The Professor hoisted his suitcase atop his bed, unzipping it quickly and flipping it open. Ai, leaning against the door, watched him quietly as he began to toss his clothes in, not even bothering to fold them properly. I'll have to fix that later, of course, she thought briefly before crossing her arms and speaking up.
"What are you doing?"
The Professor gave her a look out of the corners of his eyes. "I believe Ayumi-kun's parents would rather have her home after being kidnapped on my watch," he answered flatly. "Not to mention Yuusaku and Yukiko…"
"Kudo-kun's parents?" Ai felt one corner of her mouth twitch up. "Aren't they used to this mess by now?" she inquired. "I think they know it's not your fault."
"They don't even know half of what he gets into nowadays," he replied, returning to forcing shirts into the suitcase. "And neither do the rest of their parents."
Ai quieted for a moment. She saw where he was coming from, and on any other day would have agreed with him. But she couldn't leave her yet, not with them roaming about. Kudo-kun had checked earlier at the front desk, and they hadn't checked out yet. She hadn't known them to stay in one place for so long without a good reason, and that would usually turn out to be awful for everyone involved. She couldn't leave not knowing.
"I think we should stay," she forced out finally.
The Professor paused in his packing for the second time, the look he gave her now incredulous. "You think we should stay?" he echoed disbelievingly. "After what just happened?"
Ai managed a shrug that she hoped looked nonchalant. "That was coincidence," she said. "One of the random things we always stumble into." When the Professor's eyebrow actually managed to go farther up his forehead, Ai went on, "I mean, Yoshida-san would be upset if we left just for her, and if we stay, she'll still get her vacation—"
The Professor sighed, suddenly, and looked back down into his suitcase. Ai stopped talking, wondering what he'd say. There was a stretch of silence that felt like eternity to her before he finally said, "You and Shinichi are up to something."
Her eyes widened, and she automatically opened her mouth to object, but he continued, "You think I don't notice, but you've been very quiet lately. And Shinichi's been running around with that…look in his eye." He turned towards her, and, for some reason, she felt her throat close up with emotion.
Because he looked so worried for her. Not just Kudo, but for her.
"You guys are onto something, and for whatever reason, you've decided not to tell me what," he said. "You can trust me, you know?"
Ai pressed her lips into a thin line, forcing an explanation back down her throat. She wanted to tell him, but she knew why she couldn't. Not yet.
When he saw she really wasn't going to tell him, he sighed again, this time turning his back to her. There was another moment of silence before he reached out and grabbed his suitcase handle, silently dragging it back onto the floor. "I'll give you two days," he said finally. "Two days to handle…whatever this is. But when the time's up, we're leaving."
AI breathed out slowly, relieved. She opened her mouth, paused, then said, "Thank you, Professor."
He waved his hand dismissively. "Yeah, yeah."
And she smiled, just a bit.
"Mitsuhiko, what are we—"
"Don't shhh me!"
"Quiet!" snapped Mitsuhiko, and Genta scowled and closed his mouth. When he was certain he wasn't going to speak, Mitsuhiko turned and peeked back around the corner. He watched as Ai came down the hallway and slipped a keycard into the girls' door's lock, and waited until she'd stepped inside and shut the door to turn back towards Genta. "Coast is clear," he whispered, then hurried down the hall, past their doors, and towards the elevators.
"W-Wait!" Genta's footsteps followed him. Mitsuhiko waited impatiently at the elevator doors for him to catch up, then reached up and pressed the DOWN button on the elevator. He could feel Genta glaring at his back, but before he could demand an explanation for his weirdness, the elevator doors pinged open, and Mitsuhiko jumped inside. Not wanting to be left behind, Genta quickly stepped in after him.
"Will you tell me what we're doing already?" he demanded irritably as the doors slid shut.
"We're on a mission," Mitsuhiko answered.
Genta instantly perked up. "Mission? What kind?"
"It's—" Mitsuhiko started to reply, but then the doors opened onto his desired floor and he quickly ran out instead of finishing his sentence. He heard Genta groan behind him before his footsteps quickly joined his again.
