Something around Shinichi rustled slightly when he began to move again. He opened his eyes and all he saw were dry leaves and dirt. A bit dazed, he tried to get up, moaning in pain behind then tape when the various bruises all over his body made themselves known. He was sure especially his back would be black and blue by tomorrow, after taking the brunt of the impact against the stump.
He could be thankful nothing seemed to be broken.
Realizing that it would be better to first free himself from the cuffs, he dug for the lock-pick.
'Have to remember to thank Kuroba later," he thought grudgingly while he freed the tiny piece of metal from the seam, knowing how it would boost the magician's ego.
After a bit of fumbling, the cuffs finally fell off. Slowly, he got into a sitting position to check himself over. After removing the tape over his mouth, spitting out the fabric and inhaling deeply, he cringed and hissed when a sharp pain shot through his chest, caused by probably bruised ribs. It really was a miracle that he was still in one piece and aside from scratches, bruises and cuts all over his body, he was relatively unharmed. One hand went to the spot on his inner upper arm where the chip was implanted. He just hoped the thing hadn't been damaged or Shiho would have his hide.
He picked up one of the leaves from the ground and looked at the fragile veins. It was so dry it almost fell apart while he turned it between his thumb and index finger.
'Beech,' he classified the trees around him, which looked like they had been standing here for at least a century. It was rare to find beeches this old in Japan's woods. Most of them were cut down after ten to twenty years for timber production. Actually, there were just few places were deforestation has been forbidden since the Edo era. That piece of information together with the assumed time of two hours they had needed to get here, he had a quite good idea where he was.
'Mount Mito, huh? Certainly not a bad place to hide. It's not yet the time for hiking, so there will be not many people wandering around here. Also, there are many huts for taking shelter spread all over the area and they will not be frequented until the weather gets warmer.'
Speaking of warmer – he suddenly felt how cold it was and was reminded that he was out in the woods without a propper jacket. His clothes were ripped in several places, bloody and beyond repair by now, and he briefly mourned the loss of his favorite black suit, but that was his least problem right now.
If he just could find one of the designated paths, he should be able to find his way out of the forest. Going back up to the hut the robbers used was out of the question. Squinting a bit, Shinichi tried to make out the top of the slope he had fallen down, but to no avail. He wasn't in a condition to go up against them anyway.
Carefully, he got to his feet and winced when he put pressure on the ankle the bullet had grazed. It burned and seemingly he also had twisted it. Great. Hiking through a forest on a cold day in March with a twisted ankle, bruised ribs and a throbbing head, not to speak of his aching back had not really been at the top of his to-do list. Not to mention the three robbers that would likely come to look for him, so it was better if he got moving now.
Testing his ankle again, he was fairly confident that he could make it if he favored this leg a bit. Getting steadier after a few wobbling steps, he began to descent the slope further down.
The forest seemed peaceful this time of the year. Naked trees showed just the slightest hint of hesitant green and the first birds of spring filled the air with their bright chirping. High trunks, low bushes all around him and dry twigs cracking under his shoes.
Every few minutes he looked out for pursuers and he started to get a bit jumpy.
After what felt like hours, but actually couldn't have been that long, he reached a sign with the words 'Saihara Pass/Mt. Mito hut' written on it.
With a relieved sigh, he began to follow the steep wooden stairs that were leading down. Well, stairs would be said too much – more like trodden-in steps with wooden planks on them and he had to be careful not to lose his footing.
Suddenly, he felt a chill running down his spine.
His instincts were telling him that he was being watched – and not by some lonesome hiker. He could literally feel the ill-intend crawling over his skin.
Just the second he ducked, a shot rang out and the bark on the tree next to him splintered close to where his head had been a moment ago.
'Damn – they caught up fast. I can't stay on the path, I'm like a sitting duck here.'
He quickly looked around to see where the shot had come from, but he couldn't see anyone. From the sound of the shot it hadn't been a handgun, but something bigger. Probably a rifle.
The only good news was that most rifles used for hunting couldn't hold many bullets, so the shooter had to reload fairly often. He just hoped it was that kind of rifle and not a sniper weapon, which had a bigger magazine. But whatever it was, Shinichi had to get out of the shooting range.
He left the path and skidded more than he ran down the slope, trying to get as many trees between him and the shooter as possible.
