Disclaimer: I don't own the DCMK characters.
Smile for Me
13: Wordless Letters
Blue eyes watched the coffeepot beginning to fill with rich, brown coffee like they were hypnotized. The morning was still and silent and golden. The only sound to be heard was the gentle hum and burble of the coffeemaker. It was a soothing sort of sound. Eyelids drooped.
Shinichi woke himself up with an effort. Stifling a yawn, he slumped against the edge of the counter, willing the coffeemaker to hurry up.
The doorbell rang. Teetering on the edge of wakefulness, Shinichi didn't immediately react. It wasn't until the bell sounded for a second time that he decided that yes, it was really ringing and not some echo from the shores of dreamland.
Heaving a resigned sigh, he dragged his feet towards the door.
"Finally!" A familiar female voice assaulted his eardrums before the door had even fully opened. "It's rude to keep people waiting on your doorstep for so long. I know you don't get a lot of guests, but surely even you have to know that much."
Shinichi considered shutting the door again, but he decided against it. The repercussions of such an action wouldn't be worth the temporary peace it granted. So instead he stepped back and waved lethargically at the two girls outside his door. "Do either of you want coffee?"
"Sure," the taller and less noisy of the two said with a smile as she herded her friend inside. "Coffee sounds great."
"Though you should really stock up on some other beverages sometime," Suzuki Sonoko said as she slipped off her shoes. "Not everyone likes coffee as much as you do."
Shinichi opted not to point out that, as this was his house, it was only natural to stock only drinks he himself enjoyed. What was the point of having foods and drinks he didn't eat sitting around, going bad, just on the off chance that someone might swing by who might like it? Besides, a good host should share food he liked with his guests, right? Giving people food you didn't like would be insincere.
Shinichi said none of this. Instead, he shuffled back into the kitchen and fetched three mugs from the cupboards. He placed them all on the table then brought over a small jug of coffee cream. Then he retrieved the coffeepot. The rich aroma of fresh coffee wafted through the kitchen as ripples of rich, dark coffee filled the mugs. Shinichi inhaled deeply as he poured. Perfect, he thought a bit dreamily. This must be what heaven smelled like.
"Sometimes I think he's not quite right in the head," Sonoko remarked to Ran, shaking her head at the sight of Shinichi's dreamy expression. "That can't be normal."
"Now, now," Ran chided. "You know Shinichi's not a morning person. Give him a break." She set the large bouquet she'd been carrying down on the end of the kitchen counter. The rustle and crinkle of the gesture caught Shinichi's attention.
He turned, half empty mug in hand, and blinked at the sight of the mass of flowers now sitting on his counter. They were all white roses, he observed. Their stems were wrapped in decorative white and silver paper and held together with a blue ribbon. Shinichi wondered how he had managed to miss the fact that Ran was carrying such a large bouquet of flowers when he'd answered the door.
"Is there a special occasion today?" he asked, puzzled.
Ran gave him a strange look. "No. Why?"
"I was just wondering why you brought all those roses."
"I didn't bring them. They were on your doorstep when Sonoko and I got here," the brunette explained. "Didn't you order them?"
"Why would I order a bouquet of white roses?" Now they were both thoroughly confused.
"I guess I thought you might be doing some interior decorating," Ran explained. "You did start keeping red roses on the dining table." She gestured towards the glass vase on said table and the two red roses standing tall and elegant within it. "I mean, you are redecorating, right?"
"I…didn't think I was." Shinichi scratched his head and looked at the white roses again. "And I didn't order roses—or any other kind of flower either. Did you see the person who made the delivery?"
Both girls shook their heads.
"See if there's a card," Sonoko suggested. She hopped up out of her seat and made a beeline for the bouquet. There was silence as she carefully rummaged around the bouquet's paper wrappings. Eventually, her hand came up with a small card. "Ha! I found it. Let's see who it's for. Maybe the delivery guys sent this to the wrong place."
The card was white just like the roses and cut into the shape of a heart. Shinichi's whole name was written in elegant, silver letters across the face of the card, but other than that, the card was really quite plain.
"Well, it's definitely for you," Sonoko said dubiously. She turned the card over, hoping for a sender. Instead, all she found was a tiny silver clover next to the letters KK.
"Do you know anyone whose initials are KK?" she asked, looking up at Shinichi.