"The lobby?" Genta asked after a moment. "Why the lobby?"
"You'll see." He'd reached the front desk, and he hopped up to grab the top so the manager could see his face as he smiled a sweet, dimpled smile at her. "Can I ask you a question?" he asked when she noticed him. "About a guest here?"
"What is your relationship to this guest?" The manager didn't seem to be buying any of his cute-little-kid act. With a why-are-you-wasting-my-time glare, she peered down at him over thick-rimmed glasses and spoke in a strange, raspy voice. "We do have a policy around here, and I can't just go about giving out room numbers."
"Old lady," Mitsuhiko heard Genta mutter, and he quickly kicked him in the shin. As he hopped away on one leg, Mitsuhiko tried another smile, and the woman's eyes narrowed further.
"What was that?"
"I could've sworn I heard—"
"My relationship to the guest?" Mitsuhiko smoothly interrupted. "I'm…his little brother." In hindsight, he probably should have just mentioned the Professor's family friend status, but in the moment, it didn't cross his mind. "I can't remember which room number we are, and my brother won't be back for hours. But it's under my brother's name, so…"
The manager stared at him for a moment, as if trying to see if he was telling the truth. Lucky for him, Mitsuhiko was a pretty good liar, and finally the woman sighed and turned towards her computer, fingers poised over the keys. "Name?"
"Kudo Shinichi," he answered, and Genta muttered a, "Hey, hey…"
"K-Kudo?" The woman gave him a sideways look. "You're the little brother of that famous high school detect—"
"What's his room number?" Mitsuhiko demanded impatiently, the chuckled nervously and corrected himself. "I mean, our room number."
The manager's frown deepened, and she turned away from her computer to lean over the counter, over him. "Listen, kid, I would remember a name like his," she said irritably, "and there is no one under the name 'Kudo Shinichi' in this hotel. So take your games somewhere else."
Mitsuhiko frowned back at her. "No, he must be here—" he insisted.
"If you don't leave now, I'll call your real family," the woman threatened, and Mitsuhiko met her glare for a moment before letting go of the counter and dropping back onto the floor. He resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at her when she turned around, instead focusing his attention on the problem at hand.
"The Professor said he was here," he mumbled to himself. "And the Professor wouldn't lie, would he?"
"Mitsuhiko, are you going to tell—"
"So that would mean Shinichi-niichan is here…"
"Hey, are you listening to me?"
"Under an alias? Probably. But wouldn't people recognize his face?"
"A disguise, too, then."
"Mitsuhiko!" Genta shouted, getting close to his friend's ear, and Mitsuhiko winced and leaned away from him.
"What?" he snapped. "What is it?"
"Why are we looking for Kudo? Why are you being so secretive? Why aren't we telling the others? And I'm hungry. Can we get lunch?" Genta fired off the questions he'd been holding in, and Mitsuhiko rolled his eyes at his friend.
"I'm looking for Shinichi-niichan," Mitsuhiko corrected. "You can go get lunch if you want."
"But why are we," Genta replied, emphasizing the 'we' with a pointed glance, "looking for Kudo?"
Mitsuhiko sighed. He'd wanted to do this by himself, but with Genta already here…help might not be so bad. "The others have looked really down lately," he explained quickly, because he didn't want to waste any time. "So I thought if we could find the high school detective, it'd really cheer them up. I mean, he can't be that busy, right? Surely if we explain—"
But Genta was already onboard. "I bet he's on the top floor," he suggested.
Mitsuhiko blinked. "The top floor? Why?"
"Because the top floor's for the really important people!" Genta explained. "A detective on the job is really important, right?"
For a minute, Mitsuhiko considered arguing with him—detectives are important, but not that important; besides, if he's under a different name, he wouldn't blow his cover by getting a floor above his alias's standards—but decided against it. Might as well start from the top down if he was going to have to search every floor anyway.
"Okay. Let's go," he said.
The manager watched the two boys run into the elevators and waited until the doors slid shut before picking up the phone seated beside the computer. She waited impatiently as the phone rang until someone finally picked up and she said, "Remind me why we had this disguise again?"
