I actually drew out the map described in this chapter! The hospital directory will also be a handy reference. Please view them via the links on my profile page which go to my deviantArt stash.

Chapter 3: Roleplaying a Criminal Mastermind

"Shinichi?" He could hear the rising intonation in the way Ran said his named that spoke of her concern. But her voice sounded so distant, and there was something else that was unusual, yet familiar about the way the sound carried to his ear. As if it were…

He soon noticed that he was holding his cell phone to his ear and that Ran's voice had only come through the phone. She wasn't actually there with him. In his other hand he was holding Conan's voice-changing bow tie in front of his mouth. Why would I need…? Despite not remembering how he got to wherever he was currently, he found himself to be jogging down an empty sidewalk. Even the street was completely barren and the surroundings seemed to be cast in a thick fog. Or perhaps it was not so much a fog but that everything gradually faded away the further it was from him. Have I been here before?

"Ran," he said as he caught his breath. "Please, I need you to listen very carefully to me…" his voice urged, despite him not meaning to say anything at all. Instead, he was trying to figure out where he was and what was going on. Something about this scenario seemed vividly familiar though. And haven't I said those same…?

Before he had a chance to answer his many questions, a mechanical, roaring sound broke his concentration. Out of the fog, a speeding motorcycle and its rider swerved and skidded to a stop right in front of him. He yelped and almost tripped backwards in surprise. The rider lifted the visor of his helmet, and a dark-skinned face became visible. The person's intense, green eyes locked onto his, and his thick eyebrows knitted in anxiety.

"C'mon Kudou! I told'ya, They're already anticipatin' us at the airport and the shinkansen station. If we take my bike to get to the safe house, we can slip passed 'em unnoticed. But we hafta go now!" Hattori Heiji shouted as he tossed his friend the spare helmet. He stumbled with the object for a second and looked at it in confusion, wondering what happened to the phone and bowtie he had been holding a moment before. "'They,' 'airport,' 'shinkansen,'"—those three words struck him immediately and adrenaline began to rush through his veins as he realized why Heiji looked so nervous and spoke so fiercely.

When he looked back up however, it wasn't his teenaged friend who was in front of him, but a ticked off looking Genta with his arms crossed. The boy then leaned over, coming uncomfortably close to his face. He glanced back down to his hands and saw that it wasn't a helmet, but a soccer ball that he held.

"Look, punk. If you're gonna leave for who knows how long, you can at least spend these last days hanging out with your best friends instead of running off every chance you get. Got that?" The much larger boy ordered, still looming over him. Since when was Genta… On either side of the boy, Ayumi and Mitsuhiko stood watching him. Their determined looks were only tarnished by how glossy their eyes appeared as they both tried not to cry. Actually, if he was right Ayumi must have been crying for quite awhile already. Her cheeks were rosy and moist from the tears she had already shed and she couldn't help sniffling every few seconds. Wait, this has already—

Without waiting for an answer Genta took the ball from his limp hands, grabbed his arm, and began to pull him along. He squawked ungracefully at the unexpected force. Mitsuhiko then joined in and pushed him from behind and added to Genta's speech, "And even if a case comes up, you'll promise we can come too, right? Together we're Detective Boys, after all." To that he only nodded in agreement. Ayumi grabbed his free hand as she ran along beside him as well.

The four of them romped down the sidewalk, eventually turning a corner and apparently entering Beika Park. Without having any idea what time it was, he could only think that it reminded him of an early morning with how dim and foggy it was there. Not to mention that the park was completely void of other people as well. Genta finally let go of the arm that he'd been pulling, dropped the ball from under his own arm to the grass, and kicked it as hard as he could. The two young boys took off chasing the ball, cheering and laughing the whole way.

Ayumi, who had lingered behind and was still holding his hand, wanted a moment to speak to him alone. "Um… I just wanted to say… even if you're moving reeeally far away and never come back I want tell you that…" The girl's speech became almost a whisper at the end, but suddenly she burst out, practically slurring her words together, "I want to you to know that I'll love you forever!" She chastely kissed him on the cheek as he turned to stare at her in shock. It appeared that she was doing her best to pretend to be happy, but her eyes were still glossy and her smile seemed to be forced. Before he could react yet again, she took off to catch up with her other friends. All three called out to him to hurry up but as they got further away they eventually faded out of sight into the fog.

"Shinichi?!" Ran's voice called again. It was even fainter than before. He spun in place, looking around wildly in search of the girl. "Shinichi? Shinichi?" He looked down and saw that, again, he was holding his cell phone in one hand and the bowtie in another. The two devices were lifted back to his face in a mechanical motion. He didn't know why exactly, but as he spoke it was not long before his legs resumed carrying him in a mad dash through the vacant city streets.

"Ran, if you do what I ask, I promise I'll answer your questions later. But for now you have to trus— you have to trust us. It's for your own safety. Please!" Again, his voice pleaded despite him not consciously intending it to do so. The fear and worry that he almost always pushed away even in the face of murderers twisted in his stomach of its own accord. He was running so strenuously that his breathing became staggered and sweat started pouring down his face. His chest began to constrict uncomfortably as well. He slowed to barely even a walking pace and closed his eyes for just a moment to compose himself. He cursed at how pathetic he was as he proceeded to trip over an uneven part of the sidewalk and fell forward. Although he was able to brace himself with his arms, a sharp pain coursed through his body on impact with the concrete ground and he chocked out a gasp.

Cursing even more harshly out loud, he attempted to get up despite the ache in his midsection. Just as he was about to give up, he felt someone help him to his feet. When he opened his eyes he saw that the white fog must have shifted into a black haze sometime while he had his eyes closed. It was nearly impossible to see at all now because it was so dark. In spite of that, he could at least make out the figure supporting him.

"Man, when yer not a scrawny shrimp ya sure are heavy, you know tha'? Fer the one time I gotta be haulin' your ass outta a mess ya think ya coulda at least been compact enough to carry… Hey, ya listenin' to me? Hey, are ya even alive still?"

"Hattori?" the partially conscious boy muttered. His one arm was wrapped somewhat loosely over the shoulder of his companion while the other was pressing a hastily folded up blazer against his abdomen. Everything… everything is so familiar. Why does this hurt so much?