The detective hesitated a moment before nodding. "I…yes, I do."
"Isn't that the guy you were with the few weeks before the festival?" Ran asked—rather unhelpfully, in Shinichi's opinion.
"Uh, yeah, I guess Kaito's initials would be KK too," the blue-eyed teen muttered, face beginning to grow warm.
"So why's he sending you roses?" Sonoko asked, eyes gleaming with interest (or madness, take your pick).
"It's probably because I helped him during the festival," Shinichi said a bit uncertainly. That was the most logical conclusion, but… Another thank you present? And after he'd told the magician that he didn't have to give him anything too. Shinichi didn't need or want compensation for helping Kaito out with the banquet. He'd done it because he'd wanted to help Kaito achieve his goals. He hadn't helped because he wanted to be rewarded. So why was Kaito still sending him things? First the red roses in their glass vase. And now a whole bouquet of white roses that were all clearly the best of specimens.
"Hey Shinichi," Sonoko said slowly. Nothing good ever came when Sonoko spoke in that tone: that slow, sly, 'I know something juicy' kind of voice. "Is there something you're not telling us?"
He looked at her blankly. "Like what?"
"Don't play dumb. You weren't really helping out with the festival at all, were you? I'll bet it was a romantic getaway!"
And that was why that particular Sonoko voice was dangerous. When she used it, she inevitably ended up saying ridiculous and embarrassing things like—like that.
"What? That—that's … What?" Shinichi could feel his face burning. It was a good thing he hadn't been drinking just now or there would have been coffee all over the floor. "No! That's not it at all! Where do you even come up with these things?!"
"There's no need to be shy about it," the petit girl admonished, smirking. "You had to start dating eventually."
"I'm not dating anyone!"
"What, you mean it's over already?"
"That's not what I meant at all!"
Sonoko opened her mouth again, but Ran beat her to it. "Sonoko, he really was helping a friend out with the festival."
"Or so you say. But that doesn't explain why he had to stay with the guy all these weeks. If you ask me, that's pretty suspicious."
"We just had a lot of work to do," Shinichi explained. Ran's intervention had given him the minute he'd needed to collect his wits. This was so not what he wanted to be dealing with first thing in the morning. He just knew that his face had to still be red. "His family was holding a large family event, and they were shorthanded. So, when he asked if I could help, I agreed. They live quite far from here though. I stayed over because it was just easier not to have to commute."
"And setting up for this family function took you multiple weeks." Sonoko didn't sound convinced.
"It wasn't all setting up," Shinichi invented, thinking fast. "They had a lot of guests coming in, so Kaito and I helped keep them occupied."
"I see." Sonoko frowned. Her gaze dropped to the bouquet again before she held up the little white card that had come with it. "And this means nothing to you? Don't you think the shape is a little suggestive?"
"Maybe that was the only shape of card the florist he ordered from offered," Shinichi suggested. His confidence was growing as his invention took on form and began to breathe life into itself. "It's just a card to make sure the delivery gets to the correct recipient. So it wouldn't really matter what shape the card was."
"But these are roses," Sonoko pointed out, raising another objection. "You give roses to people you have a romantic interest in."
"Not necessarily," Shinichi said. "Performers can get roses from their friends and family when they perform. Students get roses sometimes too when they graduate. In fact, giving roses at times of celebration is common and do not involve romance at all. Besides, not everyone cares what different flowers mean. Some people will choose to give roses just because that's the flower they like."
"So you're saying that he gave you this huge bouquet of roses because, what, he just felt like it?"
"I already told you, it's probably a thank you present."
"Ah ha! So you're not sure."
"…" Shinichi turned to Ran. "I assume you two have a reason for coming here?"
Ran covered up her laugh with a cough (Shinichi never could out talk Sonoko). "Well, Sonoko and I were originally going to treat you to lunch on your birthday. But since you left so suddenly, we never got around to that. So we thought we could all go today instead. How about it?"
Taken aback but touched by the gesture, Shinichi agreed.
It had been three days since the arrival of the bouquet of white roses on his doorstep. It had been three days, and here he was, looking down at bouquet number three. Yesterday, the roses had been red. Today, they were white again.
He bent and retrieved this latest gift. A card identical to the one that Sonoko had found the other day fell out from amidst the blossoms as he rose. He bent again to pick it up before carrying the whole lot indoors. The roses soon joined their brethren in the vase on the corner table in his living room. The card was placed in the drawer of that same table along with the others.
