The morning of March 14th proved to be a busy one. Saguru hadn't made the mistake of accepting every Valentine gift offered to him from his school mates like he had last year, but even so, he'd still been unable to turn away a sizable number of them. Twenty-three. Twenty-five if he included the ones he'd received from Aoko and Akako. Four of them had been from boys (one left to him anonymously in his shoe locker and three given privately).
His father had been snickering at him while he was putting together a second bag to carry all of his White Day return gifts. They were all different and personalized of course. Just because he'd received more than a few didn't mean that he was going to be cheap or uncaring and give everyone the same return gift.
"Breaking more hearts, son? How does your thief cope with you having all of these admirers? Doesn't he get jealous?" his father asked.
Saguru leveled an unamused look at him. His father had been making comments like that ever since they'd discovered Ichikawa's Sapphire ring in Saguru's morning bowl of Frosted Flakes three months ago. "Are you ever going to let that go?"
"Only when it stops being funny or your scheming mother is around," Akira Hakuba said with a beaming grin. "Only Kami knows what that woman would do if she ever learned that her son was consorting with a gentleman thief. The poor bloke would have it rough for sure. She'd have him running for the hills and then where would you be? Bored and alone, that's where."
"I'm more concerned with the fact that you, the Superintendent of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, continue to blather on about how I am supposedly – as you put it – consorting with a thief," Saguru drawled.
"I do not blather," Hakuba Sr. huffed. "And you know very well how terrifying your mother can be when she gets an idea into her head. If she thinks you're dating the Kaitou Kid she'll plan your whole life out from your marriage and honeymoon, to how many children you're going to have, and where and when the two of you will retire."
Saguru nearly sent his bag crashing to the floor, his face a livid red.
"Otousan!" he practically screeched.
"What? It's true," the elder man said gravely. "Oh to be young. You've grown up so fast. Your mother and I shall mourn the fact that you are no longer our precious baby boy and then she'll help you pick out your wedding dress."
"WHY THE HELL AM I THE BRIDE?!" Saguru shrieked.
"Because Kid is a gentleman and he already has the white suit," Hakuba Sr. said evenly and with a completely straight face.
"HE'S THE CROSSDRESSER! AND SINCE WHEN ARE WE ENGAGED?! WHY ARE WE EVEN HAVING THIS CONVERSATION?! WHY ARE YOU EVEN THINKING ABOUT THIS?! HE'S A THIEF! I'M A DETECTIVE! THE IDEA OF ANY KIND OF RELATIONSHIP OTHER THAN RIVALRY BETWEEN US IS LAUGHABLE AND IMPROBABLE AND BELONGS IN WORKS OF FANTASY AND TAKUMI-KUN'S FAN FICTION!"
Saguru took a deep breath, gathered up his school bag and the bag containing his White Day return gifts and stormed out of the kitchen to the front entry, shoving his feet into his shoes.
"I think he doth protest too much," he heard his father chuckle.
"I think you pushed too far, sir," Baaya commented.
"I'm just trying to be a supportive father."
"Pardon me, sir, but I call 'bullshit', as the young people say."
"He knows I was only pulling his leg."
"Only pulling his leg, sir, or looking for a reaction?"
"Why, whatever do you mean, Baaya?"
Saguru didn't wait around to hear any more. He'd be getting to school even earlier than usual, but that was all right. He just wanted to get away from his father and their mortifying conversation. He spent that time slipping most of his return gifts into their respective recipient's shoe locker. These were done mostly for those recipients that weren't in his class or grade level, and for those who'd slipped him their valentines anonymously. If they didn't wish for it to be known that they'd given him a valentine, then he was more than happy to return the favor in kind. After having delivered a majority of his White Day gifts, Saguru headed to his homeroom, handing out the remaining return gifts to his classmates as they arrived for class.
He was surprised when a good number of his classmates (boys and girls) gave him White Day gifts as well in return for the baked goods he'd brought to class Valentine's Day. He'd known that some might feel the same traditional sense of duty as Akako and Kyou, but he hadn't expected a majority of the class to do the same. Aoko had given him one of the scarves he'd seen her knitting since classes resumed after winter break. Takumi had given him a small box of lemon bars – he must have mentioned that they were a favorite of his once. As for Akako…
When they were alone for a moment before joining Aoko and the others for lunch, Akako brought out his White Day gift. He couldn't help staring at the stuffed dog – its coloring indicating that it was supposed to be either a beagle or a basset hound, but looked like something in-between – dressed in an inverness coat and cap. Where the hell had she been keeping this thing?!
"From Kyou-chan," Akako explained. "His name is Sherlock. I helped her make the coat and cap, but this," she thrust a small brown non-descript paper package into his hands, "is from me."