He shut his eyes tightly again while trying to endure the worsening pain. To him, it also felt unbearably hot and stuffy inside this place. He could vaguely hear Heiji still talking to him as they began to walk but he couldn't make out what his friend was saying. Squinting his eyes open, he could tell that they were slowly hobbling down what seemed to be an enclosed corridor. When he had gotten inside was only one of many concerns buzzing in his mind.

He found it impossible to estimate how long they were on the move or how much distance they had covered when he tried to think about it. However, before he realized Heiji was no longer at his side, his legs had already given out from how heavy his body felt without the support. It was fortunate that he caught himself enough to land on his knees instead of completely collapsing.

Stubbornly, he attempted to stand once again, only to be stopped by a harsh, "Stay down, you fool!" Before him stood Haibara in her adult form, though her back was to him. She was wearing some casual clothing that he recognized as belonging to Ran. However, there was an unusual tightness in the way shirt fit on the other young woman, which was not because of a difference in their physique. Rather, for him, it was the telltale sign of someone wearing a bulletproof vest. The bulletproof vest that he thought he remembered forcing her to take from him, leaving him defenseless. She was never supposed to be here! She's always made such rash decisions when it comes to—.

He somehow knew who held the gun pointed at the girl although in this black haze he couldn't see the villain. He could easily hear his haunting laughter, however. "Don't! Get out of the way!" he shouted desperately to the girl shielding him.

As soon as he yelled, the deafening blast of the gun went off. The unrelenting woman, who thought she would be a martyr, collapsed. It was dark enough that the villain must not have noticed the lack of blood. Nor had the villain seen him messing with his unique watch. Even he himself couldn't see anything anymore because of the now all-engulfing, pitch-black haze.

For only a moment the only thing to be heard was the boy's own labored breathing. Breaking the almost silent moment, he could hear rushing footsteps and muffled shouts coming their direction, probably in response to the first gunshot. Not that he could make out the voices' owners since the sound of his heartbeat was pounding in his ears. He swore that he could hear Ran calling his name, though he couldn't understand why she would even be there.

Instead, the only thing he heard clearly was a cold-blooded voice. "Now to finish the job, once and for all. Farewell, Mr. Great Detective." And finally the second shot rang throughout the room.

Shinichi howled as he lurched upright in bed, awaking in agony. The pain from his wound resurfaced as strong as it had been when he had actually been shot—or if he had actually been shot for real again. He hunched over panting, and tried not to move in any way that would cause him more pain. After awhile the sound of his heartbeat in his ears was gradually starting to fade and he thought he heard his name being called. As the thumping receded, he could make out Ran's voice crying to him frantically. This time her voice had to be real. He slowly attempted to open his eyes and glance in her direction.

"Shinichi! Thank goodness you're awake. Are you all right?" Her words were rushed together in concern, yet full of relief. She wiped at her face with her sleeve in an attempt to rid any evidence left behind before the detective noticed.

"Ran?" Shinichi asked a bit shakily. His eyes were unadjusted to the darkness of the room, though he was sure by the sound of her familiar voice he really hadn't needed to ask. After the last throbs ceased, he leaned back against the headboard and breathed in and out deeply to calm his nerves.

"It's me. Are you okay? I should go get a nurse." Ran had been just about to get a nurse but in actuality, she had only been trying to wake Shinichi up for barely even a minute, maybe not even half that, before he had woken up own his own. She turned towards door to head into the hall but a tug on her wrist stopped her. One of Shinichi's still clammy hands was latched firmly, yet gently around it.

"No, no. I'm all right. I, uh, think it was just a bad dream." He took his hand back and rubbed the back of his neck in his usual gesture of unease, and also to massage the stiffness he felt from lying down so long. He didn't particularly want to admit something like that to Ran, but he knew the potential consequences of withholding such from the girl. He was still getting better at not trying to hide his faults and keeping vital information to himself—especially when those close to him just wanted to offer their support.

"Just a bad dream? But you're feverish and soaked in sweat. With all that trashing around you did, you must have opened up the wound. I could see that you were in a lot of pain!" Ran put her hands on her hips, going into her "I-know-what's-best" mode. She leaned in closer saying, "And I don't have to be a detective to know that." She placed her forehead against his and her worries weren't lessened as she noticed he felt just as feverish as before. She pulled back but as she stared at him, her intense look shifted into one of concern once again. His face had already been so flushed that it was hard to tell if was blushing from the contact or just from the fever. He did look a bit like a deer caught in the headlights though. "I want to know that you're really all right."

"Ran… But I feel—" unexpectedly, a sudden pulsing sensation convulsed his body again, causing Ran to yelp and jump back in surprise. This time Shinichi's pain was coming from everywhere, not just his wound. He felt heat spilling off every inch of his skin. A second pulse wracked at his body and he couldn't help the gasp of pain that he choked out. His heart beat vigorously in his chest, as if it were about to erupt. This… this… i-it can't be! It's impossible! K-Kuso! This can't be for real! R-Ran!

"Shinichi?! I'm getting the nurse!" Ran announced her intention with resolution and turned again to run into the hall. To her annoyance she was stopped for a second time as Shinichi desperately latched onto her forearm, not so gently this time. Ran knew she could get him off, being a black belt in karate after all; however, the fear and desperation in his expression scared her even more and prevented her from struggling to get free and get help.

"Don't! If I—Can't let anyone see… Please, you can't. Just…" the detective muttered in between gasps of breath. He held roughly onto her arm with one hand, while his other grasped at the front of his robe over his heart, pulling the cloth into a tight bunch.

Ran stared at him. Her eyes widened in disbelief and horror as the realization of his conditioned dawned on her. "N-No! That's impossible! I-Isn't it?!" she shrilled.

"I don't know!" he groaned in response as he sunk further down from his sitting position to lie flatly on the mattress. "This can't be—" Barely even feeling the stress from his wound with the overarching pain, he shift onto his side to muffle his cries into the pillow. Why?! I don't understand! I just finally got back, and it's all going to be taken away from me again. Every time… As a third pulse hit him, he screamed into the pillow one last time before the pain finally began to dissolve into numbness.

