Marinette takes slow breaths, reading through the case again. "Tikki, how many high schools are there in Paris?"
"Quite a few," Tikki shrugs. "Why do you ask?"
"If we can narrow down what school Chat Noir goes to, then I can enroll there and find him," she explains quietly. "We'd need to come up with a test, and I'd like to know how widespread it should be."
Tikki freezes, and frowns. "Hmm. That sounds... like something our agents could easily do in your stead."
Marinette hugs her knees to her chest. "Tikki. He can kill in a way we've never seen before. And he hasn't managed to kill 'Ladybug' yet."
"That's why you're staying here," Tikki gives her a cold look. "We are not risking your mind."
"Tikki, I am needed for this."
"Come up with a plan to find out what high school Chat Noir goes to. Then we'll talk about you going there- once we actually have a suspect."
Marinette tilts her head. "What?"
"Once we have a suspect, you can go in to confirm them."
It's obviously a bribe. Solve the case quickly, and you can go to school for a week or two. She slowly nods. "Understood."
Adrien comes downstairs from his room, and his eyes widen at the sight of him mother, sitting at the table. "Mom?"
"Hey, Adrien," she smiles. "Guess who got chosen as the head of the Chat Noir investigation?"
He freezes for a moment, as Plagg laughs. "Is that your Mom? One of the cops trying to catch you? The irony! Ha!" Adrien shoots the cat a look, but Plagg waves him off. "This is hilarious, kid."
"Adrien?" Bridgette tilts her head. "Sweetie?"
"That's amazing, Mom!" he smiles brightly. "I might miss you, since you'll be out of the house even more, but... I'm proud of you, Mom."
She smiles, getting up to hug him. "Oh, Adrien... I promise I'll still be around as much as I can."
"I know," he hugs her back. Actually, he thinks, she's probably going to be paying a lot more attention to him now than she has in a long time...
"Honestly, though," Bridgette pulls away, running a hand through her hair. "That Ladybug person is hard to work with... they're trying to convince us Chat Noir is a teenager, in high school, can you believe that?" She slaps a hand over her mouth. "Ah, shoot, I'm not supposed to say that, am I?"
Adrien laughs. "Don't worry, Mom. I'm sure the house isn't bugged yet, and I won't tell."
Internally, though, he's screaming. They know he's a teenager? In high school? How?
"Yeah, something about the times of death lining up. I don't buy it, but..."
Of course! The times of death, that needs to end, now!
"Mom? I just remembered some homework that I really need to get done... can we talk later? Please?"
She nods instantly. "School comes first. Go!"
"The times of death changed," Tikki tells her. "Just after our meeting with the Parisian Police Force."
Marinette stares at the new information, and takes a slow breath. "So... that means that Chat Noir heard us."
"Or someone leaked it," Marinette ponders. "Either way, they're connected to the force somehow... and, this proves that they not only are able to control the times of death, but that there was probably something to my theory."
"Is that what you deduce?"
"If it was inaccurate, then why would they bother disproving it?" she asks. "All the same... put a trail on everyone connected to the people at that meeting. And tell them to focus on students. Also, get me a list of all the students with ties to the people at the meeting, and the schools they go to. Can you do that for me, Tikki?"
"I can," the woman nods.
Marinette feels a thrill run through her... she's so close, she can taste it...
"Kid, give me cheese and I'll tell you a secret!" Plagg hisses in Adrien's ear. The boy frowns, pulling out a piece, and passing it to the cat demon. "You're being followed."
Adrien tenses, and heads into a coffeehouse, taking a seat by the window. A man in a black suit walks by.
"Him!" Plagg points to the guy. "He's creeping me out, kid..."
Adrien smiles at the waitress. "Can I have a cocoa? It's kind of cold outside."
She nods. "Of course, sweetie, I'll be right with you."
Adrien pulls out a pen, and begins writing on a napkin, before covering up the writing with sketches. "They found me?"
"How should I know?"
"This is bad."
"I figured... you want to make the eye deal?"
Adrien starts slightly, before drawing a tiny question mark on the napkin.
Plagg frowns. "Ah, man, I didn't mention the eye deal? Basically, a Death God like me can see people's names and lifespans by looking at them. The eye deal gives you that power... in exchange for half your remaining lifespan."
Adrien considers. It would be a cool power to have, but... half his lifespan?
"No," he writes, covering the word with a butterfly as his cocoa comes. "Thank you," he smiles up at the waitress.
"No problem sweetie."
The man in the suit enters the coffeehouse, and their eyes meet, for a moment, before Adrien looks away.
This man could be a real threat.
He needs to be eliminated... for the world's sake.
Marinette smiles, going through the pictures of the suspects. There's one picture that stands out in particular to her... a smiling boy, with sad eyes... green eyes...
"Who's this?" she asks Tikki.
Tikki glances at the picture. "Mrs. Bridgette Agreste's son, Adrien. Why?"
"He looks familiar to me. Has he been implicated in something before?"
"Adrien has a clean record."
Marinette watches the picture intently.
"He's a rather handsome teenage boy. Perhaps it's puberty playing a trick on you," Tikki offers.
Marinette stares at the picture, and shakes her head. "Perhaps..." she acknowledges. But she knows that can't be it. There is something about this boy... and she's going to find out what it is.