Saguru opened the package and snorted in amusement, pulling out a long black cord with the tip of his index finger so that the pendant hanging from it dangled in front of him. At first it looked like a simple cross carved into a circle of wood, but upon closer inspection there were fine etchings in the wood making up a number of symbols and glyphs he didn't understand or recognize. A few were familiar, but not like anything he'd ever seen Akako use or write before in relation to her witchcraft.
"Nothing that would go against your religion, I assure you. Merely a few old wards and charms based off of old Roman and Celtic text. It's carved out of wood from an old yew tree in a churchyard in Gloucestershire, or so I've been reassured," Akako explained, stumbling a bit over the pronunciation of the old English town name. "Yew is used to enhance magical and psychic abilities, and is said to induce visions. An old acquaintance of mine still owed me a favor and procured the wood for me. Another carved and whittled out the cross and I did the spell work. Now you should be protected by Western magics as well as Eastern."
"…Thank you," Saguru said, smiling softly as he slipped the black cord over his head and tucked the pendant underneath his shirt where it rested over his heart with the omamori that Kyou had given him several months back. "My return present pales in comparison to such a gift."
"Nonsense," Akako huffed, taking his offered arm as he escorted her to where they were supposed to be meeting the others for lunch. "I am exceedingly fond of the hair clips you gave me and the truffles are sure to be delicious, but if you feel that strongly about it you can take me out to dinner, or – better yet – cook me dinner."
Saguru chuckled. "I would be delighted to have your company this evening, though we'll be eating out I'm afraid. As of this morning I am avoiding my father."
"He is being facetious and unreasonable."
Saguru pursed his lips.
"Ah, of course. Kid, right?" she said, looking even more amused. She'd already heard a good number of Saguru's rants about his father's jesting.
"It's escalating," he said tersely.
"Aww~! Is he already planning your wedding? I better be your Maid of Honor. And don't worry, I'll make sure your mother chooses the perfect dress for you. Better yet, I'll design it. I'll make sure that it's simplistic enough in design, but teetering on that borderline between modest and scandalous. Kid will be too mesmerized staring at you to perform his usual disappearing act and leave you at the altar."
"Not you too! Why the hell am I the bride?"
"Who's a bride?"
It was only out of sheer force of will that Saguru didn't jump at the sound of Kuroba's voice. He hadn't realized that they were approaching the others. Thankfully they only appeared to have caught that last word or two of his outburst.
"I am," Akako said beaming, not missing a beat, scooting close to Saguru and hugging his arm to her side. "Saguru-kun's just proposed after professing his undying love for me. I said yes of course. We're going to honeymoon in Paris and then settle down somewhere in the English countryside where we can host tea parties and have a dozen children. Aoko-chan, I want you to be my Maid of Honor, and Keiko and Haruka-chan my bridesmaids."
Silence met this announcement, all of them staring with gobsmacked expressions. There were quite a few others watching as well. Many of the male students looked like they were ready to burst into tears.
"Are… Are you serious?" Hayashi squeaked.
"No," Saguru scowled, looking disapprovingly at Akako.
"Spoilsport," Akako pouted.
The male students burst into a chorus of relieved sighs and sobs.
Kaito spent the first two periods of the day on the roof, itching to go home and take his glider out. He was furious at Koizumi again today, but this time not because of her witchy ways. Lately they'd kept things polite and Kaito had even tried to make gestures of not-hatred, but today when she'd played that tasteless joke on her poor admirers – gods help them – Kaito suddenly snapped back to the days when she'd been after his soul, days when he couldn't stand being in the same room as her. It was a good thing that Hakuba had spoiled the deception quickly, or half their class would have been heartbroken (and half the school by the end of lunch gossip).
Just shuffling a deck wasn't enough to keep his hands sufficiently occupied today. Kaito withdrew rolls of colored string (which were useful for tricks as well as entertaining his doves) from his voluminous pockets and started braiding them together. Maybe if he worked at it long enough, he might stop thinking about his fierce overreaction to what was, in retrospect, just Koizumi with her eccentric sense of humor.
He shivered. Ugh. The idea of Koizumi having a brood of little witchlings toddling around was honestly terrifying.
"Kaito?" He looked up from his knots to see Aoko framed in the doorway. "Is something wrong?"
"Huh? I skip class a lot. What makes you think something's wrong?"
She sat down beside him. "Because Aoko knows her best friend better than you think and you didn't look well when you hopped out the window. So what is it?"
"Wait, you waited two periods to come and look for me when you thought something was wrong? I'm offended."
"BaKaito, Aoko gave you two periods to figure things out alone."
"Did I miss anything interesting?"
