Though he wouldn't put it past Kid to provide toys on a whim, he hadn't heard anything about officers falling prey to avalanches of plush toys, which seemed more in line with Kid's humor. And provision-of-Kid didn't quite explain how a child had managed to punt the blasted thing with all the skill and power of a professional football player. "All right. Odds are that there's no more than one assailant, if that, left at their destination."
Haibara's brow furrowed. "One?"
"They would've shot me as soon as they lured me into the van, were this a matter of simple revenge," Saguru explained. "I am therefore presuming a ransom kidnapping."
"They'll keep us alive just long enough to prove it so they can get their ransom, too," Edogawa added. "Since they've let us see their faces."
"Indeed." Haibara looked worryingly calm about all this, Saguru thought. "They'll have the minimum number of accomplices possible, in order to maximize their share of the expected payout. One driver, to avoid having a conspicuous hostage while parked outside the school. One to hold onto you, and one to take Edogawa inside, to have as a ready-made hostage should luring me out go wrong. There might be a fourth, to guard their safe house, but I quite doubt it."
"They won't be anywhere with neighbors in and out at all hours," Edogawa added. "An abandoned building might get a squatter in the few hours they've been out, but they already have three murders in mind. One more won't bother them much."
"So, worst-case scenario," other than shooting them through the sides of the truck, or gassing them in some manner, "four kidnappers. They won't all rush in here to get us, so..."
Slowly, over the next forty-five minutes, Saguru and the children worked out various attack scenarios, for up to three assailants, and the remainder hovering outside with a gun. Haibara's purse turned out to hold more pharmaceuticals, many in caplets that provided a fine white powder. Spread out over the dirty planks, it made an erasable surface to diagram in.
Finally, the truck turned one last time, paused as a heavy door slid metallically outside, then rolled forward several more meters and parked. The truck's doors slammed, one-two-three, and the men's voices faded as silence fell once more.
Edogawa eased himself flat onto the truck floor, bracing his arm with the watch aimed at the door. Like a sniper, he should be able to take aim in a split second and hold the pose for hours - for however long it took their captors to arrange their equipment to prove they were alive, whatever equipment that was.
A digital camera seemed the most likely. Landlines and live feeds were easier to trace than a single file, depending on their computer skills or the availability of a wifi signal. It shouldn't be long before someone returned to take pictures.
The latches outside clunked heavily. The truck door lifted several centimeters, a sliver of bright light blocked by a thick patch of shadow which grunted and shifted its grip. Thick fingers appeared under the door, and heaved upwards.
Captor Driver dropped like a stone. His jaw bashed against the truck's threshold, and he vanished from sight.
Saguru and Haibara spun up against opposite walls, sidelong to minimize their target zones, and waited a beat. Nothing moved outside. No noise.
Carefully, Saguru edged to the opening, and peeked out. Nothing. The man had been alone.
He jumped out of the truck, landing in a crouch and unsnapping the gun from the man's holster. As Edogawa slithered out and began to salvage the man's police-costume necktie and shoelaces for binding him, Saguru quickly examined the gun (safety on, clip full, a bullet in the chamber). Then he offered it to Haibara.
She took it with small fingers held carefully away from the trigger - check - touched the safety to ensure it was still on - check - racheted the clip in and out with skill that could not be duplicated from having seen Saguru do it once - check - then held it pointed down with her fingers outside the trigger guard. Only then did she thumb the safety off. "The door will be too loud if we open it," she murmured. "They'll give chase."
Saguru quite agreed. "We need to either escape quietly, before they start wondering what's keeping this one," he gestured down at their captive, "or capture them." Which was by far the less sane option. However... "I have a marked preference for the latter," Saguru confessed. "Lest they have more success with a repeat performance."
The girl smirked ever-so-slightly, then looked out over the kidnapper's de facto lair.
This had once been a small storage facility of some sort, taking deliveries in through the rusting corrugated garage doors, and - Saguru would presume - unpacking them near the far wall where brown mush indicated the previous owners had left loose cardboard where it had fallen. A corner room had probably been a manager's, with a gaping hole of a window still clinging to jagged shards of sooty glass. Next to it, a fire door stood propped open with a brick, leading deeper into the building.