To be honest, Shinichi had no idea what to make of the whole situation. His first theory about the roses being a gesture of gratitude was rapidly losing weight. With flowers showing up every morning, it was starting to feel more like some kind of coded message. But that didn't feel quite right either.
The most confusing part of the whole affair was that he hadn't seen Kaito once. None of the florists in the phone book had claimed to be responsible for the deliveries. Therefore Kaito was likely delivering the flowers himself or sending an underling to do it. In either case, no one was ever spotted. Even Shinichi's next door neighbor, an old man who spent his days happily planting benevolent rumors about all the people he saw coming and going in the area, had seen nothing. Though he was very interested when Shinichi had asked and voiced a myriad of questions of his own. Shinichi had no doubt that, by the end of the week, there were going to be rumors about flower-delivering ghosts and shadowy visitors in the night or some other such creatures flying about the neighborhood. But the important point was that no one had seen the deliveryman.
Shinichi wasn't all that surprised about that. Even if Kaito wasn't a magic user, he was still extremely skilled at sneaking around. And he was a magic user. That added a whole new set of possible explanations for the roses' miraculous arrivals that included the roses simply being sent there by magic. No hands required at all.
The confusion for Shinichi lay in why Kaito hadn't once stopped by to say hello if he was busying himself bringing or sending roses to Shinichi every morning. Shinichi liked the roses. They added color and warmth to his previously austere apartment, and they did have a nice, mellow fragrance. But between getting roses and seeing Kaito again, he would much rather see Kaito…
The thought made him feel strangely melancholy, though he didn't particularly want to delve too deep into the reasons behind that sadness. Maybe Kaito was just busy. Maybe the magician wasn't in the mood or didn't have the time to visit him. There were many possibilities.
Shaking his head at the blossoms all looking back at him with their pristine, white and crimson faces, he turned and headed out the door. He had to be at Agasa's lab in ten minutes or the professor would start today's test run without him. And if that happened, half the Agasa living room was going to end up scattered across the Agasa front yard.
Arriving before the gate to Professor Agasa's modest estate, Shinichi was a little startled to find a shiny, black car parked in the driveway. Agasa owned a yellow buggy, and he hadn't mentioned anything about acquiring a new car. Was it a client? The professor hadn't said anything the other day about having guests. An unscheduled visit?
Cautious, Shinichi decided to enter the house from the back so as not to disturb anything that might be going on. When he reached the living room, Agasa was just showing his visitor out the door.
"I'll definitely have it done in time, I promise," he said with the cheerful determination that was his trademark. "Just leave it to me."
"I look forward to seeing your work," the visitor replied. The voice was male. It was a confident voice. One that was very sure of itself.
Shinichi waited until Professor Agasa had locked the door behind his guest to speak. "Professor?"
The old man jumped and turned around. His eyes widened, then he laughed. "Oh, Shinichi! You gave me a scare, appearing like that. So how are you?"
"I'm good," Shinichi replied. "Who was that just now?"
"Oh, he was a new client. He's commissioned me to make a few rather interesting things for him."
"Interesting things?" Shinichi repeated dubiously. "What kinds of interesting things?"
"Ah, ah, ah, you know I can't tell you that. The client has asked me to keep this work secret. But from what he said, I do believe it is going to make quite the spectacular show."
Shinichi thought of Kaito, and his stomach did an odd little butterfly imitation. He ignored it.
"Won't you need any help testing the devices?" he asked.
"Oh, no, I've done similar projects before, you know. It'll mostly be the scale of it."
If it was about scale then it would either be something very large or very small, Shinichi thought. "Well, if you do need any help…"
The old professor smiled. "I'll be sure to let you know. Now, let's see about that self cleaning oven!"
Shinichi now officially had more roses than he knew what to do with. There were now roses living on every available flat surface in his home. He'd hung several up to dry with some vague ideas about laminating them to make bookmarks or sticking them to some cardstock to make greeting cards. Ran and Sonoko had taken some of the blossoms off his hands (the latter giggling and making snide comments every step of the way), but, with the bouquets still showing up every morning, Shinichi was rapidly running out of ideas.
That, however, was the least of his problems today.
It had started when Sonoko rather unceremoniously declared that, "You'll be coming to my family's summer's end party."