Even though she felt like crying, Ran instead fumbled with Shinichi's phone—which had been on the nightstand right next to her—not worrying about digging her own out of her handbag. She went through his recent contacts, seeing Professor Agasa's phone number right near the top of the list, and started the call. If she were in the right state of mind to think about it, she might've been able to recall the number on her own otherwise.

"Hello? Shinichi? Doing all right, my boy?" the elderly man inquired cheerily after answering the call.

"Professor! It's Ran. Shinichi, he's… I need to talk to Ai-chan!" Ran stumbled with her explanation, as she still was confused herself.

"I see… I'll get her right away." Agasa said becoming somber as he promptly made his way out of the engineering lab—almost knocking over some fragile bits of machinery in the rush—and through the rest of the house to Haibara's bedroom. He called to the girl and even knocked on the door but when she didn't answer he became concerned. He scrambled back into the living room and then to the kitchen, still unable to find the girl. "Ai-kun?" he called out a few times, loud enough so that she might hear him, since she should have been in the house somewhere.

"I'm in my lab, professor," she called back from downstairs in the basement laboratory. He wondered why in the world she'd need to be down there. After all, weren't her experimentations to find the apoptoxin antidote finally over and done with? When he stepped inside the lab he relayed Ran's message. At Haibara's suggestion, he turned the phone on speaker mode so they could all discuss the situation.

Ran was about to fully explain what she knew happened when she noticed the boy stir. After everything was over she realized that he had fallen unconscious. Apparently he did not stay that way for very long though.

"S-Shinichi?" she whispered tentatively, lowering the phone from her ear.

"Ran?" he mumbled in response for the second time as his mind began to clear. He slowly pushed himself up though his body felt so exhausted from the ordeal that he was tempted to just go back to sleep and deal with the consequences in the morning. After all, he didn't want to deal with being Cona—wait… He threw the covers off of himself and stared in amazement at his un-shrunken, fully-grown—as fully-grown as an eighteen year old was supposed to be—, real body. The young man laughed a few times and pulled at his cheek thinking he must have been dreaming again. When it came to strangeness regarding the antidote he was always wary that he was just having vivid hallucinations again. Convinced that he wasn't dreaming, hallucinating, or otherwise, he noticed that Ran was again watching him with an expression mixed with concern and relief.

Shinichi also realized that she was on the phone with someone. After limiting the options, the detective deduced the most reasonable person for her to call. "Ran, I'd like to speak with Haibara," he requested, turning completely serious.

Momentarily forgetting that she was holding the phone, Ran nodded automatically before his request registered and she replied, "Ah, r-right. Here." She handed over the phone despite wanting to question him further herself.

"Haibara," Shinichi addressed the listener on the phone. "What the hell just happened to me? I thought I was going to… to shrink into Conan again!" his voice rose at the dread of the thought. "I obviously didn't, but it damn well felt like it!" The distressed detective barely held back from shouting into the device. He had previously decided that he should at least make amends to the girl, since he'd already vilified her earlier in the day, but only after he could get a night's rest and use the next day to mull over the best way to go about it. At the moment he was feeling anything except apologetic: fearful, angry, exhausted, and confused.

Haibara sighed deeply, not in response to the detective's reaction but because of her own misgivings. "Kudou-kun, I need you to calm down. I need you to be thinking intelligently while I explain my hypothesis."

Shinichi seethed silently, biting back a retort to the scientist's usual aloofness. He knew better than to react so irrationally since it would only make the discussion unnecessarily heated. If the girl had answers he needed a clear head to fully comprehend the situation. He glanced to Ran and saw that while she looked just as frightened and confused as he felt, the kind-hearted girl also directed a hint of crossness at him which he supposed was because of his bitter tone toward Haibara. Shinichi recalled their conversation earlier and had to admit that he was again blaming Haibara even though nothing was her fault. "Yeah, yeah, I'm calm," he conceded.

Ran, hoping Shinichi would let her listen in, pushed the chair by his bed even closer and dropped herself down into its support a bit shakily. Despite the risk of a nurse walking in or even just someone overhearing the conversation, Shinichi switched the phone to speaker mode and slightly lowered the volume. The two teens listened intently as Haibara then proceeding to answer Shinichi's questions.

— — —

It was fairly late by time the phone call had ended and the two teenagers in the room had fallen into silence having nothing left to deliberate about what the scientist had stoically explained. The matter was still swimming through their minds despite how tired they both felt by that point. It was even their last thoughts as they both eventually drifted off into sleep.

Shinichi and Ran awoke to a snapping sound and a girly giggle. Shinichi quickly shifted to full alertness, as he had been prone to do many mornings while in an unfamiliar place. The detective, noticing two figures in the room, slid his arm off from Ran's shoulders and then pushed himself up carefully. Ran, still half-asleep, found herself sitting upright in the chair besides Shinichi's bed as she had unintentionally fallen asleep lying draped over the edge of the mattress.

Though alert for the most part, Shinichi's still groggy state of awareness dulled his thoughts. "M-Mom? What are you and Dad doing here?" Shinichi blurted out without thinking.

In response to such an unfriendly welcome Kudou Yukiko pouted and whimpered childishly. "Waah, we flew all the way from one of our super, secret hideouts to make sure Shin-chan was all right, and our darling son isn't even happy to see us Yuu-chan!"

Kudou Yuusaku made no response to his wife, knowing better than to feed into such immature behavior—especially not being fond of her nickname for him. He was instead focused on his son. "I'm glad to see you're still in one piece, Shinichi." He grinned slightly to mask what concern he actually felt. "We arrived in Tokyo yesterday evening. However, by the time we made it home, it was much too late to come visit. Of course, your mother made sure that we left home first thing in the morning to get here as soon as the hospital doors opened."

"'Taku. You guys never bother calling when you plan to come back home," the teen complained and rolled his eyes. Though, his neutral expression shifted almost unnoticeably into a small smile when he actually realized that he was glad to see his parents, even if they did get on his nerves once and awhile. He wouldn't admit anything he was thinking out loud though of course.

As much as they had forced themselves into helping with the Operation, Shinichi's parents had known when it was best to retreat and assist from afar even if they were quite reluctant to do so. But of course that hadn't stopped them from frequently country hopping. Despite never knowing where his parents were at any given time without being informed, Shinichi concluded that, in the end, it must have worked out in their favor since they were never found. He supposed that even with the Organization's vast resources, trying to find the Kudous had been a wild-goose chase. Shinichi was amused by the thought that all of running and hiding his father did from his editors was merely practice for the more deadly pursuit.

