Disclaimer: I don't own DCMK
Path of Dappled Light
12: In the Picture
"So, Hakuba, how'd you find that Makoto Seiji guy?"
Pausing with a piece of sushi halfway to his mouth, the blond detective gave his dark-skinned counterpart a look with raised eyebrows. "Is this important?"
"Can't you just answer the question?" the Osakan retorted impatiently. Seriously, why would he even bother asking if it wasn't important in some way? It wasn't like it was all that interesting a subject in and of itself.
Hakuba sighed. "Since you insist, he was referred to me."
Hattori's eyes narrowed. "Yeah? By who?"
The blonde shrugged. "Just about everyone. He's fairly well known around here as an experienced hiker. I was told no one knew these mountains like he did."
"But he didn't know about the village Shinichi was staying in," Ran murmured, confused. Her chopsticks hovered over her own plate as her eyebrows drew together. "Isn't that a little strange?"
"It is a bit peculiar," Hakuba conceded. "However, just because he is known around here for his knowledge of the mountain trails, doesn't mean he knows everything there is to know. I do not believe that any one man could really know every part of such an expansive place. Indeed, I would question the reliability of someone who claimed that kind of knowledge."
"Did they actually say he was a local though?" Hattori pressed on, the remains of his meal completely forgotten.
The other detective paused, studying his face intently, then nodded. "A lady at the convenience store mentioned that he and his brother used to be in her class during elementary school. She mentioned that they were the outdoors type even then, though the brother a little less so than Seiji-san. They both moved away some years ago, but he still returns regularly to hike the trails."
"He has a brother?"
"I'm sure I just answered that. Now are you going to explain to me why you are suddenly so interested in Makoto-san's credentials? I take it that's what you have doubts about."
The blonde watched as his fellow detective and Ran traded looks. Yes, there was definitely something going on here. Had they noticed something he had missed? He dismissed the thought immediately. Surely not. Then again, perhaps they had had information he didn't have. But…something about his local guide?
"Does this have something to do with Kudo-san?" he stated more than asked. It was the only reasonable conclusion. For some reason, the others seemed to have decided that Makoto Seiji could have something to do with whatever ad happened to Kudo Shinichi.
"We think he might be the one who shot at Kudo," Hattori said finally. He didn't particularly like working with Hakuba, but he had to admit that the blonde was a decent detective, even if he was a damned irritating one, and it would be easier to work if he was cooperating. "Not just at the village though. See, Kudo mentioned to Kuroba that he feels like he's seen the guy before."
"And based on this, you're saying my guide—the one I hired after I got here because he is known around here for his familiarity with the mountain trails—was the sniper?" Hakuba asked skeptically.
"But I thought he was with Mouri-san when Kudo-san and Kuroba were shot at."
"Turns out they split up around that time."
"I see." The blonde mulled this over. He supposed there were indeed some grounds upon which to wonder. Still, a feeling of familiarity from someone who hadn't even remembered his own name wasn't exactly definitive evidence of anything. Shinichi could just as easily have seen the man in town before he'd headed up the mountain. "Did Kudo-san say anything else?"
Hattori waved away the question with an impatient gesture. "Not really, but here's what we were thinking. If he does look familiar to Kudo then it seems likely they might have met during one of Kudo's cases. So I was thinking we could…"
Indigo eyes stared up at the dark ceiling of the hotel room. An annoyed sigh left the magician's lips. He just couldn't sleep.
Turning his head to the side, he looked across the room to the figure curled up in the room's other bed, reassuring himself that it was still there.
"Ah Tantei-kun, you know me too well."
The small boy snorted. "Hardly. I don't even know your name."
The thief made a noncommittal noise, the corners of his mouth quirking into an amused smirk that wasn't quite the same as his usual shark grin. "Shall I take you home then?"
That got him a disgruntled, blue glare. "I can get there on my own."
"Perhaps, but a small child wandering through the streets by himself at night isn't safe. Besides," he added, scooping the detective up into his arms before the boy could start one of his complaints about not being a child, "flying is much faster." With that, he stepped off the roof.
Small hands grabbed the lapels of his jacket instinctively as the boy let out an involuntary yelp. Over the howl of the wind, Kaito thought he heard something along the lines of "crazy thief" being grumbled into his shirt. Despite that, he could sense Shinichi relaxing. It made him smile.