"The classroom was quiet. Aoko thinks that Sensei never knows what to do with a perfectly behaved class," she teased. "We were missing an idiot." Smile fading, she nudged him. "So what's going on?"
"Nothing big. I've been busy lately. Tired. I've been working on some new tricks," he offered. As always, Kid had an impending heist.
"Tricks make you happy," she pointed out. "Is Kaito having girl problems?"
"What? Girl problems? No. Why would you ask that?" Girls were literally the last thing on his mind right now. He had more important things, like finding Pandora and working on Hakuba's latest challenge.
"You were kinda secretive about going shopping for White Day presents this year. You used to ask me what I thought the girls would want. I thought maybe there was someone special this year and you wanted to keep it quiet until you talked to her. Did it go badly?"
Correct initial idea, wrong conclusion. Kaito was being cagey about return presents, but it was because he hadn't been planning to go shopping for Hakuba's return gift with Aoko. It was weird for a guy to get a White Day present for another guy, right? "There's no hidden meaning there, Ahoko. White Day's just boring. I do the return gifts and that's the end of it."
He'd taken a while to decide on something for Hakuba, longer than he had on the other return gifts. Kaito had contemplated going with something related to Sherlock Holmes, but honestly, Hakuba probably got a lot of Holmes-themed gifts. The last thing he needed to be was predictable. Kid would have bought him a bottle of hair dye remover just to see the look on Hakuba's face when the implications of the gift set in. The detective would no doubt glare when he realized that there was a hair dye prank in his future.
"Hmm." Aoko didn't sound convinced. "Well, on a completely unrelated note," she began in a tone that said the two things were most definitely related, "Want to get a group together and hang out over the weekend? Aoko heard they're having a promotion at Tropical Land for large parties. Aoko is sure we could get eight or nine people together for it."
Kaito smiled. This was her way of trying to cheer him up. "You think so?"
"Of course. Everyone will go together and you won't have to think about the girl that's on your mind, okay?"
"Sure. Let's do that." No point in saying there was no girl on his mind.
"Great. You'll feel better after a day out. Aoko will even let you check the invite list so we don't bring her with us. With that taken care of, everything should be fine. What are the chances you'd run into her there, right?"
"Pretty low." None, actually, since there was no such person.
"It'll be a lot of fun, and there's a limit to how much trouble someone could get into at an amusement park."
Kaito let himself be coaxed back to the classroom. He made sure to let a mischievous grin cross his face as he entered, and he practically felt the class shiver. There, now they probably thought he working on a new trick rather than unraveling his inexplicable negative reaction to Koizumi. At lunch he had left his White Day gift, and Hakuba's shoe cubby may as well not have been locked for all the trouble it gave Kaito. He probably wouldn't be around when Hakuba found the present, but it wouldn't take a detective to figure out where the two expansion packs for Cards Against Humanity came from. Kaito had also picked up a starter deck for himself, intrigued by the description Hakuba had given him of the game, and was instantly thrilled with the gleefully warped sense of humor the cards presented.
Aoko put the whole amusement park outing together with surprising speed, and before Kaito knew it they were waiting outside Tropical Land on Saturday morning for the rest of their group to arrive. Kaito spotted blonde hair and checked his watch – was Hakuba ten minutes early instead of exactly on time? Was he ill?
It became clear when both Hakuba and Koizumi came into view, chatting pleasantly as they walked over together. Some of that ugly feeling came back, but Kaito pushed it aside in favor of a grin. "Something wrong with your watch again?"
Hakuba flashed him a dirty look. "I didn't appreciate it the last time you took it upon yourself to tamper with my possessions."
Kaito assumed his most innocent expression. "Who, me?"
"I was late to an appointment, Kuroba."
"What on earth makes you think it was me?"
Aoko interrupted the mounting argument. "Kaito, behave!" He backed off. Hakuba wasn't paying attention to Koizumi anymore, so his whim was satisfied. Having that attention for himself felt good.
Kaito blinked in surprise and purposely blanked his mind. No, he was not thinking about the reason behind that emotion. He'd been skirting around it for a while now, letting the half-formed thought just sit. If he didn't focus on it, it might go away when he wasn't looking.
Think about mundane things. Working on magic tricks. Playing with his doves. Writing heist notes. Hanging out with Aoko –
Like he was doing right now. Yes, this was supposed to be a day to not think about things and just be with other people.
The rest of their classmates trickled in and they paid for their tickets as the park opened. Kaito hadn't been to Tropical Land in over half a year, and the new brochure promised some kickass rides. He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "Alright, our first stop is gonna be the rollercoasters, right?" The free-fall at the beginning had nothing on flying, but Kaito's glider couldn't do loops with the same speed that roller coaster cars achieved.
Hayashi laughed. "Don't you want to start out with the tame rides and work up to those?"