Workmen's lights hung from the remains of the ceiling, bare low-watt bulbs in yellow plastic cages flickering unevenly. Stolen electricity, most likely, and Saguru did not like the odds of any of their captors being a skilled or diligent electrician.
On the other side of the truck, a second fire door was chained shut. Lovely. The whole place was one giant fire trap.
Edogawa replaced his dart into his watch with an almost imperceptible click, then hissed, "This way."
They darted across the cracked concrete floor, landing in crouches against the broken-windowed wall, one-two-three. Glass crunched underfoot, but Saguru couldn't spare the time to wince - he held his breath steady, heart pounding in his ears, and peered over the sill into the tiny office. The tiny, empty office. "Clear," he murmured as quietly as he could.
The children nodded curtly, eyes pinned to the open fire door. Edogawa took off his glasses and stuck them in a pocket, then he eased forward, down on his elbows, the tiniest flicker of a hand getting Haibara to sidle up carefully over him, gun raised. Face nearly to the floor, Edogawa peeked slowly around the corner.
Then he slid back, gave a tentative thumbs-up, and tipped his head towards the space beyond.
Saguru stood and darted around the corner, back to the wall. Past the fire door was a short hallway, two doors on either side, ending in a gaping hole to a larger room. One door was closed; the paired open doors on the far wall reeked of urine, and the nearest one still held a legible 'mens' figure on it. Out of the door next to Saguru, he could hear rapid typing.
"How long does it take to snap a few pictures?" a man grumbled.
"He's probably trying to shut the kids up," the man who'd lured Saguru from the classroom answered blithely. "Scrunched-up crying faces are a bitch to recognize."
"Who cares if the brats can be recognized? As long as Hakuba can be, and the kids are in the shot-"
"Just be ready to upload, okay?"
Saguru caught Edogawa's eyes, then Haibara's, and - heart in his throat - gave one tiny nod. Edogawa lifted three fingers. Two. One.
Haibara swiveled into the doorway, gun cocked and aimed. "Hands up."
Saguru stepped smoothly up behind her. "Hands on your heads, gentlemen," he said, gesturing curtly. The pair, eyes wide and incredulous, twitched, and Saguru added, "Do not go for your weapons. You wouldn't want Haibara-san to startle." He stepped into the room, edging around near the wall. "She seems to be quite impeccably aimed at your gonads-" The man nearest Saguru choked, then slowly slumped over onto the tiny table and its laptop. "- Which is an excellent distraction from Edogawa-kun being aimed at your throat." He plucked the gun from the unconscious man's holster, set it upon the ground and kicked it over to Edogawa, then pulled the man's necktie loose and tied up the remaining, conscious prisoner. Adding a makeshift gag of gloves and the other necktie, Saguru tied the men together as best he could using their shoelaces, belts, and the laptop's power cord.
It would not last more than a half-hour once Edogawa's soporific wore off.
Saguru took the third gun from the conscious man's holster, checked the safety, and fit it awkwardly into his pocket. "Let's go."
Edogawa peeked back into the hallway, down at ground level, then they edged out against the wall. The bare workman's bulb hung from the lintel at the open end of the hallway, luckily enough: they would not cast shadows until they actually entered the larger room. A quick check of the closed door proved it safely locked, the handle tarnished and the door itself warped enough that it was likely stuck in its frame. There'd be no surprises from that quarter.
As Edogawa eased his small head around the corner, Saguru angled his own to try to see in the other direction, towards - if the warehouse area had been any indication - the nearest exterior wall. It was difficult to see anything, the walls just at the edge of the pool of light from above Saguru's head, but if he shaded his eyes... yes.
Old, angle-backed shelving had once divided this wall into a foyer and a display area, possibly for books or catalogs. The half-wall denoting the foyer was tumbled in, bare struts and shelves hanging precariously onto the exterior wall. Plywood covered what had probably been a glass window and door.
At Saguru's feet, Edogawa slowly, silently stood. One small hand caught the hem of Saguru's jacket and tugged, then he gestured over his head, pointing straight across to the space next to another room jutting out from the wall.
Saguru could see the open door into that room from here, just barely. He glanced behind himself and down, caught Haibara's eye, and tipped his head towards the large room.