What his little detective hadn't seemed to realize was that he hadn't been teasing when he'd made that comment—never was (it hadn't been the first or the last time he'd said it). Out of all the people around him, Shinichi was truly one of the only ones who really knew him. He might not have known the thief's name at the time, but what was a name anyway? There were plenty of people out there who knew his name, but he could count the number of those who could even begin to guess at his real thoughts and motives on the fingers of one hand. But it wasn't just about intellect. Tantei-kun believed in him—trusted in his integrity as a person despite their rival positions when it came to the law enough to take him at his word when he showed up with his proposition and work with him without asking that he reveal any more about his identity than he chose to. He understood the lengths to which the thief had gone—would go—to in order to accomplish his goals. He had seen and understood that line between black and white that the both of them had walked. And he understood Kaito's sense of humor and appreciated his art (which, frankly, was one thing some people never would).
He liked to think that he provided the same understanding and support for Shinichi.
They had come so far, and he'd almost lost it all in one moment.
He had promised himself a long time ago, on that day he told the detective his name, that he would protect him. It was more than just the desire to keep someone he cared about safe. It was a need to prove that there was more to life than that eternal struggle between good and evil that they had fought so hard for—that they could have a future too. One that wasn't about survival but about dreams.
But it seemed peace was more fragile than he'd realized.
Just because they had defeated their biggest enemies, didn't mean it was just going to be smooth sailing from here on out. There would always be others, especially considering Shinichi's choice of work. And Kaito couldn't always be there to watch over him.
It was not a reminder he appreciated.
Letting his breath out in a silent sigh, he got out of bed. Padding across the room on silent feet, he paused only for a moment before slipping under the covers with the sleeping Shinichi. Gathering the detective to his chest, he turned his eyes to the curtain-shrouded window, wishing he could see the moon.
"This fountain is the founder's memorial," Makoto Seiji explained. "They fill it with fresh flowers every festival. It's said that placing flowers in the fountain on this day will give a person good luck."
"It's beautiful," Ran breathed, watching as the colorful blossoms bobbed on the fountain's shifting waters. "We should take a picture."
"That's a great idea," Hattori said quickly. Reaching into his pocket, he came up with his phone. "If you guys all stand in front there, I can take the picture."
"We should go to the other side," Kaito added, gently propelling Shinichi towards the fountain. "The light is better over there."
As the others arranged themselves by the fountain, Hattori turned on the camera function of his phone. He was startled when a hand tapped him on the shoulder. Glancing around, he found Makoto standing beside him.
"Here, let me take the picture for you," the man offered. "This is the first time any of you have come here after all. You should be in the picture too."
"Er, well, I don't really mind not being in the photo—"
"But you can be, so you might as well," the man pointed out, sounding perfectly reasonable. "Don't worry, I've got a steady hand. And I really shouldn't intrude on a picture of you and your friends."
"I, uh…it's just…" the detective stammered before his shoulders slumped in defeat. "I guess you're right."
"That was pathetic," Kaito muttered out of the corner of his mouth as Makoto waved for Hakuba to step closer to Ran.
"You do it then if you're so good at it," the Osakan shot back a touch sulkily. He'd been so close! It wasn't his fault the guy was so insistent. Could he possibly have guessed what they were up to? He worried about that for a moment then dismissed it. There wasn't any way for Makoto to have found out. Maybe the guy was just cautious. Of course, they could be barking up the wrong tree altogether, and the man could just be a helpful if quiet guy who wanted to show them around his hometown and felt it would be awkward to be part of a photo full of old friends and colleagues.
"Hey, this is cool," the magician exclaimed an hour later as he stopped beside a stall selling long strings of tiny ornaments. Each was a miniature of some landmark or local product. "Excuse me, but what's the longest one you've got."
"That would be this one here," the salesman replied with a cheerful smile. He pointed to a dangling bundle of thread of figurines. "Almost twenty feet, this one."
Kaito whistled. "It really is amazing. It's a shame I don't have room for it at home… Hey, if I buy one of the shorter ones, would you let me take a picture of that long one?"
The salesman was all too happy to agree. Like any true artist, all he really wanted was for people to appreciate his work. The problem was that the string of figures really was as long as he said, and stretching it out meant a photo no one could make out.
"It kind of defeats the point if you can't see the whole thing at once though," the magician lamented. Then his eyes lit up and he turned to his companions. "I know. If we each hold a section of it, I'm sure we could arrange ourselves so that the whole thing is in the picture. How about it?"
A few minutes later he had all of them arranged so that the string of ornaments could zigzag between their hands. Even with Hattori, Hakuba, Shinichi, Kaito, and Ran, however, they didn't have enough hands or arm length to stop the ornaments from getting tangled.
"Can you just take that end there and pull it up?" Kaito asked, turning to Makoto where the man had been waiting off to the side.
"But then there won't be anyone to take the picture," the man pointed out.
"I'll do it for you," the salesman offered. Before Makoto could object, the salesman had already taken the phone-turned-camera and given him a friendly push towards the group. Caught off guard, the man gingerly accepted the end of the string of ornaments.