"BaKaito's an adrenaline junkie."
"Which surprises no one," Hakuba finished, to the group's laughter.
Kaito grinned at him. "They've got a Mystery Coaster now, Hakuba-kun."
"Ooh, I bet you lose your cool on rollercoasters. Don't want anyone to hear you scream your head off?"
Hakuba rolled his eyes. "Just not interested. I don't see what you enjoy about them."
"I'm not going to fall for that rather obvious attempt to challenge me."
Kaito leaned in, feeling a little more of Kid slip into his voice than was probably safe. "Are you saying you don't like a challenge, detective?" Kaito could easily deny that he was referencing anything, but now Hakuba's mind was probably running through how best to answer him. He couldn't say "I don't like challenges" because, well, he believed that Kaito was Kid and the kaitou would probably think of an appropriately difficult challenge if he lied. However, if he said, "I do like challenges," then he'd be implicitly agreeing to take Kaito's dare.
Hakuba sighed dramatically. "If you needed someone to go with you, Kuroba-kun, you could've just said so. I can't imagine you're the only one who's afraid of going on a rollercoaster alone." He'd sidestepped the issue.
"Oh please, I'm planning to hit all the rollercoasters today with or without you all."
"Hey, are you two coming?" Kaito's attention snapped to the rest of the group, who were headed off towards the bumper cars. They must have decided while Kaito and Hakuba were talking.
The two trailed after their friends. "I notice you didn't answer my question, Hakuba-kun."
Kaito's classmate threw him a glance. "Magicians are generally pretty good at reading people. I'm sure you know the answer."
Idiot. As if he was going to admit anything regarding to their post heist meetings. He didn't want Kuroba going into his "I'm not Kid" tirade either, so he'd kept his reply vague. Thankfully Kuroba let the matter drop and they got in line for the bumper cars with the others. By group vote, it was decided that they would continue around the park by sections and ride the rides as they came up. Because Dream and Fairytale Land made up the first section of the park they spent their time on the more kiddy rides first like the Tea Cups and the Flying Eagles ride that reminded Saguru of the Dumbo ride his mother always somehow talked him into going on with her whenever they visited Disneyland Paris.
After they'd explored the east half of the section, they moved on to Horror and Mystery Land where Kuroba managed to talk most of the members of their group into going on the Mystery Coaster first. Saguru included. He was surprised, though, when Kuroba cut past Akako to take the seat next to Saguru as they boarded, leaving Akako and Aoko to sit together behind them. Saguru raised an eyebrow at the other.
"Just wanted to make sure that I'd be able to hear you scream," the imp said with a wink.
Saguru frowned. "Just because I prefer not to ride rollercoasters doesn't mean that I'm afraid to go on them."
Saguru didn't scream once over the course of the ride. He hadn't been able to hold back a small gasp at the first drop, however. It wasn't that he was afraid of heights, or the speeds that the ride got up to as it went racing down the tracks, or even the sensation of the ride's G forces exerted on him during sharp turns and loops, but the sensation of freefall that started with a steep drop like this one was always something that unnerved him. Saguru was afraid of falling. He'd seen too many cases where victims had been pushed from various heights, or fallen over ledges or from tampered equipment not to be. The end result of a body splattered like a human water balloon on the ground always left him with a weak stomach.
"That was awesome!" Saiki was saying as they got off the ride.
"I'm sure it was," Hayashi chuckled. He had been the only boy in their group that hadn't gone on the ride, staying with his girlfriend and Takumi. Neither girl liked going on rollercoasters apparently.
Kuroba bounced up to Hayashi. "Who turns down a ride like the Mystery Coaster?"
"One that considers how his girlfriend feels about going on such rides," Hayashi sniffed.
"Aww!" Kanami cooed. "Aren't you the cutest? You could have gone, Raito-kun. I wouldn't have minded. I had Haruka-chan to keep me company."
"Yes, well…" Hayashi blushed.
"He wouldn't have gone anyway, Kanami-chan," Saiki laughed. "Raito-kun is afraid of heights."
"Just like Hakuba-kun," Kuroba smirked. "He was so scared he couldn't scream. He even closed his eyes during that first drop." Hakuba leveled an unamused look at him.
"He looked perfectly fine," Aoko pointed out.
"How could you tell? You were too busy screaming. I nearly went deaf you were so loud."
When they came to another rollercoaster, Saguru waited with Takumi, Hayashi and Kanami. Akako hung back with him at the back of the group when the others returned and they proceeded to the next ride.
"Something bothering you? You've been awfully quiet since the Mystery Coaster," Akako observed. "Was that your first rollercoaster? Kuroba-kun wasn't lying when he said that you shut your eyes during that first drop."