Her gaze dropped to Edogawa just as the boy tugged more sharply at Saguru's jacket and broke into a run. Saguru followed, using all the tricks he'd learned chasing Kid to keep his footsteps as silent as possible. His heartbeat pounded in his ears much louder than the children's running - how did they learn the same silent Kid-ambushing run? at their ages they should sound like a herd of elephants - then he landed in a crouch against the wall parallel to their previous one, next to the open door into the smaller room.
I am not looking forward to doing that again. And, given his knowledge of office layouts, chances were this smaller room would not have an exit.
He watched Edogawa peek in, then give the all-clear.
Empty. Which left only a few small rooms, and then there should be an exit... or, barring that, a parallel short hallway back to the warehouse, which when cleared, would leave them free to noisily pry open the warehouse door locks or plywood window covers.
Haibara braced herself behind the corner of the wall, as Edogawa scuttled back into the large room, watch first. A long moment of silence passed, while Saguru couldn't see him, then Haibara frowned and beckoned for Saguru to follow.
The first door Edogawa would've checked led into another of the ubiquitous small offices... and this one had a fourth kidnapper within. The man lay slumped unconscious in a plastic garden chair, all but cocooned in pink duct tape.
Saguru felt a modicum of tension drain from his shoulders. "Kid."
"He's here?" Edogawa hissed, then, "Of course he is. Crazy stalker-" But Saguru could see the boy relax as well.
(He abruptly became very aware of the small tracker patch inside his shirt cuff, resting lightly against his pulse. But he hadn't wanted to get the childrens' hopes up, nor answer questions about why he had the patch and when he obtained it...)
"Fish to a cat," Haibara muttered, hovering at the door. "Don't let your guards down, we aren't out yet."
They slipped back outside. One more door, one more empty office. Another corner, and the room opened up into the mirror image of the foyer space before, without the shelving or the plywood.
The door looked to be in good condition, glass intact under thick shadow-black paint, hinges glinting slick in the faint worklight.
Haibara suddenly squeaked, spun on her heel, and fired.
Saguru leapt past her before the scream even registered. A fifth man was toppling over in slow motion, hands clawing towards his red-cratered-shattered knee. Catch the wrists, flip him over a shoulder, torque to lock the head in place, let the bastard kick all he liked because he was not fucking getting loose...
The door slammed open, glass shattering and sunlight streaming inside.
"Police! Drop your weapons!"
Saguru froze, but Edogawa shouted, "Prove it!"
"Whoa, kids, put the gun down-"
"They said they were police too!" Edogawa yelled. "Prove it or I'll shoot!"
Haibara promptly burst into tears.
Saguru stayed still as people thundered into the room and surrounded him. "Hands up-"
"I'm Hakuba Saguru. One of the victims," Saguru clarified. "I have no intention of moving until this man is disarmed, if you would check his pockets please-" A pair of burly shadows thumped onto the floor on either side of the man, pinning his legs (he squealed in Saguru's ear) and patting roughly at him. "Please remove the gun from my right pocket as well." A hand groped at his right hip, and the weight of the gun vanished. "Thank you."
"Clear!" one of the burly shadows said, and more hands caught Saguru by the arms and torso and gently lifted him away. Another officer piled on the man in Saguru's place, and that was the last Saguru saw of him before a swirl of uniforms - one set of hands suede- instead of cotton-gloved, brushing soft against his pulse and into his shirt sleeve - brought him out into bright sunlight.
Late that night, after the witness statements and debriefing (and several arguments over giving loaded guns to small children), Saguru slumped into his desk chair with a cup of tea and two asprin.
Saguru didn't even twitch. He just rolled his head to look tiredly at Kaitou Kid, lounging on the bed next to Saguru's school satchel in full regalia, sans shoes. Kid wiggled blue-socked toes at him, and Saguru sighed. "Long, unpleasant, and sloppy," he admitted.
The monocle flashed at him. "You forgot to account for mixed motives," Kid said. "Duct-tape-san wasn't in it for money. Seemed to blame your family for his kid."
Didn't they all. "Victim or culprit?"
Kid shrugged. "He wasn't coherent enough to say."
"They'll get it out of him eventually," Saguru replied. They always did. He gestured at the satchel. "Thank you."
"Your classmate should keep a better eye on his things." Kid tipped his hat up, smile wry and not in the least expecting to be believed. With a puff of smoke, he vanished.
Saguru shook his head ruefully. "I think he does an excellent job of that." And he popped the asprin, settled back, and sipped at his tea.