(Even if your hand catches nothing but air,
We have searched for the same light, following sleepless nights.)
"Kid-Killer!" Reika called, swinging the door to her office open with a massive smile. Her twinkling eyes fastened on Conan quicker than his brain could rethink dealing with her. Reika was as excited as he remembered. He had gotten to know her during the previous heist. Conan had first-hand experienced how forthcoming Reika could be with information that should have been kept strictly confidential. Almost as though she was tactfully spilling secrets to him, planning to reach the ears of the sleeping detective.
"It's been a while," Reika said, welcoming him inside. Conan noticed a small carton of chocolate milk placed on the table, alongside a can of coffee. "I took the liberty to buy you something," Reika explained, gesturing vaguely to the vending machine he had seen at the hallway. "I hope you like chocolate."
"I love chocolate – thank you!" Conan gushed much like Genta did when Kobayashi-sensei would buy them their favourite beverages for behaving exceptionally well on a field trip.
Reika seated herself across from him, sipping leisurely from the can of coffee as though there wasn't a heist starting an hour from now. Conan poked the straw into his chocolate milk without squishing the carton he carefully held in his hand. Reika watched him, amused. "Wouldn't it be easier to keep the carton still on the table?"
"That's cheating," Conan explained when the straw poked through with a pop. Reika nodded, as though she understood the nonsense Conan dealt with on a regular basis, deciphering random invented rules – self-explanatory and universally understood by children that anyone not practicing them would be recognized as strange by default. Conan held up his chocolate milk and inspected the straw's 35-degree angle. Acceptable, he thought and slurped his first sip before returning his attention to more serious matters.
"Uncle asked me to come today since he's busy preparing for the heist," Conan explained, remembering having left the sleeping detective at the office, watching the latest re-run of Yoko Okino's drama that would surely be interrupted later by the broadcast of Kid's heist. "He suspects the missing officers were connected to the case you mentioned earlier."
"So, the sleeping detective had the same thought as me," Reika said. "Then I hope he won't be too disappointed when you tell him it doesn't matter anymore."
"Of course, it does! People's lives are at risk!" Conan refuted as though he was Shinichi – the reputable high school detective and not a primary schooler chiding an inspector at her job.
"The lives at risk are the accomplices of criminals - members of the task force who have betrayed the police," Reika explained patiently. "They've joined hands with Snake to ruin Kid's heist, injuring countless people in the process."
"They are not worth saving – is that what you're trying to say?"
Reika shook her head. "There is worth in saving them. We could learn Snake's means of communication, or uncover his plans, and perhaps understand his grounds for exploding Suzuki's gallery into pieces…."
"Don't their lives carry individual meaning? Aside from Snake?" Reika looked at Conan's passionate bright eyes, righteous and full of justice, believing in the integrity of the justice system that had long since failed to hold its end of the bargain.
"Every life carries meaning," Reika agreed, upholding the illusion of justice lest it shattered and scarred Conan forever should he hear the truth. "But not every life can be saved. Especially those who have put themselves at risk by abetting criminals, fabricating, and destroying evidence or any leads we might have had."
"So – instead of saving them, you'll use them as a steppingstone to catch those criminals?" Conan asked. "Or am I misunderstanding you?"
Reika stared into her cup. "Snake needs to be caught. But without sacrifices he can't be caught."
"Would you say the same if he targeted you? Or the rest of your colleagues?"
"A hundred percent. If a few casualties can save the larger population, then isn't it a job well done?"
"Is that what they taught you at the police academy?" Conan said, sceptical whether they revised the ethics and values they instilled among new generations of officers since he shrunk.
"No. That's what my job taught me," Reika answered, listlessly staring into her can of coffee she toyed in her hand. "Not every person can be saved from a criminal. But with every criminal caught, more people can be saved. It might not sound pretty but the reward outweighs the risk. My colleagues knew that too. That's why they were willing to put their lives on the line if it meant we could catch some dangerous criminals."
"You don't mean to say –"
"Yes, I do," Reika whispered. "We lost contact with our agents – those who risked their lives infiltrating Snake's group and kept us updated. I can guarantee you none of my colleagues chose to die. They took measures to protect themselves and still ended up dead."
"Didn't the news say they were missing –"
"Missing is often a euphemism for death, especially of unknown causes."
"Isn't more reasonable to think they're hiding?"
"You can't hide from a syndicate that's after you, little boy. Sooner or later, they're going to find you and eradicate you."
Syndicate? "Do you mean to say Snake is working for someone?"
"Let's stop here. If you speculate anymore, they might come for you too," Reika said, placing her coffee on the table. "In the first place, I haven't agreed to meet you to talk about Snake. With Kurosawa Naomi's body resurfacing in the news, everyone knows we have a killer on the loose. It's only reasonable to assume more bodies will appear."
"Does that mean you want the sleeping detective to investigate this?"
"Quite the opposite. Tell him not to get involved. And you too – don't bury your nose anymore into this."
"Why? Shouldn't the killer be caught?"
"Not by ordinary means. You need to leave this matter to the police."
"But the police don't know the syndicate exists! Otherwise, a taskforce would be in place to catch them right now!" Conan refuted. "Don't tell me you're trying to catch the syndicate by yourselves. Don't you know how dangerous that is?"
"Are you telling me off?" Reika said, surprised and half-amused to be chided by a boy – a quarter her size.
"That's what uncle told me to say!" Conan backtracked. "He feared you would act on your own!"
"Tell him, I'll be fine – I always have been."
"But you won't be!" Conan insisted. "Didn't you tell me you can't do anything against a syndicate that's after you? They'll find you and eradicate you!"
"And didn't I tell you that none of my colleagues could protect themselves from them?" Reika repeated. "Thank you for worrying about me, but it's my duty to catch criminals like them. Even if it means putting my life on the line. That's what it means to be an officer."
(Starting that day, the possible truth, is everlasting,
And it will always resonate in my heart.)
Sorry for not updating last month.
I've been stuck trying to revise the outline for the later chapters. I've made an important change that adds a lot more depth into this story – it's something I've hinted at before in one of the earlier chapters, but I've left it intentionally ambiguous since its purpose was to shed light on the ending (since I planned the ending to be open-ended).
However, I changed my mind since then. Therefore, I've been revising the story outline to accommodate the changes I've made, and it's been rather challenging. Especially, because it dawned on me that this story might be developing into another direction entirely.
Personally, I'd rather not abrogate parts of the story I originally intended to write, since I have been looking forward on sharing the final arc with you since that's the part the entire story has been boiling down to. That's why I decided to take some time off writing and get the outline fixed.
Hence, I wanted to let you know that I won't be posting new chapters for some time. My apologies for that.