"You cannot be serious. Do you honestly expect me to believe that?"
"Well I don' care what you believe, that's what happened. The kids gave me that badge and told me ta give it to her."
Saguru watches as Heiji once more turns his gaze away from him and onto the young boy. They had done nothing but doubt each other and insist that they themselves had nothing further to add. Saguru narrows his eyes, really taking the time to focus on the Osakan teen. The tense posture that always followed his vehement denials concerning the badge, still in his possession, and the glasses, which hung from Heiji's collar, is back. The difference this time is a slight nervous twitch that Saguru took to mean a desire to do something else. He doubted even he would have caught it, let alone know what it meant, if he had not become accustomed to being on the lookout for those same twitches from a certain magician in his class, as it was usually followed by some explosion or a sudden need to duck a mop. Saguru stands and walks over to the window, making it seem like he is looking outside while he watches the reflection of Heiji.
Heiji spares a quick glance at him and then returns his gaze to Conan. Leaning forward, he seems to whisper to the sleeping child, but the volume is too low for him to make out. He is shocked when Heiji shakes his fist at Conan, but covers it before the other teen looks up. Witnessing this supposed private, albeit one-sided, exchange, Saguru takes a moment to consider something that had been in the back of his mind and only now decides to explore.
'His eyes search the boy's face but it is not just a look of concern…he seems to be pleading. If the boy were awake, I would be lead to believe he is trying to get the boy to help him. He constantly looks at Conan-kun when he is answering my inquires, otherwise, he will hold my gaze. Come to think of it…the two of them spent quite a bit of time conversing together during the Koushien and at no point did it seem as though he were a teen assisting a child. They acted as though…they were…equals. However much I will never admit it, Hattori-kun proved to be an asset during that case as did Conan-kun. If I'm incorrect in my following statements I am certain to never hear the end of it, but it may be the only way to break this stalemate we find ourselves in.'
Still watching the other teen in the window, Saguru takes a deep breath and takes the next step in confirming the unbelievable conclusion he found himself drawing.
"I suppose we could ask Kudo-kun about it in the morning and see what he has to say in this matter."
The reaction from the other teen is both what he expected and yet…made his blood run cold at the implication.
'You have got to be kidding me? Well, that's that. No way Tantei-han can get himself out of this. That's almost the same confidence he had when he accused me of being Kid. Granted, it was only a matter of how many times they met but still…Hmmmm, unless they really do ask Kudo. Tantei-kun will owe me for this…if he doesn't wake up and try to kill me, but I'll take that payment sooner than he will expect.'
Silent as ever, the black-clothed figure retracts the cord and, with practiced ease, flips himself over the rooftop's fence, landing gracefully and without a sound. A small cloud covers the moon momentarily but when it comes out again the only person on the rooftop is a teen wearing a blue jacket and a pair of jeans. A quick brush of his hair to flatten a stray strand and the teen heads to the door with all the confidence of his current persona.
"You are unable to deny that you called out his name at the river. I'll grant that I was…distracted at the time but I know what I heard."
"Ya don' know what you're talkin' about…I said…kuso, not Kudo. Why would I, it was Conan-kun there. Ya saw yourself that he was alone."
Takagi's stomach churns and threatens to return the coffee he had recently drank back the way it went down. His palm flat on the door to keep himself upright as he takes in what the British teen has insinuated. An impossible, inconceivable notion.
'That bomb…in the elevator…he was so calm and I'm certain he was doing the things as, if not before, I actually read the directions off. His knowledge…and his answer when I asked who he really was…this can not be real.'
Footsteps echoing down the hall snap him out of his thoughts but, when he catches sight of the source, he can scarcely make it fit with his train of thought based on what he had just heard. Takagi shakes his head slightly and smiles at the newcomer.
"I know we had decided not to let anyone in but I'm sure an exception can be made for you."
Takagi reaches to open the door but pauses for a moment before addressing the person beside him once more.
"Just so you know, Hattori-kun hasn't left Conan-kun's side except for when the doctors were treating him. You two have a real friend in him."
"She's waking up. Perhaps it would be best if you leave, Jii. We don't want her to identify you."
The girl on the bed groans and rolls on her left side, facing away from the two adults in the room.
