The Other Woman's Burden

by beaple leone michaelmas

Summary:

A month before his wedding, Kudo Shinichi disappears. The only clue regarding his whereabouts is a mysterious phone call made to Haibara Ai, who must now search for him alone.

Chapter One: Request

A/N:

I tried my hand at romance, but I failed at it miserably. I'm trying to see if styles like mine are better suited for the horror genre; hence, the "dark" outputs. I hope you enjoy this! ::D

Disclaimer:

I do not own Detective Conan; the whole concept belongs to Gosho Aoyoma-sensei.

Chapter One: Request

Haibara Ai put a hand up to her throbbing temples. It was late at night, but she was still poring over the formula for a new chemical, shuffling through piles of documents inside her spacious research office. Earlier that evening, her colleagues had invited her to dinner at a newly opened restaurant, but she had refused politely; she had always preferred work to social interaction.

Resisting the urge to sigh, she straightened up and checked the document before her for the nth time. Before she could read past the first line, however, the phone rang, disrupting her concentration. Frowning slightly, Haibara reached out a pale hand towards the receiver, wondering who the caller could be, wondering how he got access to her private line.

"Wiltord Pharmaceuticals, how may I help you?"

"Haibara?" a familiar male voice asked. "Haibara, is this you?"

"Kudo?" she asked curiously, almost unbelievingly.

"Thank goodness!" came Kudo Shinichi's relieved sigh, followed by a small laugh. "I thought I'd never reach you. I kept calling your mobile phone, but you wouldn't pick up."

"Oh." Haibara never answered her mobile phone while at work. It only distracted her. "I see."

"How are you?" Kudo inquired, not unkindly. "Why are you still working on overtime?"

"Never you mind," Haibara retorted, frowning. "Isn't it Valentine's Day right now? Shouldn't you be out on a date with Mori-san?"

"Oh, I'm headed for her place right now," he replied nonchalantly. "But forget Ran for a moment. I have a favor to ask you."

"Which is?"

Kudo took a deep breath. "I know this is going to sound very weird, but could you listen to me anyway?"

"I'm listening."

"The thing is… something's following me."

Haibara raised an eyebrow. "I beg your pardon? Someone's following you?"

"No, something is following me," he corrected. "I know it sounds crazy, but I can feel a presence hovering around me all the time, even when I'm alone."

"Okaaay," Haibara said. He didn't sound drunk, but Kudo wasn't making much sense either. "You mean, you think a ghost is haunting you?"

"Precisely," Kudo said, although he didn't sound convinced either. "That's what I think."

"So why do you need my help?" Haibara asked, perturbed.

"You're the only one who'd believe me-"

"Right."

"What I mean to say is, you're the only one who can help me right now," Kudo clarified. "Hattori is working on a top-secret case and I can't contact him, and Agasa-hakase isn't getting any younger."

"What about Mori-san?" Haibara asked.

"Ran… would worry."

As if I wouldn't?

"Listen Haibara, just do me a favor, all right?" Kudo said. "If anything happens to me, I want you to take a look on the case I'm handling right now. It's a murder case in Yokohama."

"All right," Haibara agreed, feeling more and more confused by the minute.

"Hashiba Ruka," Kudo said. "Read up on Hashiba Ruka and find out everything you can about her."

"Hashiba Ruka?"

"Yeah, she's the prime suspect for the murders."

"She's killed more than one person?"

"Wiped out her entire household," Kudo said. "That's the big obstacle with this case. There are no witnesses, so I only have records to work on."

"There's no actual evidence?"

"The murder took place twenty years ago," he said. "There might be more evidence inside the house, but I haven't inspected it thoroughly yet. Things have been a bit… busy lately."

The wedding. "Oh, yes, congratulations."

"Thank you," he said, and Haibara thought she heard him smile. "For that and for listening to this crazy nonsense. I knew I could count on you."

Haibara closed her eyes, keeping silent.

"Not that I'd disappear, of course, but just in case," he added, laughing. "Well, then, Haibara, you take care. Don't think too much about it, okay? I could just be imagining things."

Although the idea of a ghost haunting Kudo seemed crazy, Haibara didn't think he could be imagining things either.

"Jaa," Kudo said.

"Jaa," Haibara replied softly.

She held the receiver long after he had hung up, listening to the low humming of the dial tone on the other end of the line. Slowly, she replaced the phone on its cradle, and leaned back on her hard-backed office chair, thinking.

Kudo Shinichi. After almost single-handedly toppling the hierarchy of the Black Organization, he had made a name for himself worldwide, emerging as one of the best criminal investigators of all time. Ten years later, he was still regarded as one of the best in his field, arguably the best in Japan, and he began to specialize on high profile crimes that had been left unsolved over the years. It was unusual for him to take on small cases like the one in Yokohama, which made Haibara wonder what was so special about the murder involving Hashiba Ruka.

And what made it so dangerous that he had to call her for help when he they hadn't even seen or heard from each other in more than two years?

Convinced that something strange was about to happen, Haibara picked up the phone for a second time and dialed a number.

"Hello?" greeted a cool male voice on the other line, picking up on only the second ring. There was much noise and merrymaking in the background, and Haibara thought she could hear someone singing.

"Rutherford? This is Haibara."

"Ah, Director Ai," said Rutherford, shushing his companions, who lapsed into silence immediately. "Is something the matter?"

"Please get me a ticket on the first flight to Tokyo tomorrow," Haibara said. "I'm going on vacation for a few weeks, so could you cancel all my appointments as well?"

"You're going on vacation?" Rutherford repeated, disbelieving.

"Yes, I am," Haibara confirmed, sighing. "Please send word when you've got the ticket prepared."

Having said that, Haibara dropped the call and brushed a cold hand over her tired eyes.

Kudo Shinichi. He still had that effect on her.

A/N

Yei! Prologue down! ::D Sorry for the errors, I can't edit this properly because it's exam week. I hope you're as excited for the next installment as I am! ::D