Behind his Poker Face, Kaito smirked.
Completing the final word on the list she'd been writing, Ran slipped the scrap of notepaper into her pocket and looked around the table. "I'm going to need at least two of you to come with me. I can't carry everyone's orders by myself."
"I'll help," Hattori offered. He cast an eye over the others. He would've liked Shinichi to go with them too, but he was busy wiping off the rather large table. Its previous occupants had left it in quite a mess and no one wanted to eat on it before it was cleaned up. Hakuba had also taken up the task of collecting the leftover trash That left… "Kuroba, we kinda need one more pair of hands. Think you could help?"
"Why don't you ask Makoto-san? I'm sure he knows more than I do about what tastes good at the festival."
Hattori forced a laugh. "Yeah, but everyone's already decided what they want." Then he lowered his voice, trying not to move his lips too much. "Do you really want that guy handling our food?"
The magician frowned. Hattori had a point. And they still had to find a moment away for the Osakan detective to call his contacts. Unfortunately, pulling Shinichi away from his self-appointed task of cleaning the table for something any of them could do would look strange. On the other hand, Hakuba would be with him. The blonde was a nuisance, but he was also a detective and knew he was supposed to keep an eye out for trouble.
Making up his mind, he directed his customary grin on the other half of the party, slipping a tracer onto the hem of Shinichi's jacket as he passed. "You three just wait here and make sure no one steals our chairs, okay?"
It took the two detectives and Makoto almost a whole five minutes after the others had left to finish making the table into something sanitary enough to eat on. Dumping all the trash into the nearest trash receptacle, they took up seats at regular intervals around said table to better guard the empty chairs from the mass of people vying for a seat in the food court.
"I could use a drink of water," Makoto sighed a few minutes later when the others had ye to reappear. He glanced at his watch then got back to his feet. "I'll go get us some drinks."
"I can come help," Shinichi offered. "You can't carry that many cups by yourself."
"I'll come too," Hakuba said quickly, also getting to his feet.
"But if you go too there won't be anyone at the table," Shinichi pointed out. "With so many people here, we probably won't have a table to come back to if we all go."
The blonde had to admit that he was probably right. However, he couldn't sit around and let Shinichi wander off alone with their suspect. Quite aside from it being unsafe, the others would kill him (well, not kill exactly, obviously, but he had the sneaking suspicion that death would be preferable if something untoward were to actually happen to Kudo and Kuroba were to have any reason to believe that it was somehow Hakuba's fault).
"Why don't you stay here then?" he suggested. "You're still recovering and we have been active all morning. A rest would do you good."
Kudo looked like he wanted to argue, but apparently he thought better of it and shrugged. "I guess if you insist. But really, I'm feeling fine."
"It is best not to push these things."
"I know one place that always has special beverages for festival days," Makoto said as he led the way. "It's a little ways from here, but I am sure you all would like it."
"What did they say?" Kaito asked when Hattori came jogging up to where he and Ran were waiting in line.
"There's no one called Makoto Seiji in their criminal records, but I kinda expected that much," the Osakan detective replied. "I sent them the picture and they said they'd run it through analysis and send it around to see if anything turns up. They'll call me back when they're done."
Ran let out a quiet sigh. "Well, that's good at least."
Juggling three brimming cups of blended fruit smoothies with colorful, paper umbrellas sticking out their tops while trying to meander through throngs of excited festival attendees was not easy. Having to do so through an unfamiliar town while trying to follow someone was all but impossible.
"Oh, sorry!" a little boy gasped as he bumped into the blonde's knees.
The detective let out an involuntary cry as he tipped forward. Swinging his weight around, he managed not to fall on the kid, but juice sloshed out of the cups and all over his sleeves.
The boy stood there, wide-eyed. "I—I'm really sorry. I should've been watching where I was going! I—"
"That's all right," Hakuba cut in before the kid could say any more. He sighed, grimacing at the cold stickiness making his sleeves cling to his arms and glistening on his fingers. "It can't be helped. Just try to be more careful next time."
"I will," the boy promised, bowing deeply then scampering off.
The blonde watched him go, shaking his head. That was when he remembered he had somewhere to be. Turning around quickly, he scanned the crowd, but there was no sign of his guide anywhere. The man had gone.
Cursing, he shifted the cups so that they were pinned against him by one arm, ignoring the fact that his jacket front would now be sticky too. His other hand searched for his phone. A frown made its way onto his face. He checked his other pocket then started patting himself down. No phone.
A.N: I'm not sure if I'll be able to finish the next chapter on schedule because it's giving me grief, but I'll do my best! And if I can't, then I'll put up something else. ^_^ Have a great week!