"Of course not," Saguru snorted. "I've ridden my fair share of rollercoasters. My mom and I go to Disneyland Paris every year in the fall after fashion week. As a kid it was my reward for behaving while she worked, or so she claimed."
Akako chuckled. "Will you be leaving sometime this autumn then, to be with her?"
"Who knows?" Saguru sighed. "I didn't go last year because I've been living here and chasing the Kid for a little over two years now, though, so there's always the possibility that she might decide to come to Tokyo and… persuade me to come along to the Disney parks here instead. She'd be able to spend time with my father if she did that."
"And maybe make a family trip out of it?" Akako asked with a knowing grin.
Saguru thought of his father, whom he was still making an effort to avoid spending overly long durations of quality time with, and shuddered as he imagined both of his parents ganging up on him. Especially if his father slipped up about Kid and that damn incident with Ichikawa's Sapphire.
"Joy," he said dryly.
Saguru blinked in surprise, looking over on his left, and spotted the small form of the highly intelligent seven-year-old, Edogawa Conan. He was even more surprised to see Hattori Heiji and Co. as well.
"Yo, Hakuba-kun." Hattori smirked. "Fancy running inta you here. Didn't even think ya were loose enough ta enjoy a day atta theme park."
"Heiji! Yer bein' rude!" Toyama Kazuha scolded before addressing Saguru. "Sorry 'bout him. I'm Toyama Kazuha, this ahou's friend."
"Hakuba Saguru. It's a pleasure to meet you, I'm sure, Toyama-san," Saguru said with his best charming smile and bowed in greeting before turning to greet the other members of their party. "Conan-kun. Mouri-kun."
Hattori narrowed his eyes at Saguru, probably trying to puzzle out whether or not Saguru had been subtly rude to his friend or flirting with her. Neither assumption was right of course, but – then again – for whatever reason, Hattori had never had a favorable opinion of Saguru to begin with.
"Hello, Hakuba-kun," Mouri Ran replied, bowing back.
"Who's yer friend?" Hattori asked, eyeing Akako with interest. Too much interest if the elbow Toyama jabbed into his side was any indication.
"I am Koizumi Akako," the witch said with a charming smile of her own. "Saguru-kun and I are classmates."
"Who have a bad habit of separating from the group."
Akako and Saguru jumped a bit in surprise and turned around to find Aoko glaring at them with annoyance while the other members of their group chuckled and snickered slightly behind her.
"Ah, sorry, Aoko-chan," Akako laughed. "Saguru-kun ran into some acquaintances of his."
"Figures," Kuroba scoffed.
"Oi, yer that guy from Tokyo Tower," Hattori said with a frown as he eyed Kuroba. "Kuro-something, right?"
"Kuroba," Kuroba corrected. "Kuroba Kaito."
"You've met them before?" Aoko asked, looking at her friend curiously.
"In passing." Kuroba shrugged. "It was when I found Benoit-chan at Tokyo Tower."
"Ah! You mean Hakuba-kun's cousin?" Aoko beamed, turning to Saguru.
"Cousin?" Toyama repeated.
"You've met Renee, Toyama-kun?" Saguru asked, feigning surprise and ignorance.
"I took pictures fer her at Tokyo Tower," Toyama grinned. "How has she been?"
"Alright, I guess," Saguru shrugged. "She texts every now and then. Recently she'd been sending me pictures of her in the steampunk cosplay she made. There's a huge convention of some kind going on right now in Paris that she's attending."
"So she's an otaku?"
"More or less," Saguru grimaced.
"She looks a lot like you," Akako noted. "You could be twins."
"For the love of God, if you ever meet her, never say that." Saguru shuddered. "She'll get ideas."
Kuroba smirked. "Like she did at Halloween?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Saguru said stiffly.
"I have photo evidence that proves otherwise."
"Should I be worried that you stalk my facebook fan page, Kuroba-kun?" Saguru drawled, leveling an unamused look at the magician as he proceeded to switch on his phone and show Hattori's group the Link and Zelda cosplay Saguru and Renee did three years ago for London Comic Con.
"I do not stalk," Kuroba huffed, but Saguru was curious to note that there was a slight tint of pink in his cheeks. "I did research."
"And that doesn't sound stalker-ish at all," Aoko snickered.
"Shut up." The two proceeded to get into another squabble and, somehow, Hattori and his group ended up joining theirs as they made their way around the park. Toyama and Mouri asked Saguru questions about his experience with cosplay and Hayashi and Kanami talked about how he should consider joining Ekoda High's drama club costume department. Saguru wasn't sure if it was a relief or not when, around two o'clock while at a café in Adventure and Pioneer Land, a case suddenly popped up.