"Of course, but…what about yourself? Surely you would be in just as much danger of being identified."
Chikage smiles at Jii and moves towards a concealed drawer at the head of the bed.
"I'm not without some tricks myself…I couldn't be married to him without picking up a few things."
Jii stands in the doorway as Kuroba Chikage pulls a long, dark brown wig out of the drawer and, in the space of time most take to blink, she pulls her hair up into a bun and positions the wig on her head. A small packet is opened next and the contents, consisting of colored contacts, are put in. When she looks up, her now deep green eyes are met with those of a humbled-looking old man.
"You do indeed posses the skills that both the Master used and the young master now does as well. Very well, I leave the young lady in your capable hands."
"Oh, Jii," the woman says in a gentle, yet aloof tone very unlike her usual speech, "You would be just as capable, I'm sure. Now shoo."
The door clicks shut and this causes the girl to bolt upright, looking around her for a moment before placing her right hand on her forehead.
"Easy my dear, you don't want to rush. Take it slow at first."
Her voice causes the girl to visibly freeze before slowly removing her hand from her head, placing it beside her, and looking up. Seeing the girl's eyes flash to confusion and wariness Chikage offers the child a smile and raises her hands so they are in the girl's line of sight.
"It's OK. You don't have to be afraid. I'm a friend."
The girl continues to regard her with a bit of confusion before she narrows her eyes and responds.
"Fine, then tell me. Is Conan-kun safe and where is Sors?"
She controls her facial features but is taken aback by the child's questions. Thanks to Jii, she knew that her son had seen to it that Conan was unharmed and left to his friend's care. 'And count on him to use 'Sors' as a name…appropriate indeed.'
"I was informed that you were told that Conan-kun was perfectly safe and as to Sors…well, I'm sure that son of mine is off checking up on your friend as we speak. Why ask those questions? I would have thought you had been told that Conan-kun was safe."
The girl relaxes a bit and smiles, even though it doesn't quite reach her eyes.
"I was…I wanted to make sure you knew. I keep waking up in different places with so many different people…it's been a little tricky making sure who is good and who's out to kill me. But anyway...you said Sors was your son?"
"Yes, and he's a bit of a night owl, so he asked for me to keep you company and make sure you get some real rest. We can talk more in the morning and I'm sure Sors will give you an update at that time...deal?"
The girl sighs but the bags under her eyes betray her exhaustion.
"I don' know…the last time someone said I'd get answers in the morning I got them from a ki…someone my age, and that same woman later tried to ki…she did kidnap us, so forgive me for not trusting you right away."
"I wouldn't dream of doing anything of that nature. Besides, if you want, I'll call him right now. Would that reassure you that I mean you no harm?"
The woman pulls out a cell phone and gets ready to dial when a small hand covers hers.
"Don't bother. If you are speaking the truth, his phone will be off while he's at the hospital, so there's no point. I may as well wait…not like it can get any worse."
The girl yawns and lies back on the pillow.
"OK. Now, get some real rest."
With those words, she tucks the girl into bed and rests her hand on the covers.
'What else could this child have gone though to make her so suspicious? Kaito, tired or not, we are gonna have a long talk when you get back. '
"I suppose we could ask Kudo-kun about it in the morning and see what he has to say in this matter."
Heiji couldn't help it, those words had caused him to reach forward and grab Conan's shoulder. He realizes what he did and pulls away, hoping that the Brit, staring out the window, hadn't noticed. Saguru turns slowly and Heiji leans away from Conan.
"Well, if ya see him before me you're welcome to. Not that he would know, seein' as how he hasn't been seen 'round for awhile."
"No, I am quite certain that Kudo has been present for longer then you claim and he was, in fact, here when you gave Marie that pin, just as he was at the river."
"Wha…you're insane. Kudo wasn't there…I didn't see 'im anywhere."
Heiji crosses his arms and looks everywhere but at the two people in the room, unable to meet Saguru's eye and unwilling to glance at Conan.
"You are unable to deny that you called out his name at the river. I'll grant that I was…distracted at the time but I know what I heard."
"Ya don' know what you're talkin' about…I said…kuso, not Kudo. Why would I, it was Conan-kun there. Ya saw for yourself that he was alone."