While he was musing, Yukiko had sashayed her way over to the bed and gently, yet tightly embraced her son around his shoulders from the side. Shinichi squawked in surprise even though he should have been used to his mother's clinginess or at least expected as much. "That's because we wanted to surprise you! I didn't expect you to be sleeping so soundly when we arrived. I was able to get the cutest pho— I mean you were two were so cute sleeping!"

The wary detective knew his mother was about to say something else before she cut herself off. He tried to analyze her carefully and questioned to himself. What did she do this time? She was usually very good at hiding her guilt since she used to be an actress and although she was beaming at him, he could tell by the way she blinked more often than usual meant she was definitely concealing something. He was only slightly worried though so he gave up soon enough, thinking that whatever it was, he probably didn't want to know.

— — —

The four talked for a while, covering various topics—none of which were related to the Operation. They had an unspoken agreement that there was no need to worry about such a serious subject so early in the morning. Yukiko mostly went on about all the spectacular places she and her husband had visited and all the interesting people they had met during their travels. Somewhat uncharacteristically, she asked completely unnecessary questions about her son's well-being and such—things that a more overbearing mother might ask to which he responded by either answering vaguely or cleverly misdirecting her questioning by commenting on something else. At one point she had even convinced Ran to join her for a girls' day out for later that day. When Yuusaku got a word in, he inquired about their mutual police acquaintances like Inspector Megure and then asked Ran about her parents. Yukiko also decided to ask about all of their other friends and acquaintances.

"And how about those adorable little grade-schooler friends of yours, Shin-chan?" his mother eventually asked.

"Those guys…" he began to reply before he remembered what he'd promised the day before. "Crap! I told them to come back today for that treasure hunt! I haven't even come up with anything yet! I completely forgot, especially after last night—" he stopped mid-sentence.

Yukiko was giving him a confused looked, obviously not following. Yuusaku on the other hand narrowed his eyes as he considered the numerous implications of what his son blurted out at the end of his outburst.

The only one who knew what the young man was referring to was Ran since she had been there yesterday. She asked, "What time are they coming?"

"Er, I don't know. Professor Agasa said he'd bring them over whenever they decided to show up at his house today…" Shinichi grabbed the remote from the nightstand and turned on the small television in the corner of the room near the ceiling. He flipped through a few news channels before stopping at the first one that displayed the local weather forecast. When the forecast was over and the news came back on, he switched the television back off although he would usually want to watch it.

"Damn, they're going to be here by noon at the latest. I hope that's enough time to come up with something…" he rambled on to himself as he began digging through the drawer on the nightstand, yet not bothering to explain how he figured out when they would arrive. Not finding what he was looking for, he turned back to the others in the room—specifically Ran. "Ran, I need you to ask a nurse if I can get some paper and a pen or pencil. Also, if they can get some kind of brochure with the layout of the hospital or something of the sort. Oh, and maybe if the have a some kind of tape."

The girl sat back in the chair and crossed her arms. She scowled at him but didn't say anything. It took a moment for Shinichi to get a hint about why she looked displeased with him. "Aheh, I mean… Can you please ask a nurse for me?" He smiled broadly at her as a bead of sweat rolled down his face.

Her glare turned into a smirk and she uncrossed her arms before standing up and bending over so she was close to his face. "Alright, only because you asked so nicely." Ran then excused herself politely to his parents and left the room, closing the door back behind her.

"So what's this about a treasure hunt? It sounds exciting!" With curiosity prodding her, Yukiko finally asked now that her son was less frantic. Yuusaku, being a mystery writer and a skilled detective himself if not by trade, was also fairly interested in what Shinichi had in store for the children.

Shinichi chuckled, recalling the children's visit the day before. To his parents, he summarized the visit itself, elaborating on the promises he made to the Detective Boys and how he planned to test them with the treasure hunt to see how well they could solve a puzzle on their own. "Those kids sometimes found clues even before I did while investigating. There were a couple of times when they really pulled through on their own when I couldn't help them. But yesterday, I could tell they felt discouraged without Conan around anymore. I think this will give them a chance to figure out that if they try their best, they can still be the Detective Boys without him." After he finished speaking, he realized how embarrassing it was to admit that when he saw his mother beaming at him. He turned his face away to avoid her gaze.

Because of that he didn't even notice when she leaned over until she pinched his cheek. "That is just so sweet of my little— ah I mean big, Shin-chan!" she teased him. "Those kids are going to be your little apprentices, huh?" Yukiko couldn't help giggling like a little girl again.

"Ow, ow, ow. Quit that already!" he yelped, and tried to swat her away. When she did so, he rubbed the sore cheek, grumbling to himself, and gave her a sullen frown.

Even Yuusaku was amused and couldn't help but smile. He was also a bit surprised at how much his son seemed to care for those children although the man never really met them before himself. From what Shinichi had said about them, they seemed like up and coming detectives and he was slightly curious about how much potential they actually had. The mystery writer smirked as he wondered if he should stick around and see for himself once they arrived.

— — —

After a few minutes, Ran returned with the requested items and handed them to Shinichi. With a curt, "thanks" he started looking over the hospital directory from the pamphlet and jotting down ideas as they came to him. He seemed so focused on the task at hand that the other three didn't think it wise to disturb him and interrupt his train of thought.

Easily becoming bored, Yukiko turned to her son's sweetheart. "Ran-chan, how about we get an early start to our girls' day out? Some shopping in Shibuya sounds just wonderful, don't you think?" she asked with a tilt of her head and an eager smile.

"Ah, sure—" The girl was about to agree when she remember something important. "But I want to stop by to see my friend Masumi-chan first. She was injured the same day as Shinichi and is here in the hospital too," Ran mentioned vaguely, not wanting to discuss the events of that particular day more than she needed. "I wanted to visit her yesterday but, uh… I got a little distracted and forgot until just now." She kept her gaze away from the Kudou couple, not wanting to get questioned and have to elaborate. She shot Shinichi an uneasy glance for a second before thinking better, knowing Yuusaku's keen observation skills.