Why was it that whenever he happened to be around Edogawa and Hattori that a case always came up? It appeared to be a regular occurrence for the Osakan and young primary school detective whenever they got together, if the resigned and annoyed looks on Toyama and Mouri's faces were anything to go by.
"At least we actually made it to Tropical Land this time," Mouri pouted as they sat back and watched Hattori and Edogawa work the crime scene.
"No kiddin'," Toyama grumbled. "At least it ain't an arsonist."
"You think it's another poisoning?"
"Gotta be. Why else would tha guy go out like that?"
"Not going to join them, Hakuba?" Kuroba asked, looking surprised to see that Saguru hadn't immediately jumped in to examine the victim and the crime scene like he had last time at Tokyo Tower when he'd been dressed as Renee.
Saguru didn't say anything, eyes sweeping over the scene and the people who had been seated with and around the victim. After taking in the scene as a whole he approached the body and began to examine the corpse.
Male. Roughly 25-30 years old. Height: approximately 170 centimeters. Weight: around 90 kilograms. Black hair. Brown eyes. Wore transition lens prescription sunglasses. Married. Wearing a clean plain black t-shirt, jeans, black and white sneakers, and a simple gold band wedding ring. No unnatural skin discoloration currently visible, but some frothing at the mouth.
"Any ID?" Saguru asked Hattori.
"Yeah. Nice'v ya ta join tha party," Hattori muttered as he flipped open victim's wallet to show Saguru the driver's license.
Hitachi Makoto. Age 27. Would have turned 28 next month.
"Ah le le?" Edogawa chirped, turning over the victim's left arm, revealing a small puncture wound there.
"So he was injected," Hattori muttered as the police arrived on the scene and started to cordon off the area and take over the case.
"Not necessarily," Saguru told him and the lead investigator, Inspector Megure. They'd met a few times, but not enough to make much of an impression it seemed, as the Inspector always turned to consult with Hattori. He had the man's undivided attention now, though. "The injection site looks too clean and shows no sign of irritation. A poison corrosive enough to cause the mouth to foam and blister inside would show some sign if it were injected. My belief is that our victim ingested the poison."
"How'd yeh know his mouth has blisters?" Hattori frowned. "Ya haven't even touched tha body."
"There's some blood and reddening around his lips," Saguru pointed out where the foam coming from the victim's mouth was starting to thin and run off. "Whatever he was given it was highly toxic and was more than likely not on his plate for long before he ate it. Look at his burger. It's starting to show signs of breaking down."
It was true. The victim's partially eaten burger was starting to decompose a bit, juice and grease soaking the bun and staining the cardboard container it was in.
A little over an hour later it was discovered that the poison had been in a hot sauce container the victim carried around with him and that the injection site that Edogawa had found on the body earlier had been from a vaccination shot that the victim had received that morning before coming to the park. The murderer turned out to be the victim's best friend who'd been in love with the deceased's wife and believed that she had been manipulated and taken from him.
Saguru's classmates chattered excitedly as they left to continue their day at Tropical Land.
"You know," Akako mused, "I think that was the first time I've ever seen you work a case that wasn't the Kaitou Kid's. I'm surprised."
"Oh? About what?" Saguru asked.
"You didn't jump right in like Hattori-san and Edogawa-kun," Aoko piped up. "And even afterwards you kept a bit of a distance."
Saguru shrugged. "With Conan-kun and Hattori-kun examining the scene from close up and keeping others from approaching the body, I was able to keep back and take in the scene as a whole. I see things better from a distance. What's the point of focusing on all of the tiny details if you can't fit them into the big picture?"
"It allowed ya ta spot things that Heiji didn't, that's fer sure," Toyama grinned, ignoring her friend's annoyed look.
"Hey, Hakuba-nii-san, what made you suspect the friend so fast?" Conan asked.
"He kept shifting his hands in his pockets," Saguru explained, "and his eyes kept returning to the bottle of Tabasco sauce next to the victim's place setting. As the victim's best friend, he'd know about victim's habit of applying hot sauce to a lot of his foods."
"So would tha victim's wife," Hattori pointed out. "She could'a done it too."
"Perhaps," Saguru reasoned. "But because the victim's clothes weren't wrinkled and showed signs of being well washed, and the number of photos of the two of them together on both of their cellphones, I guessed that they had been maintaining a loving relationship."
"Why were the clothes such a big clue?" Aoko asked.
"How many men do you know that take the time to regularly fold or hang up their clothes, let alone iron them?" Saguru asked. At this Mouri and Aoko sighed and shook their heads, undoubtedly thinking about their fathers. "Hitachi-san's clothes had no excessive wrinkles or creases that form when one simply folds quickly and stuffs their clothes in a dresser drawer, meaning his wife must have done his laundry."