Again and again bullets hit the trees around him and it was pure luck that he wasn't dead by now. Despite that, he already sported a few more grazes from close calls on his arms and legs, he pushed the pain aside and concentrated solely on running.
In front of him he could hear the rushing of water and a few moments later he left the trees behind him and was now crossing a bridge over a river with a waterfall plunging down.
He just hoped that he wasn't far from someplace where he could hide, because at this point he was almost at his limit. Shinichi gathered his last strength and made for a quick sprint over the bridge. He clenched his teeth. His ankle felt as if it were on fire, but he couldn't slow down here. He was too out in the open on this bridge and he had no room to dodge.
And sure enough, the next bullet hit directly behind his feet, making him start.
Wait. His feet? Why was the shooter aiming so low?
A thought crossed his mind and his gasped. What if the shooter never had intended to kill him? If he had been herded the whole time?
When he had straightened himself and was ready to run again, he stumbled to a sudden stop.
On the other end of the bridge, Muto was waiting with his gun pointed at Shinichi. How he had managed to arrive there before him, Shinichi had no clue, but the robbers knew the terrain better than him and they had the transporter to get them from A to B fast.
Now he was stuck on the bridge with the shooter behind him and Muto in front of him.
His gaze lowered to the swiftly flowing current beneath him. The water was turbulent with rocks breaking through the surface. So, not an escape route if he wanted to stay alive.
"Done running, detective?" came Kitamura's calm voice from behind.
Shinichi turned sideways not to have a weapon in his back. Kitamura stepped onto the bridge in a nonchalant manner and halted just three meters from Shinichi. The rifle in his hand was indeed one used for hunting and the muzzle was facing down. Obviously, he was sure that Shinichi wasn't a threat for him and that Muto's gun was enough to keep him in check.
And sadly, Shinichi had to admit that he was right. He couldn't do anything in this situation but let himself be captured again. His escape attempt had brought him not more than additional injuries, but he refused to despair. He wasn't dead yet and he would fight to his last moment to get out of here.
Sure, he could try to escape again when they exchanged him for Sugihara, but if they really intended to play fair was questionable. He had absolutely no gurantees that they would keep him alive and just giving in and hoping for the best had never been his style.
Kitamura smiled at him disdainfully. "As fun as our little walk through the woods has been, I have to ask you to follow us back to the hut. Your room is ready and waiting for you and I'm sure the police are anxious to hear from you as well-"
"That's right," suddenly Megure's voice rang out and Shinichi swiveled around to see the Inspector and a small troop of officers appearing on the other side of the bridge. Muto went down after a well-aimed blow to his neck from Satou-keiji.
Megure's eyes scanned over Shinichi's appearance and narrowed in anger. Shinichi knew he must look worse for wear and even though it wasn't his fault, he felt bad for causing worry yet again.
Then the Inspector stepped forward and his gun was aimed at Kitamura. "Kitamura-san, put your rifle down and lift your hands behind your head. You will not get away. We've already arrested Ichikawa-san as well, so there will be no one helping you anymore. Kudou-kun, come over here."
With a smug expression, Kitamura tried to hide his anger and confusion. "Inspector, nice to meet you in person finally." He had worked so hard on the plans for the robberies and just one damn detective in the wrong place at the wrong time was able to ruin everything? Impossible! "Though, I really have to wonder how you got here so fast. Maybe the police are not as incompetent as I thought," he taunted and ignored the order he had been given.
Megure snorted. Arrogant prick. "That should be none of your concern right now. I repeat it one last time. Put the weapon down!"
"Hmm…," the robber tilted his head as if in thought. "Maybe Sugihara wasn't as loyal as I thought. Did he sing? It is so hard to find good people. But even if he did – he had no idea where we were going. Well, it doesn't really matter how much he said – if he is a traitor, I have no use for him any longer, what means…" He fixated his gaze on Shinichi again, who leaned against the railing, putting off weight from his injured ankle, still panting from the run and didn't dare to leave his position with the weapon still in Sugihara's hands.
Sugihara grinned. "...I don't need you either - I don't need anybody!" he laughed out. "Not Muto or Ichikawa. You want to take me out here? Let me tell you, detective who messed up everything-" his eyes held a cruel glint when he yanked up the rifle and aimed at Shinichi again. "I will take you down with me at least!"
Shinichi's eyes went wide when he realized that now any second a bullet would end him. He was way too close to the rifle to dodge and it was impossible for Kitamura to miss him at this distance.