The name struck Yuusaku as familiar but without her surname, he wasn't sure if the girl Ran mentioned was whom he was thinking of. He didn't miss Ran's quick glance towards his son, but didn't comment sensing their hesitance to talk about whatever else had happened the day before.

Yukiko however didn't seem to make any sort of connection regarding the name. "Hmm? Is that so? It wouldn't be imposing if I came with you, would it? I'd love to meet your friend and Shin-chan seems hard at work. Yuusaku can keep him company."

"That's fine, I'm sure she wouldn't mind." At that, the two said their goodbyes and "we'll be back later" and took their leave.

— — —

While Shinichi was busy formulating ideas for his treasure map, Yuusaku stepped out in the hall to take a phone call from one of his editors—he had already put off about two-dozen or so that week. It was over ten minutes later when the call ended and he headed back to the room to see how his son was making out. A nurse, who appeared to be slightly older than himself, was leaving his son's room having just finished a check-up and she bowed politely as he passed her at the doorway. When he stepped inside, he noticed Shinichi leaning back with his arms up and behind his head and his pen balanced between his nose and his lip. Yuusaku knew from that particular posture that Shinichi was still thinking intently, but was probably stumped. The nurse's visit had most likely broken his concentration in addition.

The young detective let the pen fall from his face to speak with his father when the man came back into the room. He grumbled, "'Taku, I feel like I'm one of those psychopath bombers or other kinds of criminals who leave behind riddles for the police to figure out… Putting the puzzle together is so much easier than making one from scratch." He had papers with disorderly notes and doodles written on them spread out all over the bed. To someone who didn't know better, it would have seemed like he knew what he was doing and had plenty of ideas, but apparently that wasn't the case.

Being a mystery novelist, Yuusaku understood how to think from—or at least imagine—the perspectives of both a criminal and a detective. He considered his son's predicament and quoted something that came to mind which related to the problem at hand. "'A criminal mastermind is a creative artist who takes his prey in style... But a detective is nothing more than a critic, who follows our footsteps…' The firs—" he was about to continue on with some advice but Shinichi interrupted.

"Wait… Repeat what you just said…" the boy requested and furrowed his brows. His father did as he asked. For a moment, Shinichi was wracking his brain as he tried to remember where he heard that quote before. "Damnit, it's not coming to me…" he mumbled to himself. "Dad, did you hear that quote from somewhere?" he asked thinking that the answer might help him figure it out.

"On the contrary. It was a quote of my own." Yuusaku raised an eyebrow, wondering why his son was so curious. "Or perhaps I should say the Night Baron's. I wrote that line in my very first draft of the debut novel. The line never actually made it into the book however, for whatever reasons," the writer explained, although he knew the exact reason why he never included that line, despite withholding it from his son.

Shinichi scrutinized his father's words, not expecting such a response. Although he admitted to not even being much of a fan of series, he had read each book and could confidently say that the line was truly not in any of them. Either way, he was fairly sure he hadn't read the quote; instead he vaguely remembered it being spoken to him. "Did someone else read that draft?" he prodded further.

If Yuusaku's suspicions had any grounds, he was wary of how much Shinichi actually knew or what he could piece together on his own. He chose his next words carefully, though he could tell his son had already dug further than he should have. "Even my editors never read that earliest draft. I ended up doing the first rewrite on my own. However, I actually lent a copy of the draft to an old acquaintance of mine, but sadly he passed away soon afterwards and it must have ended up being misplaced."

Again, the younger detective closely examined the second part of his father's answer. Who said it? When did they say it? Where did I hear it?! Shinichi repeated the quote multiple times in his head before he realized that there was something wrong with it. "A thief is a creative artist…" that's how I heard it said before! A thief… Finally, the memory resurfaced and he couldn't help but burst into laughter.

"I think I'm missing the humor in this," Yuusaku commented when his son eventually calmed down.

"Heh, I just realized that someone I know isn't as 'creative' as he thinks he is…" he said keeping his explanation rather vague. It kind of makes sense to think that guy is a fan of my old man's work. I wonder how—

The detective would have started thinking in all sorts of circles about the implications of what his father revealed but his train of thought was interrupted as the door to the room flung open.

"Hora! What's the deal, Kudou-kun?! Your girl can come visit me, but you can't do the same? I thought we were friends too?" A somewhat androgynous looking young woman who was best known to most people as Sera Masumi, and who was the first to come through the door—and who, incidentally, was rolling in on a wheelchair—gripped and pointed at the startled boy accusingly. Ran and Yukiko, who apparently decided to escort the female private eye to the other detective's room before heading out, made their way inside behind the boisterous girl.

Oh great… Just whom I wanted to see… Shinichi internally groaned and emitted a few curt, cynical laughs. "It's good to see you're doing well. Already getting around too?" Misdirecting her interrogation seemed like the safest option.

"Yeah, lucky aren't I? Bet you're miserable stuck in bed still, eh?" she boasted while wheeling further into the room.

"But Masumi-chan, you said—" Ran started to say, coming to a stop just behind the temporarily handicapped girl. Quite a while back Ran had begun addressing her friend by her first name as they had become much closer.

"Anyway, Ran-chan told me all about some treasure map you were making for those kid friends of yours. It sounded interesting, so I thought I'd come see what it's all about for myself." She leaned forward in her wheelchair next to Shinichi's bed to take a good look at the mess of papers covering his bed. She did indeed look curious and picked up a few sheets with writing all over them without asking for permission.

"So you're saying that you were just bored and wanted something to do?" Shinichi retorted, smirking and raising an eyebrow.

"Ooh? Are you a detective or something?" She sniggered and when she smiled, her one tooth stuck out over her lip a little. "So, what's the treasure?" Masumi asked, actually trying to find out about the treasure hunt.

"The treasure…? Ah, crap! I didn't get to that part yet!" He cursed at himself for not figuring out the most essential part to begin with. "What the heck would be a good treasure anyway…" Considering, as Conan, he learned almost everything there was to know about the kids, it shouldn't have been such a difficult task to come up with something or other. No one else in the room knew the Detective Boys to the same extent as he did. Nonetheless, Shinichi looked back and forth between the two girls with an uncertain expression as if asking for their input, seeing as they at least knew the children somewhat as well.