It hadn't been an invitation because Shinichi had, for some reason he still didn't understand, not had a say in the matter. He still might not have bothered showing up if Ran hadn't appeared at his door on the appointed day and dragged him off without a by your leave. It turned out he had been recruited to help with the setting up.
This relieved him. He quite liked organizing things. And he'd always had a good eye for patterns—both the visual and the intellectual. It was a surprisingly useful skill when it came to the finer details of arranging a space for a party. The fact that the space in question was the Suzuki family's newest hotel just meant that there was a whole lot of room to work with and not a lot of time.
"These flower arrangements are too large and too complex," he told the girl who had just set a large vase of multicolored flowers down on one of the many round dining tables. "If you put those on the tables, everyone's going to feel like they're trying to eat with their heads in the bushes.."
"They do look a bit…excessive, but these are the ones we got," the girl said uncertainly. "We don't have any others."
"Well, we can pick one or two of the flowers from each batch, put them in smaller vases, and use them as the centerpieces. The rest of the flowers can be lined up along the edge of the stage."
"Yeah, I think that'll work." The florist girl brightened. "I'll go find us some better vases. Can you pick out the flowers?"
Shinichi nodded and immediately set to work. He noticed only afterward that he had chosen almost all the roses, though they were not the only beautiful blossoms in the offering. They just felt right to him for no reason at all…
Standing off to the side, Sonoko whistled and shook her head. "He's really getting into this, isn't he?"
Beside her, Ran wasn't sure whether to laugh or sigh in exasperation. "He's just like that. He has no interest at all in most things, but once you get him into something, he'll go all out trying to make it work. But I guess that's just one of the things that makes him who he is."
"I think he's just a workaholic."
Ran laughed. "Yeah, that's probably true too."
The two girls left Shinichi directing several staff members to reposition a handful of tables to ensure that every guest had a clear view of the stage. It wasn't until the guests were due to arrive that Shinichi's fears were realized.
"Why can't I just sit next to Ran?"
Sonoko stood over him, glowering. "Because then you won't actually talk to anyone new, and you'll get in the way of Ran meeting a good guy."
"I promise I won't say anything."
The girl snorted. "Yeah, you'll just give them funny looks while you pick out all their flaws. I don't need you doing the overprotective brother routine when I've arranged for all these single guys to be sitting at the table so that Ran and I can get to know them."
Ran coughed. "Um, I don't really think I need—"
"Oh don't you get started too, Ran. Just leave everything to me. Anyways," Sonoko continued, turning back to Shinichi. "You should be thanking me. Everyone at your table is single too."
"I'm supposed to thank you for that?" The incredulity in Shinichi's voice was palpable. "Why can't I at least sit at the same table as you two?"
"I told you already. You'd just get in the way. Go meet people! Socialize. Talk. Be a human being for once! Seriously, do you want to be a wallflower for the rest of your life?"
Shinichi rolled his eyes. "I'm not a plant."
The petit girl sniffed. "Well you might as well be."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you need all the help you can get or you're never going to have the chance to experience the great wonders of love and romance! And that would be tragic, even if it is just you."
"…" There really was nothing Shinichi could say to a comment like that. He knew that Sonoko meant well, but sometimes he really thought that she was just a little bit insane. The world she lived in didn't seem to be the same one that Shinichi lived in. Or maybe her list of priorities was just so different from his own that none of their opinions about life in general and happiness in particular made sense to one another.
In any case, Sonoko was adamant about keeping her seating arrangements. Unable to out argue the girl, Shinichi soon found himself seated at a table full of strangers, more than half of whom already seemed to know each other. Considering the backgrounds of these guests, that wasn't much of a surprise. To his left sat the daughters of the city's most renowned fashion designer and the son of a textile tycoon. The three apparently took many of the same classes. Next was a young composer who had gained a lot of fame in recent years for his outstanding orchestral arrangements. He was still in his last year at music school, but he'd already published several pieces and been asked to write the music for three different movies. He had a small notebook open on the table next to his plate, and Shinichi could see him scribbling the occasional musical notes as he chatted with the others and ate. Shinichi might have liked to be able to talk with the composer if they had been somewhere else. He loved music himself, and he'd always wanted to learn more about what went into the creation of those beautifully complex pieces performed by the various symphonies and orchestras he had listened to in the past. It was incredible that anyone could create something so, well, incredible. It was true genius. It would have been interesting to get to know someone like that. But here in this bubbling cauldron of small talk, Shinichi wouldn't even know where to begin. Moving on around the table, there was a pop idol—no kidding. The young woman was only seventeen, but she was already known all around the country. She had fans, apparently, and her own merchandise featuring her songs and the outfits she'd worn while singing those songs, so on and so forth. Some of the designs for those outfits had, incidentally, been done by the mother of the girls sitting by Shinichi. Naturally, the girls had a lot to say to one another. Then there was a slightly older gentleman who was working on getting his medical degree. Oh, and somewhere in the middle of that little circle was one Hakuba Saguru.