Everything seemed to slow down as he saw Kitamura's finger beginning to pull the trigger. Then a roaring sound from the left became louder by the second and a powerful gust of wind hit both men on the bridge unprepared when a small chopper came into view. On the seat next to the pilot, Takagi was visible.
Shinichi recovered from the shock an insant faster than his opponent and used the chance of distraction to tackle him with all his might. With Shinichi on top, Kitamura fell backwards with a shout and the rifle went off, sending the bullet astray over Shinichi's head into the open air.
They wrestled for the weapon and Shinichi was thrown off by the stronger man, now laying on his back, the rifle between them. Instead of pulling, the robber began to push the rifle down to crush Shinichi's throat and the detective reacted instinctively and drew his legs up.
His legs had always been his strong point. Years of soccer practice had strengthened the muscles considerably and after he had worked together with Kuroba, he had kept up the strict workout the magician had come up with for him.
Yes, everything hurt right now and yes, his ankle was killing him, but to hell with it! If he didn't pull through now… He coughed as the rifle restricted his breathing. Just distantly he was aware of someone shouting his name and the sound of pounding feet on the bridge.
With a desperate yell, he shoved his feet against Kitamura's abdomen as hard as he could.
One moment he was pressed down by the other man and the next the robber's weight was gone, allowing him to gulp in some much-needed air. But only for a short moment, because then he felt a strong grip on his injured ankle, spiking the pain, and then a pull.
Before he knew it, his body was being dragged over the wooden planks and then there suddenly was nothing under his lower back. His kick had pushed Kitamura off the bridge and he had held on to the only thing within his reach and took the detective with him. Shinichi frantically kicked at the hand around his ankle until the robber finally let go, but it was too late.
A fearful second he hung seemingly suspended in the air before gravity set in again.
Before he could plummet into the river and be crushed on the hard rocks, someone grabbed his hand and tried to pull him back up. Something soft, small and brown fell down and brushed his cheek. Shinichi shook his head to get rid of the shock and looked up.
"Megure-keibu," he croaked out surprised and relieved.
The Inspector held onto him with one hand while the other was clenched around the railing.
"Don't you dare let go, Kudou-kun," he pressed out through gritted teeth. His hat was missing and the scar on his forehead stood out white against his face that was red from the huge effort.
Shinichi could just nod and hold on.
"Keibu!" he heard Satou's shout and a moment later, more hands joined the Inspector's and with combined strength they managed to get him back to safety.
Back up on the bridge he rolled onto his back and just lay there with closed eyes - panting and trying to steady his racing heartbeat, allowing himself a moment to recover from this stunt.
Next to him he could feel Megure's presence and heard his also heavy breathing.
When he felt steady enough to speak, he slowly pushed himself up and met the Inspector's eyes. In them he could read worry, anger, exhaustion and most of all – utter relief.
They held the eye-contact for a moment and understood each other without words.
Shinichi's gaze went down through the small gaps between the planks where he could see the river rushing past and how the water broke against the rocks. A fine tremour ran through his whole body as he stared into the water and tried to suppress the thought that he had kind of pushed a man down there.
"Thank god - we made it time, Kudou-kun!" Satou's exclaimation jolted him from his trance-like state and she began to check on his injuries while an officer Shinichi didn't know asked Megure if he was alright, earning a gruffy 'yes, yes'.
"Can you stand up?" the female detective asked him after she was sure that he wasn't critically hurt.
Shinichi exhaled and gave her a small smile, taking her outstretched hand. "Yeah – I think I'll manage, thanks."
After testing his legs and some shaky stumbling, one of the unfamiliar officers offered his support and helped Shinichi to limp back to the waiting police cars, while the detective spoke with Megure and Satou.
"Well, I guess you know now about my small – extra," he said sheepishly.
Megure let out a short huff. "We do, and really – only you, Kudou-kun." He shook his head unbelievingly, but still thankful for Ran's foresight/paranoia. Who knew how this would have ended without the little gimmick Miyano had equipped the detective with, who looked a bit uncomfortable in his skin right now.
"No worries," Satou laughed. "We won't tell anyone about it – promise."
Shinichi smiled gratefully. "But you really arrived here fast," he remarked thoughtfully, remembering the chopper. While he knew that the MPD did have own helicopters that one hasn't been one of them as far as he knew.