Saguru steps up to the bed and the movement cause Heiji to turn his gaze and fix it on the blond detective. Saguru brings his right arm up and points to the child in the bed between the two of them.
"Precisely, you were calling out to Kudo and Conan…because they are one and the same."
Just as Heiji jumps to his feet, the door opens, causing both teens to go silent and turn their attention to the newcomer. The teen smiles and walks forward as the door shuts behind him.
"Hi Hattori. Takagi-keiji said you'd been here with Conan-kun, thank you for watching over him in my absence," the teen leans over the bed, bringing his head right beside Heiji, as though to check on the sleeping child, and continues in a lower voice, "If you want to keep Tantei-kun's secret, I'd advise you to play along."
Heiji turns his head and meets a grin the he had never seen on Shinichi's face before. 'Creepy. Kudo told me Kid could fake being him, but I didn't expect it ta be this level. If not for the fact that I know Kudo's on the bed…damn. Do I call him on it or let him cover for Kudo…'
"I didn't expect you to be here. Hakuba Saguru, correct? I'm Kudo Shinichi."
Heiji finally looks up to see Saguru staring at the other teen, disbelief coupled with embarrassment written all over his face. Finally, Saguru raises his hand from where it had been pointing at Conan and takes the offered handshake.
"Well, Kudo Shinichi…it is a pleasure to finally meet the Detective of the East. I just…"
"Hadn't expected to actually see me?" The other teen finishes with a small smile. "I must admit, I have been scarce for awhile but a number of cases have come up and I have found myself traveling a lot. Not that I want those I'm investigating to know my location, so I ask that you refrain from revealing my presence here to anyone. I simply heard about Conan-kun and felt that I had to check up on him. Seeing as how Hattori has already done so, and, by the looks of it, you have joined in as well, I believe I can return to my current case."
Saguru looks over at Heiji, who had yet to say anything and seems to be having an inner battle with himself. He returns his gaze to the teen whose hand he is still holding, marveling in the resemblance to his classmate. Maintaining a light but firm grip on the teen's hand, Saguru turns his head and closes his eyes briefly before looking up and locking eyes with the other teen.
"One thing before you go…how did you know my name?"
Heiji looks back and forth between Saguru and his 'apparent' Eastern counterpart. With a mental string of expletives, he opens his mouth only to hear a chuckle from the teen beside him.
"Conan-kun told me all about you from the Sunset Mansion case. I think it was the fact your hawk was named 'Watson' that made him so eager to discuss that case."
Heiji runs that statement through his head. 'Sunset Mansion…I remember. I had to study so I couldn't go. Kudo never said much about that particular case but he mentioned at the Koushien that that was when he met Hakuba…I just hope this works. Kudo finds out I let this guy impersonate him again, he'll kill me. Of course, if I let someone else find out 'bout him because of my slip up, he'll kill me anyway...WHAT?'
Heiji is jerked out of his thoughts once again, this time by the British detective's laugh.
"Really…that case also happened to be the one where Kaito Kid showed up, and he had been posing as Mouri Kogoro. Did Conan-kun mention that?"
Saguru tightens his grip on the hand in his, pulling the teen forward, but unsuccessful at causing the teen to lose his balance…at first. Suddenly, he begins to fall and Heiji reacts on instinct. He grabs at the back of the blue jacket and holds tightly to the material, mentally prepping a long list of choice words for them while keeping the Kudo look-alike from landing on the real one.
Saguru gets a surprised look on his face and releases the other teen's hand only to reach forward again and push the teen upright. Heiji looks across the bed at Saguru and, when he catches the Brit's eye, he motions to the corner of the room away from the bed. Saguru steps over and turns to face the Osakan only to find himself being grabbed by the lapels of his jacket and propelled backwards against the wall.
"What were you thinking?" Heiji breathes through clenched teeth. "Ya realize that was way more idiotic than anything I pulled at the Koushien. Not ta mention, Conan-kun has been through more than enough over the last 24 hours, he doesn't need some idiot pullin' people more than twice his weight on top of him. You accused me of not thinking things through when I busted in the door and again after the window…but did you even consider what would happen when you pulled him off balance?"