When the few last details about the case were tied up, the group moved on to the rest of their day.
Kaito was surprisingly calm for being in the presence of the three biggest threats to Kid.
To be accurate, Hattori hadn't actually attended a heist yet, but if he was on par with Hakuba and Edogawa – as the files from the Detective Koushien and Kaito's own observations from today's case suggested – he could also pose a hazard to the kaitou in the future.
During the day it hadn't been much of an issue, since Hattori and the pest didn't pay much attention to him when everyone was in such a big group, but now, now it was a little different. Toyama and Mouri had gotten on frighteningly well with Aoko and Keiko, so much so that when Koizumi suggested that they make the Ferris wheel from Science and Space Land the last ride of the night, the five girls immediately clustered together to get a passenger car together. From the look of it, Hattori had been planning to pass on the ride, but after some heckling from Toyama suggesting he was afraid, he muttered that he'd join too. The tiny soccer monster had been tagging along with Hattori all day, so it wasn't a surprise that he got in line behind the other detective.
It was only after the girls got into their car and Saiki left to buy a water bottle that Kaito realized he was going to be in a confined space with the three detectives. Whoo boy. He ducked into the car and tried not to eye the surrounding bars with too much wariness. But again, he was calm. Hakuba sidled in next and took a seat next to him, and the other two detectives took the bench opposite.
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence as the ride operator locked the door and started up the ride, followed by some throat-clearing and mutterings about the weather.
Kaito, who knew how to break the ice in a variety of situations and who never passed up an opportunity to cause a bit of trouble, grinned pleasantly and began, "You know, I don't think you three have mentioned how you all met each other."
Hakuba scoffed. "I'm sure you know." Then, probably for the benefit of the other two investigators who weren't in on Hakuba's theory about Kaito being Kid, he added, "I know you read the papers."
"Must have missed that one."
Hattori spoke up. "Ku- Conan-kun and I ran into Hakuba-kun durin' a gathering of high school detectives."
"Oh? And the reason you and Hakuba-kun don't seem to get along? Did someone disagree about the time of death or take credit for someone else's work?"
"Yer buddy here jumped ta some conclusions about me."
Hakuba defended himself. "Which you then proved correct by breaking the window and spraying glass all over a crime scene."
"Impatient is not tha same thing as incompetent." Hattori looked indignant.
Mischief managed. As the two high school detectives began to exchange barbs, he sat back to watch. Hattori was just as Kaito remembered from last time, and he lined up pretty well with the reports of him from cases he'd worked. Kaito focused on memorizing the little habits and tells Hattori had when he was agitated. If Hattori ever came to a heist, more information about him couldn't hurt.
Out of the corner of his eye Kaito saw Edogawa raised a hand to cover a yawn, and he turned to the youngest investigator. It was the first time that Kaito had ever seen him relaxed. Detectives tended to be hyper-vigilant at heists even during the lulls in activity. Maybe it was the real and imagined distance from the world that the Ferris wheel provided, maybe it was the presence of his friend, but Edogawa seemed content, like a regular kid surrounded by his peers. Normal, almost, if one didn't consider the fact that the peers were ten years his senior.
Kaito's attitude towards the little menace was one part amusement, one part irritation, and two parts grudging respect. For a seven-year-old, his brilliance bordered on terrifying, but he was interesting. He liked the little rapport they had going between them and there were moments where he admitted that the little shit could have cornered him, if Edogawa weren't so intent on having a fair battle between them. And if he were less critical of Kid's performances, Kaito might have actually really liked the kid.
"You set them off on purpose. Why?" Edogawa's eyes were as sharp as usual, it seemed.
Kaito winked. "Annoying Hakuba is one of my favorite hobbies, but it's funnier when it's not me he's yelling at. What about you? What do you do for fun when you're not out solving murders?" Or getting in the way of perfectly harmless kaitou.
"Soccer and homework."
"What else do you do, then?"
"I do magic, which is not boring."
"I don't know much about it," Edogawa replied with a dismissive shrug, "but all the smoke and mirrors seems a bit too melodramatic to me."
Says the kid who delivers the solutions to mysteries with the pacing and diction of a performer. Kaito didn't know what Edogawa's deal was, but he was definitely 300% a drama queen. With a sharp smile, he responded, "I think you might be overly critical of magic as opposed to other activities that require illusion. I've been led to believe that detectives look before they speak when they collect evidence. It wouldn't do to alert the murderer that you're suspicious of them or discuss the information you find. You talk to them and then wait until the end to accuse them. That's a form of misdirection, is it not?"
Kaito's eyes were fixed on Edogawa, whose face darkened at the insinuation that magic and investigations were alike in any way. "Detective work is about justice, not entertainment."