"Well," Megure cleared his throat. "Getting a chopper on such short notice for a hastily organized rescue was kind of hard, because all of our own are out on other missions, but you do have some influential friends, or at least you wife has."
"My,…" He was dumbfounded for a moment, before it clicked. "Don't tell me…"
They now reached a clearing were several police cars stood, and in the air, he could see the chopper nearing as well. Now, he was able to make out the logo printed on its side and groaned. He would never hear the end of it from Sonoko.
"It was the only way to catch up to you," Satou said with an understanding grin. "We called ahead for reinforcements from the local police and they were a great help navigating through the forest."
Megure nodded approvingly. "Takagi stayed in the chopper and followed the river's stream, because we could see that you were near it. He would have been in charge in case you would have ended up in the water and-" He stopped, recalling how the river had looked like under the bridge and shuddered. It was bad enough that Kitamura had fallen in. Right now, officers were searching for the man – the body.
Shinichi gulped. Fortunately, it hadn't come to that. They watched as the chopper touched down on the clearing.
"You will fly with me and Takagi back to Tokyo," Megure stated and looked at Satou, who nodded and went over to one of the cars as the chopper only had seats for the pilot and three passengers.
"There should be a first-aid kit on board, but I think it is time to get you looked at in a hospital," the Inspector said after he'd turned to Shinichi with an amused expression. "I've heard, Beika General has very capable personnel."
Shinichi moaned. 'Forget about Sonoko – Ran is much scarier.'
Megure laughed at his disgruntled face, glad that he wouldn't be the one to stand question and answer to the former karate champion.
Ran waited for the chopper on the hospital's roof after Megure had informed her that they would be there soon and that they had Shinichi with them.
He was safe.
She in- and exhaled deeply, calming her nerves.
She would personally take care of it that he bought Shiho any purse or handbag she desired. If it hadn't been for the chip…
'No, no,' she shook her head. 'Don't think about it. It's okay. He will be here any minute now.'
She already knew about most of his injuries and had brought a wheelchair. He would be embarrassed, but he would have to deal with it. She had been so afraid…
Finally, the chopper landed. She would also see to it that he would do something nice for Sonoko. Maybe invite her to the next all-you-can-eat cake buffet.
When the side-door opened, and Shinichi slowly got out with Takagi's help, her breath caught in her throat. Even though she knew that he had been hurt, but overall was okay, seeing him like this let her worry flare up again.
His suit was battered and dirty, the light blue dress-shirt sported dark stains of dried blood. The gash on his temple had been seen to with a bandage from a first-aid kit and most of the blood on his face had been rubbed off. Probably with some antiseptic while cleaning out the various cuts and scratches.
He spotted her and gave her an uncertain wave and a weak smile.
She really had wanted to lecture him about self-preservation, to give him a good yell for worrying her, but all that crumbled and gave way for a warm, bubbly feeling inside her and tears welled up in her eyes.
She ran towards him and he caught her in his arms in a tight embrace, then let out a sharp hiss and they eased up a bit, mindful of his wounds.
Megure went and fetched the wheelchair. After he gave the couple a moment together, he tapped on Shinichi's shoulder and gestured for him to sit down.
Ran had to hide a grin behind her hand when she saw her husband's horrified look.
"Down you go," the Inspector said strictly, and Shinichi couldn't do anything, but obey. "I'm sure your wife wants to have a look at the mess you've made of yourself. I await your presence in the department tomorrow for your statement." Shinichi already had told him everything on their way back, so there was no need to haul him to the PD today. "Ran-kun," he bid her goodbye with a nod and went back to the waiting chopper.
Ran turned around, pushing Shinichi in the wheelchair in front of her. Having him right beside her and knowing that he would be okay, lifted the heavy feeling that had weighed down her heart. "So~, mister great detective," she said with a smile that didn't bode well for him. "Care to explain how you got dragged into a crime this time instead of getting the documents?"
Shinichi swallowed and resigned himself to his fate. Maybe next time he should let Ran go to the bank.
A/N: Mount Mito actually exists and is located approximately two hours from Tokyo. There also is a bridge with a waterfall. I took some liberties concerning the distances and order of places, but if you want to go hiking, it seems to be a nice route. Also, I have no knowledge about rifles, so well, sorry if I got something wrong.
I hope you had fun! Please concider to leave me a review before you go - it would be much appreciated!