Heiji pins Saguru to the wall with both his hands and his gaze. Saguru looks over Heiji's shoulder at where the remaining teen had remained beside Conan's bed, seating himself on the side of it much like Heiji had been doing earlier.
'I was so certain it was Kuroba-kun. He looks just like him except for the hair and mannerism…both which I know he is capable of alternating with little difficulty. I thought for sure he would maintain his balance…I've only ever seen them lack that on ice. '
"Hattori-kun, are you aware that Kaitou Kid had been involved in the search earlier? I am certain it was he I spoke to on the phone that suggested we check the river and that he was the one to phone ahead to Ran-san that we were bringing the boy here. My reasoning also suggests that Kid impersonated me while we were gone. How can we be sure that he," Saguru nods over Heiji's shoulder, "is not merely Kaitou Kid in disguise?"
Heiji releases his hold on Saguru's jacket but remains in front of him.
"Even if that were the case, ya might have let me in on those suspicions, or did ya forget that you went an' answered my phone for me that first time. Plus, if ya thought he was Kid, say something, don't try to pull 'im on top 'a Conan-kun ta test that theory…ahou." Heiji brings a fist up in front of Saguru.
"Hattori," Heiji feels a hand come to rest on his clenched fist, "I heard his reasoning and in all honesty, I'm thankful he thought to check for himself before trusting me. However, I believe we should keep it down…better to not wake Conan-kun yet, he's still exhausted."
Heiji drops his hands to his side and turns his back on Saguru, coming face to face with an exact copy of his friend…except that the teen in front of him was just that, a teen. Heiji narrows his eyes but all he gets in return is a small smile and a nod toward the bed. Heiji's shoulders and anger follow his hands as he once more sees Conan on the bed and the list of what was found in him by the doctors runs through his head. Heiji knows how close he came to losing him and if cooperating with a thief and the biggest pain-of-a-detective is what it takes to both let Conan recover and keep his secret…he'd do it.
"Fine, you're right. I suppose I could leave it here…it was thanks ta him I got Conan-kun back here so fast." Heiji turns back to the British teen who is still against the wall, having no way to move away with the Osakan and now the other teen directly in front of him.
"Don't bother Hattori-kun. I was also in the wrong. Perhaps your hot-blooded tactics have rubbed off on me. I apologize to you as well, Kudo-kun. The attempt was not worth the risk of what could have happened."
Receiving a nod from both teens, albeit a more resigned version from the darker of the two, Saguru motions past them to their vacated seats.
"Shall we sit? I had promised to tell Hattori-kun more about Marie…Rivers. She's the one who…"
'I've never seen Hakuba-kun struggle like this. I guess this is even tougher on him than I thought it was. Maybe…as much as I'd love to tease him about it, 'Kudo' would no doubt be supportive. Well, here goes.'
"She's the one that got Conan-kun out of the way of the car and also the one that went missing with him. I overheard that you seemed to know her and had actually come to the hospital to identify her, likely due to the televised request from the police." At Saguru's nod, he continues, "Your knowledge of her past might prove useful in determining if the culprits behind this were targeting her instead of Conan-kun."
The teen motions for the British and Osakan teen to follow him to the seats and Heiji moves quickly to place himself next to Conan. Saguru finds this odd, as Shinichi is Conan's relative, but figures Heiji had been around more recently and might have taken that roll upon himself. Saguru sits in the seat he had vacated earlier at the foot of the bed while the remaining teen simply leans against the bedside table.
"I'm not sure where to start. I already told Hattori-kun about The Silencer case and both he and Conan-kun heard about the accident in London that explained her neglecting to call out a warning. I suppose I can simply answer what questions you have about her."
Heiji looks from Conan to the teen standing next to them before turning to Saguru.
"Ya want a question? I got one. Why did you seem to leave so much out of the story the first time? Ya said ya worked with her as detectives for a summer and yet, besides the fact you think she's a good detective and she once watched a kid die from a hit an' run, we don' know anything about her. Fill in the blanks and tell us about her."
Saguru sighs and launches into his story.