While they all mulled over what the children liked and what would make an appropriate prize, Yukiko suddenly made a triumphant exclamation, which startled them out of their thoughts. "Shin-chan, I have a suggestion!" His mother proceeded to at first explain some seemingly unrelated story about the previous night when she bumped into an old make-up artist friend, whom she knew from back in her acting days, while she and Yuusaku had gone out to a fancy restaurant after their flight. She went on for a unnecessary amount of time about the chance meeting, how they knew each other, what the lady was up to nowadays, and what movies she had recently worked on and ones in which she was currently part of the staff. When her son told her to get to the point already, she finally described the suggestion that her rambling was leading up to.

"That's perfect!" Shinichi shouted.

"They'd love that!" Ran cheered simultaneously.

Yukiko hummed proudly, folding her hands flat besides her cheek. "Just as I thought! It's so wonderful having such connections, isn't it?"

"Yeah, yeah. You're the best…" Shinichi praised, rolling his eyes. "Anyway, are you able to get it today? It would be kinda lame if I had to tell those guys, 'sorry, come back tomorrow for the treasure' if— I mean when they get to the end." He cringed as he imagined what their disgruntled reactions would be like if he ended up resorting to something along those lines.

"Hmm… I'll have to get back to you on that…" After trailing off she made a whining noise and went on, "Drat, this is going to cut into all the things I planned for my date with Ran-chan." She winked at the blushing girl, and then giggled when she saw her son's flabbergasted expression in reaction—he was much more handsome than the gaping fish he appeared to be imitating though, she thought. Yukiko dug out her phone from her purse and then slipped her arm around one of Ran's own and tugged the girl in the direction of the door. Ran stumbled for a couple of steps before regaining her footing, as she was not expecting to be dragged across the room so abruptly. Yukiko waved her phone in the air as they made their way to the door, and with her back facing the room, she chimed, "When I find out, I'll give you a call! Good luck and have fun~!" At the door she turned back around to address her son's friend—her own new acquaintance. "Oh, by the way, it was nice meeting you Masumi-chan. Maybe next time you can join us!"

The mentioned girl blinked a few times in surprise at the offer but then nodded with a snaggletooth smirk, and made a motion as if tipping a hat although she wasn't currently wearing her trademark fedora. "Yes, ma'am," she said as a goodbye.

"Uh, bye then, I guess! Nice seeing you again, Yuusaku-san!" Ran called out as she staggered forward from being forcibly pulled along. The door clicked shut behind the two women just as she finished saying the man's name.

— — —

Without any other distractions, Masumi was finally able greet Kudou Yuusaku properly, so she turned her wheelchair around to face the man. "So, you must be Kudou-kun's dad? I'm a big fan of yours; I started reading the Night Baron series when I was a kid. It's really awesome to meet'cha!" She then introduced herself by name.

Yuusaku's eyes widened slightly as he was somewhat surprised that his earlier speculation was correct. Taking one hand out of his pant's pockets, he lifted it to his chin—much like Shinichi would do, except the son had actually picked up the habit from the father. He more carefully observed the girl before him, the lenses of his glasses catching a glare from the ceiling lights. "I see. You really are the same tomboyish girl from back then. I wasn't certain, considering you look much different than you did at that age. I suppose it has been quite a few years since then."

"Oh? I thought I had been the only one who remembered." She replied, glancing over to Shinichi and raising an eyebrow. Yuusaku followed her gaze in curiosity.

"Shut up. Ran didn't remember you either! I knew we'd met before… I just couldn't place when or where right away. You didn't have to be so covert about everything in the first place." Shinichi scowled at her for a few seconds before finally returning his attention to the scattered notes surrounding him, and snatched the papers Masumi was still holding from the girl's hands. After that, a quick glance at his watch, which the detective grabbed from the nightstand, showed him that he had wasted quite a bit of time dealing with all these people distracting him.

Masumi snorted at the irony of his response. Was he really one to criticize someone for being "covert" after all? She decided to continue her conversation with the mystery writer after Shinichi went back to work and seemingly began to ignore her. She stuck out her chest, and spoke to Yuusaku once again, being the least bit perturbed. "If you didn't recognize me right away, it was probably because you couldn't even tell that I was a girl when I came in, right? That's alright, I get that a lot. But I'm sure my brea—"

"Do you have to say that every time you meet someone? You've been saying that for two years now. I think you should just give up hope already." Apparently, Shinichi hadn't completely tuned the female detective out and felt the need to interrupt to speak his mind and give her a reality check. After another short round of bantering Shinichi actually went back to work, trying his best to tune out the two remaining in his room.

— — —

The author and girl detective spent awhile conversing, recalling how they all had met in the past, discussing her family, and the lighter topics involving her association with Shinichi. On the other hand, Shinichi was still focused on his project.

He had realized that his father never got a chance to finish what he was trying to say earlier before Masumi had barged in. Of course he was too stubborn to ask now, and instead merely guessed at the gist of that particular quote about a criminal mastermind. The detective didn't quite enjoy the idea of needing to use the mindset of a criminal for something as innocent as a making a treasure hunt, let alone for anything at all. Instead, the more he thought about it, considering appropriation of the quote, the more he was reminded of the riddles within a certain thief's heist notes. He wasn't sure if that made him feel any better about it though.

To his further his annoyance, his guests' curiosity in regards to the treasure map that he was contriving hadn't been abated either. When they inquired if he was making any headway, he grumbled that he was doing just fine. However, when Masumi asked to see what he'd come up with so far, he rudely denied her request.

"Geez, you don't have to be like that. If you're stuck, you can ask for help, you know?" Masumi grumped in return, realizing that her friend was just being stubborn and didn't want to admit that he was at a standstill. She had noticed him frequently checking the time and deduced that he must not have had much longer before the children arrived. If Shinichi didn't hurry up those kids would get here and he wouldn't even have anything to give them.

She expected him to sneer in response and was surprised when he appeared to be seriously considering her offer. Him chewing on the end of his pen and his wide eyes and lowered brows indicated an internal debate. He reluctantly looked up at Masumi with that same expression and after a moment even shifted his head towards his father as well.