"But who puts the wonder back into the world and smiles on people's faces after a tragedy?"
"You're equating two entirely different things."
He smiled. "Hmm, don't you think sleight-of-hand would be good to know, as a detective?"
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest," Edogawa answered, suspicious.
Kaito couldn't very well come out and say that he'd been keeping occasional surveillance on Edogawa and thus knew how sneaky the little troublemaker could be, but he couldn't drop the subject now.
Fortunately, he was saved from that line of questioning by a shout coming from one of the other Ferris wheel cabs. "I swear," Kaito began, leaning to look out at the cab behind them, "if someone shouts 'he's dead' within the next ten seconds, I'm declaring the two of you detectives cursed. I've met you exactly twice, and both times we've inexplicably run into a murder." He caught sight of the group in the next cab. One of the kids was holding up an empty bottle as soda dripped down his neighbor's shirt. So, not a murder, then, just an overturned drink.
"Maybe it's you that's cursed," Hattori pointed out.
"I happen to be a good friend of Lady Luck."
"Quite the understatement" Hakuba added softly.
Kaito laughed. "What exactly are you referring to, Hakuba-kun?" But when Kaito turned to his classmate, expecting to see an exasperated expression at the thought of Kaito's crazy magical antics in school, he saw instead complete seriousness. There was something different in the way he looked at Kaito now, like he was watching someone far away.
He was thinking about Kid, wasn't he? That last phone call hung between them and the longer Kid went without having a heist, the more time Hakuba would have to think about the reasons behind the cancellation. Hakuba didn't know that Kid would continue to be in trouble until Pandora was found and he either had a public showdown with Snake's organization or disappeared without a trace when his quest was complete.
As much as Kaito wanted Pandora destroyed and his burden lifted, Kid's games with Hakuba had built Kaito an impossibly unusual friendship, one that was beginning to take up more and more of his attention. When Kid retired, what would become of what they'd created? Kaito was becoming increasingly reluctant to let go of it.
Edogawa cleared his throat and Kaito jerked back, realizing belatedly that he'd been leaning in towards Hakuba. He didn't dare look back over at Hakuba, but it sounded like his classmate was resettling into his normal posture as well.
"If ya wanted a separate cab, ya coulda just said somethin'."
"Nope, this is fine," Kaito replied at the same time as Hakuba said "Not at all, I assure you."
"Returning to the subject of cases," Hakuba continued, "I don't believe we ever discussed how many you've worked on, Conan-kun."
"Yeah, cuz last time someone was trying to one-up me by talkin' about cases he took outside Japan."
"I was simply stating the facts, and my curiosity was genuine both then and now."
Edogawa tapped his chin, considering. "I don't actually know how many cases I've taken. Most of the ones I work are murders, though there is the odd arson or Kid heist."
Hattori looked between Hakuba and Edogawa before focusing on his friend. "Both of ya have worked Kid heists, right? Is it something I might be interested in trying my hand at?"
This was not the direction Kaito wanted the conversation to go in a locked space with three detectives. Before Edogawa could answer, Kaito jumped in. "Would you be able to cooperate with Hakuba-kun? The officers would probably stick you together, since you're both in high school." Perhaps that would dissuade Hattori, or maybe Kid could arrange for a harmless prank on the night of the heist. Hakuba was generally overlooked by the older officers, and it would be inconvenient if he couldn't leave his puzzle for Kid because there was another detective attached to him.
"Eh, I'll go with Kudo, it'll be fine." Hattori shrugged.
"Or me, since Shinichi-niichan is out of the country," Edogawa pointed out.
Hattori paused just an instant too long before agreeing. "Of course." He laughed. "Maybe we could take Kid by surprise if a bunch of high school detectives mixed in with the fans. We could get Sera-san too." Kaito repressed a shudder at the mention of Sera Masumi. He'd had a bruise on his face for a full week after the Blush Mermaid heist.
"Kid keeps tabs on all of the detectives in the area," Hakuba informed Hattori with a long-suffering sigh. "There's no way he doesn't know about you and Sera-san." Plus, both Hakuba and Kaito knew that the detectives wouldn't have the element of surprise.
Kaito grinned, trying not to let any smugness filter into his tone. "The moment that you underestimate Kid-sama, you've already lost."
Edogawa glowered, but didn't deny it. "Kid fan?"
"The biggest." And he'd timed it perfectly, since their cab came to a stop at the bottom and the door popped open, ending the conversation.
MG: The summer just got away from us as we battled work schedules and computer difficulties, but here's another chapter!
SR: Sorry for the wait, but hopefully this chapter made up for it. We had a lot of fun writing this chapter's shenanigans.
MG: Thanks for reading! We'd love if you left a comment!