"Why are you calling now?" Gin demanded on the other line, not interested in his companion's complaints.
"Two kids just came by looking for Kudo," said Vodka, slipping into a softer tone and out of the voice he'd been using. "Said they heard he was in the building. One said that he was his little brother." He hesitated. "He was probably lying, but—"
"Are you still at the desk?"
"Idiot!" shouted Gin, and Vodka lifted the phone a little bit away from his ear. "Don't just sit there, follow them!"
"But I thought you wanted Sher—"
"Two birds with one stone," Gin interrupted curtly, and then the line disconnected.
Conan stared at the cell phone. He had decided on the bait idea a while back, but hadn't had any time to make the call yet. Now that he did have time, he found himself nervous like he hadn't been making the decision.
He really didn't want to make the call. He didn't want to make them aware of his presence. He'd much rather forget they were there and continue with his vacation, forget them and the bomb and the drug…
Conan squeezed his eyes shut tight as if locking the thought away. "No, I need it," he told himself. "That's not me thinking that, it's Co—" He opened his eyes abruptly.
It's not me, it's Conan? he thought incredulously. I am Conan. Without me, Shinich—no, Conan! Conan wouldn't exist…
God, this was getting confusing. This is why he needed that drug, to remind himself of who he really was, who was fake and who wasn't. Because it seemed like his two identities were beginning to blur together, and he wasn't sure which would come out the victor in the battle for his mind.
And to get the drug, I need to call them.
That was how he forced himself to pick up the phone and dial the front desk's number.
Vodka had slipped back into his businessman persona, stripping the wig and manager's outfit off and stuffing them into an official looking briefcase before striding out of the men's restroom and back into the lobby. If anyone had noticed the female manager going into the men's bathroom, no one cared now, and no one spared him a glance as he hurried by the front desk.
He wouldn't have gone back if he hadn't realized he'd left his cell phone back on the desk. And if he hadn't have done that, he wouldn't have heard the message left on the hotel landline.
"Um, yes, this is Kudo Shinichi. I was wondering if you could send someone up with some lunch…"
Vodka felt his eyes widen. He really was here? He'd honestly thought this was going to be pointless, but if those kids were right… He looked back towards the elevator. Maybe they weren't lying about everything…
He hurried towards the elevator.
Mitsuhiko waited impatiently at the end of the eighth floor hallway for Genta to finish his side of the floor. With no other way to determine where Kudo was, they'd resorted to knocking on every door. Mitsuhiko was certain he'd be able to see through whatever disguise the detective had since he'd seen enough pictures of him in the newspaper to know his face. Genta swore the same, and Mitsuhiko just had to go on his word. This was becoming time consuming, though, and Mitsuhiko had to admit that even he was getting hungry now.
I hope we find him soon, he thought as Genta finally came running towards him with a scowl.
"The old lady was a real jerk," he muttered angrily as he approached. "And I'm pretty sure it wasn't him."
Mitsuhiko sighed disappointedly, but he had expected as much. "Okay," he said, "onto the seventh floor!"
Genta groaned. "Can't we eat first?" he whined as Mitsuhiko pressed the elevator button. "I'm starving!"
"You're always starving," pointed out Mitsuhiko, and Genta shot him a glare.
"So? I like food. Is that bad?"
Mitsuhiko was spared an answer as the doors opened, and he quickly stepped inside with Genta grumbling behind him. He looked up as the man beside them glanced down at them through dark sunglasses and over the top of a newspaper. "What floor?" he asked.
"Seven, please," they answered together. But when the man reached out, he pressed the three. "Um, sir, I said sev—"
There was a soft click before something black and metal poked out from underneath the newspaper. Mitsuhiko felt his stomach drop to his knees as he realized what it was. Genta a sputtered a, "Wha…Wha…"
"Now, little boys," the man said smoothly, "you're going to help us find Oniisan." He flashed them a smile, but it looked cold and threatening to Mitsuhiko. "Right?"
I hope you like this chapter. Aren't the Detective Boys a little nosy sometimes? :) Gotta love 'em. -Wynter Fyres