"Oh? I never would have imagined you turning to me for help. I'm confident that you can figure this out on your own," Yuusaku said in response to his son's unvoiced appeal.

Shinichi glowered at him for a few seconds before deciding that he didn't need his father's help anyway. He disliked being one-upped by his old man more than often and was determined to be the best detective. Just because he had always only been a puzzle solver, didn't mean he couldn't make one himself. That however didn't stop him from giving in and accepting Masumi's help since his time was quickly ticking away. And as uncomfortable as it made him feel, he decided to suffer through mentally roleplaying a criminal mastermind just this once if it would help him get the treasure map done in time.

— — —

The great detective had at some point messaged Haibara asking her to tell them when they were on their way, to which he had just received that notification. With just minutes to spare, Shinichi and Masumi put the finishing touches on the actual treasure map as well as on the supplemental pieces of paper that would be used to guide the Detective Boys on their hunt.

Masumi cheered as she completed her handiwork. In triumph, she showed off by doing a wheelie with her wheelchair, skillfully balancing it on its back wheels while spinning around in a circle.

When an unexpected knock on the door made her start, she almost lost control and toppled over backwards. Luckily she caught herself, and was especially thankful she hadn't fallen over when she saw who had come in—her doctor, a flustered, somewhat elderly man who looked angry yet relieved to have found his run-away patient. After being harshly scolded for leaving her room when she hadn't even been given permission to get out of bed for the restroom without assistance, Masumi unenthusiastically let herself be wheeled out of her friend's room. The whole time she was scowling and resting her chin in her palm, cursing whoever had ratted her out and in turn led her doctor to find her.

Yuusaku took his leave shortly afterward in order to take care of the task Shinichi had requested him to do, since his son was still not supposed to be out of bed as well. Despite denying his son's earlier appeal, he had found himself helping as well, just to a lesser extent than Masumi. Starting on the first floor, he happened to notice Professor Agasa near the hospital entrance, arriving with—who the mystery writer was certain were—the children of interest. Yuusaku turned around to make sure they passed by without noticing him. He could hear three voices chatting enthusiastically and overheard one of the boys complain about the sudden rain showers that had apparently interrupted their soccer rematch at the park and forced them to head over to Agasa's earlier than usual. Yuusaku grinned, now understanding his son's earlier unexplained behavior. They were gone after a minute, having headed up the elevator. Now safe to return to his task, the mystery writer began to make his way through the building.

It was best to let the children arrive without giving away his presence. Yuusaku didn't know if one of the children would have recognized him and Agasa wouldn't have known to keep his old neighbor's identity a secret if he had happened to him. Either way, if they found out who he was, they might have wanted to turn to him for help before they even got started on the hunt. Then it wouldn't be much of a test if they were guided the whole way… After all, the mystery experts were trying to be discreet in putting the puzzle on the board so that it could be pieced together by the young detectives on their own.

When the Detective Boys arrived in Shinichi's room, the older detective stalled as long as he thought was necessary for his father to complete the set-up. He was reluctant to give up the treasure map, knowing the kids would run off immediately. That plan backfired because Genta then accused him of lying and questioned if there even was a treasure map.

"O-Of course there's a treasure map. Why would I lie about that? Look, it's right here," he stated, pulling out the piece of paper from between the pages of the book Mitsuhiko had giving him the day before, where he had hid the map to keep it safe. He supposed that it had been long enough since his father left to complete, or at least almost complete, his assignment. Not that it mattered, since Genta abruptly plucked the map out of his hands, luckily not ripping the flimsy sheet of paper. Before Shinichi could attempt to reclaim it, the three children were already carefully analyzing the contents.

"Awww! These animals are so cute!" Ayumi prattled in fascination of the drawings on the paper. The treasure map consisted of seven depictions of animals, which included from the right side to the left: a monkey, a crab, a bird, a beetle, an octopus, a snake, and a dog. There was a trail connecting each animal, similar to other treasure maps which showed the physical, or literal, way to the treasure. "I didn't know you could draw so well, Shinichi-oniisan."

Shinichi recalled Masumi criticizing his own horrible drawing skills and then redrawing the whole map herself. It turned out a lot cuter than he'd wanted, but he had to grudgingly admit that it looked a lot better than his attempt. "Ehehe, Actually I asked Se– I mean, uh, Ran, to draw the map for me." He scratched the back of his head, after almost revealing something he didn't mean to. For specific reasons, he needed to keep his assistants' involvement a secret. The detective then briefly explained that Ran had left not that long ago to Ayumi's disappointment, after the girl had asked. "But that's not all there is to the map, take a closer look," he urged, actually feeling a bit excited in wondering how they would figure his riddle out.

Besides the wide variety of names under the animal drawings, the only other writing was the Monkey's speech bubble introduction. "C'mon Mitsuhiko! What's it say already?" Genta bellowed impatiently, knowing that the skinny boy was the best reader out of all the Detective Boys—besides Haibara of course, but she was off to the side by the professor.

"The monkey says, 'I'm Petey!' You should follow… my pace… before you climb?" Mitsuhiko read, relying on the furigana to help understand the reading and meaning of the kanji he didn't know yet. He continued on since that wasn't all it said. "And then… find me and my friends."

"Eh? Is that it?" Genta asked, expecting a better hint. He frowned and attempted to read the text for himself. "Are you sure this means 'pace' here," he asked pointing to the kanji that was read as "ashimoto." Whenever I'm not watching were I'm going, mom always nags me and says, 'not to lose sight of one's own footsteps,'" he said trying to imitate his mother's voice while repeating the quote which included that same word.

Mitsuhiko hummed in contemplation and read over the line once again, this time substituting in the new meaning. "Actually that makes a lot of sense if he's saying to follow his footsteps! But—"

"Hah! Look who figured it out! Who says we need Conan or that Shinichi guy?" bellowed Genta before his friend could continue.

"Oi, I can hear you from over here, you know?" Shinichi interrupted, who had obviously been easily forgotten in the excitement. Genta merely laughed and smiled sheepishly in apology.

Even Mitsuhiko gave the larger boy a look that clearly said, Are you serious? He coughed to get Genta's attention and asked, "So where exactly are the footsteps then, Genta-kun?"