"The reason I refrained from saying much about her is simply because she is a…contradiction. The entire summer I spent with her and, while I stand by my statement that she is worthy of being called a detective, as a person she is…perplexing. She was as comfortable in a gown at a dance or upscale restaurant as she was in shorts and a t-shirt, screaming at some American stock car races, which she made certain to watch every weekend. She'd be a wallflower most of the time at the events we would go to but she would just as easily turn around and start dancing to a song from the 50s or 60s or even line dancing to an American country-western song, not caring if we were in the middle of a crowd of people neither of us knew. Polite and proper, often with a smile of one kind or another, but certain things would get to her and her eyes would flash like blue flames just before she moved. Pity on whoever caused her to get angry because, by her appearance, no one would figure her to have just received her Shodan prior to coming to England. She laid out many of the criminals…one tried to use a child of about six as a hostage but she got close enough to him and while I believe he thought she was providing him with a second hostage, he was down and the child was in her arms before he knew it.
Saguru watches as the Osakan teen places a hand on his stomach when the other teen steps up beside him and puts his hand over Heiji's. Heiji jerks but fights to keep from shoving him away, they were supposed to be friends. Heiji looks at Conan, visibly enough that he knows Saguru wouldn't have missed it.
"Is your stomach sore?" the British detective inquires.
Knowing that Saguru would find out one way or another, Heiji goes with the truth.
"If you must know, I was on the receivin' end of one of her kicks, OK? She thought I was kidnappin' Conan-kun when I snuck up behind him."
Saguru suppresses a laugh at that.
'I've been in class with this guy for how long and he has never snickered…granted most of my pranks were aimed at him but even so…'
"How long did it take for you to get up and breathe again?"
"Ha! Contrary to your criminal, I remained upright. I'm not a skilled kendo fighter for nothin' ya know."
Saguru stares at Heiji for a moment before he smiles in the same way he had earlier.
"What were her injuries…besides the amnesia?"
"Uh…I'm not sure. I never asked…and she didn' seem injured when she grabbed Conan-kun and made a run for it."
"That may be, but knowing Marie, I would put it past her to put others ahead of herself, even right after telling someone else off for doing the same thing for her. I told you she was a contradiction."
"Well, it's getting late and as I'm sure you two are going to remain here for the remainder of the night, I have a client waiting for me. Hattori, thank you again for keeping an eye on Conan-kun while I've been away. Hakuba-kun, a pleasure finally meeting you and thank you as well for helping Hattori get Conan-kun back here safely. Also, don't lose hope. He came out of the river alive, no reason to believe that she didn't either…and maybe someday you can tell her, since I don't think you have yet."
Saguru and Hattori watch as the teen leaves with nothing more than a half smile and a quick wave at the door and the sound of him saying good-bye to either Sato or Takagi. Still seething at the guy for impersonating Shinichi, and at himself for going along with it, Heiji looks quickly at his friend before turning to Saguru, whose gaze hasn't moved from the now closed door.
"Hey, Hakuba. Do me a favor and don' tell Conan-kun that Kudo stopped by. He'll be pretty upset he missed him."
"Wha…very well. I don't like it but I will not tell him."
"Good. By the way, what did he mean by 'someday you can tell her, since I don't think you have yet'?"
A/N: Wow. How many times do I have to say 'I'm sorry' to make up for this long wait? I never intended it to take this long but...boys will be boys and they decided to do their own thing...Kid completely threw me when he went into the hospital. Basically, I lost control early in the chapter. I hope it came out OK and ,while some parts are meant to be confusing, I know for a fact that my betas, WildAwesomeGirl and LostInTheDreams (yeah...it took two, and a HUGE thank you to both of them, each found things and helped me a lot...even to drawing a picture for one of the scenes in this chapter [link in my profile, thanks again for that LostInTheDreams...you sneak], made no or positive comments on them.
Also, thank you again for all the birthday wishes in the reviews for 12, I did have a great birthday. And to the one reviewer I couldn't reply to, Jazzmonkey, I know it took a long time, but I hope this update satisfies you for a bit (and why wouldn't I blush?). I noticed that, while I seem to have world wide readership...I still have few reviewers. As grateful as I am for each of them, I would love to know what more of you think about this. If it's language...just type a review...I can translate them. So please, if you review, I'll read it and reply...ask anyone. :)