Shinichi looked across the table to where Hakuba was looking distracted like his mind was miles away. Maybe it was. He hadn't even seemed to have noticed Shinichi at all. Seeing no help from that quarter, Shinichi resigned himself to a long and tedious dinner listening to people he didn't know talk about other people he didn't know.
He was not disappointed. Though oh he wished he had been. He felt like his brain was slowly turning into mush.
Was it wrong, he wondered during the first half of the dinner party when he could still think clearly, that he didn't feel like he was missing out on anything by not making use of this opportunity that Sonoko had oh so graciously forced upon him? He didn't dislike them. They sounded like good people from what he could tell. But you couldn't just throw people together and tell them to be friends. Spawning romance through such methods was even less likely. And really, why was Sonoko always in such a rush about making him and Ran find people to go out with? You couldn't force these things. And even if you could, there wouldn't be any point. Accidentally landing yourself in a bad relationship was far worse than not having any relationships at all. Or at least that was his opinion.
Granted, everything had to start with a first meeting somewhere. So maybe Sonoko did have a point in some regards. Still, there had to be better ways to meet new people than fancy dinner parties.
He wondered what Kaito was up to now. If the magician were here, he'd probably have strange stories to share about every guest in the room. Shinichi could picture the conspiratorial grin on Kaito's face perfectly. Shinichi's stomach did something strange at the thought. He shook himself and tried to focus on his food.
By the time he dragged himself back to his house, he could barely keep his eyes open. Boredom was exhausting. He tottered up to the door and paused at the sight of the gift on his doorstep.
There was a box of chocolates sitting there oh so innocently like it had been forgotten there by accident. There was a pearly ribbon tied around it. Gingerly, Shinichi picked the box up and took it inside.
A few minutes later, he sat at his kitchen table with the box open before him.
Twenty four little chocolate doves looked back at him. Twenty three were brown. One was white. A small slip of paper sat amidst the flock. Picking it up, Shinichi unfolded it and read.
I'll see you tomorrow.
Shinichi turned the paper over, but the back was blank. There was no location and no time, but Kaito wasn't the kind of person who would forget such simple—and essential—details.
He looked at the box of dove chocolates again. There were twenty four of them. When you thought about the number twenty four and time, it was natural to think about hours. Twenty four hours in a day. So perhaps each dove was an hour in the day. There were four rows of six doves in the box. The only dove that was different was the white dove nestled in the third row second from the right. If this was a message then it was the odd dove out for a reason. That was how riddles worked. So then if the doves were the twenty four hours in a day then the white dove would be the time of the appointment. If he counted from the left across each row before moving down to the next row then the white dove was dove number seventeen. Seventeen hours. So five in the afternoon. Unless, of course, he was supposed to count from right to left, top to bottom, or bottom to top. But since the note had been written left to right, he'd place his bets on that one.
Shinichi smiled. It was an easy riddle, but it had been fun. His fatigue from earlier faded a little as he opened a notebook and began writing down what he remembered about the roses.
The first bouquet of roses had been white. Twenty six white roses. The second bouquet had been red. There had been twenty six there as well. That second bouquet had been both the only red roses among the morning deliveries as well as the only batch with exceptionally long stems. Next, he had received eight white roses then five, twelve, twenty one, nineteen, twenty five, and eight again. That was followed by twenty two then twenty one roses before finishing with a final dozen.
A.N: Normally, I'd be updating Sky Colored Eyes today, but I'm still feeling stressed, and this chapter was already mostly drafted and thus easier to finish. ^.^ So yeah, hope you liked the chapter, and I wish you all a relaxing week. ^_^