No longer gloating, Genta looked down at the floor uncertainly to see nothing out of the ordinary, and even Ayumi peaked out into the hall but obviously there was nothing there either. When the girl shook her head to indicate that she didn't notice anything, Genta huffed and frowned in discouragement.

Mitsuhiko added, "Plus… We haven't even begun to figure out the rest of the map. Unless, you have been keeping the answer to this puzzle to yourself? Hm?" The skinny boy crossed his arms and bent forward as he put the pressure on the overly confident boy.

At first Genta seemed to have lost his confidence as he stuttered, "U-Uh I just haven't got that far yet." But he became annoyed by the smug look his friend was giving him. It wasn't like Mitsuhiko had solved the whole thing either. Regaining his resolution, Genta mirrored the shorter boy's stance and declared, "Just you wait and see! I'll figure it out in no time!"

While Genta and Mitsuhiko were busy going back and forth, Ayumi finally got a chance to read over the text more carefully herself. Her eyes lit up and a wide smile crossed her face when an idea sparked in her mind. Without even consulting her friends, she snuck over to Shinichi's bed and pulled herself up into the chair so that she was kneeling on it. She motioned for the older boy to lean over closer. Shinichi looked at her in curiosity but did as she silently requested. She then raised her hands around her mouth and whispered in his ear the solution to the riddle she had come up with.

When she concluded they leaned away from each other and she returned to speaking normally. "Did I figure it out Shinichi-oniisan?" Ayumi asked, resting her palms on edge of the mattress and watching him in anticipation, still wearing a contented smile.

"Hmm? You want to know? How about you go see for yourselves?" he replied with a shrug without giving a definitive answer. But he smirked, knowing the kids were on the right track.

Ayumi beamed proudly. The girl hopped down from the chair and scampered to her friends. She cheered, "C'mon guys! Let's go find out!" coaxing them to follow.

"Eh?! You solved it and you didn't tell us? Hey! I was supposed to figure it out!" Genta groaned but Ayumi took off out into the hall, so he and Mitsuhiko had to chase after her to learn what she knew. The three real kids stormed out of the room with even Professor Agasa following behind to make sure they didn't cause trouble while roaming around the hospital. On the other hand Haibara took her time in walking to the door.

Before she made it to the doorway, Shinichi called out to her. "Ah, Haibara?" Before he mentioned the most urgent thing on his mind he first brought up another thing he wanted to say. "If I know those kids, they'll probably keep asking you for help and if they seem really stuck, maybe a small hint won't hurt. But for the most part, try to let them solve it for themselves."

Haibara huffed, imagining how obscure the riddle must be, coming from the great detective. Regardless, she had been planning to see how much the children could accomplish on their own in the first place. "Is that all?"

Shinichi leaned over to try to see passed the door more easily to make sure the children weren't just outside. Although just a moment ago he'd been smiling to Ayumi, he now wore a more neutral, or perhaps even concerned expression.

Haibara realized what the boy wanted to discuss so she closed the door so that it was almost shut. "If I try to stay behind Yoshida-san, if not all of them, will want to come back inside and wait for me. When I get the chance, I'll give the children an excuse they'll hopefully accept in order for me to leave them temporarily, and then I'll sneak back here for what I said I would come for last night." The young man didn't make a comment otherwise, but from his expression she could tell that he was anxious and didn't want to wait until later. "Look, Kudou-kun. Even if I get it now, I'm still going to have to stay with Yoshida-san and the others until this quest of theirs is over. I'm not going to be able to do anything else until we leave." She pulled something out of her pocket and reached up to hand it to the teenager. "Here. Just in case, this will hopefully help for the time being. I don't think it will be necessary but it should put your mind to rest."

"Ah, thanks. I shouldn't use it unless it's necessary you're saying?" To that the scientist merely nodded.

The young woman sighed and looked downwards. "Again, I'm sorry for this complication, Kudou-kun."

"You're sorry… again?" The detective felt confused at the scientist's apology. When did she apologize about this before? The last time he could remember her saying sorry was… "Wait, is this what you were saying sorry for yesterday?" he said in disbelief.

"Hm? Of course it was. What else did you think I was sorry for?" she replied and titled her head, feigning puzzlement.

"N-nothing. Never mind," he muttered and looked away so she didn't see him glower at the wall. Why that little…! Inside, he felt peeved and silently cursed the girl, taking back his promise to make it up to her for what he'd said yesterday.

When Ayumi popped her head back into the room to see if her friend was coming, Haibara left without another word to the young man, leaving the room empty besides its last remaining occupant.


I'm starting my last year of undergrad next week, so I want to apologize ahead of time in case I don't update in awhile. Hopefully I'll be able to do some writing this semester but I'm going to be much busier in the next 4 months. 3-4 weeks between updates probably seems like a long time as it is. Sorry guys!

I'm thinking about working with a beta reader who would be helpful in making sure my research is at least somewhat correct, could help with the mystery aspects, and help make sure there are no plot holes, etc. I'm really currently hoping someone might be able to help me with some medical science stuff or at least some kind of knowledge of chemistry/biology stuff. If anyone is interested please let me know!

What's the deal with Shinichi's sudden fit? And any speculation about what Haibara said?

Any guesses to what the treasure is going to be? So far, it should be possible to figure some of the puzzle. More hints will be revealed as the DBs make more progress but if you're up for it, try to solve what you can. The little bit of Japanese on the treasure map is hopefully easy enough to find out, just like some things in English (or otherwise) might need to be looked into. The intro bubble is pretty much thoroughly explained in English so trying to get more hints from the Japanese writing shouldn't really help. I mostly wrote it as a self-exercise and to make it appear as if Shinichi/Masumi actually wrote it. ^.^; (But if there is anything wrong with the Japanese, let me know!)

If anyone cares to know, "To lose sight of one's own footsteps" in Japanese is: 足元(あしもと)が見(み)えなくなる (ashimoto ga mienakunaru) more literally: The footsteps disappear.

I probably took a lot of liberties with the layout for the hospital. I needed enough to work with so that way everything isn't so obvious at least. If anyone happens to be more knowledgeable about this, please let me know if there is anything really wrong!

Thank you everyone for the continued support and especially to those who have recently followed/faved/reviewed. :D