Truth, Trust and Promises

A Meitantei Conan fic by Orla


Disclaimer: I lay no claim to the characters; they all belong to Gosho Aoyama-sama! ^^

Continuity note:

Considering recent events in the Conan storyline, I'd just like to point out that while my story is canon (well, attempts to be ^^) up until the end of the bomber storyline at the beginning of volume 37 after that it's all my imagination and probably bears no relation to what is going to happen! ^^

Author's notes:

Although I try to use as little Japanese as possible, I have kept the honorific endings such as '-san', '-kun' and '-neechan' in Japanese as there is no real English equivalent. '-kun' is used for boys and sometimes for girls (when addressed by their elders), 'Ran-neechan' can be translated as 'big sister Ran' (the male equivalent is '-niichan') and Heiji often refers to or calls Ran 'Neechan' even though he is the same age as her, it's just a more casual mode of address. Heiji also uses the Osaka dialect and the version of '-san' there is pronounced'-han'. I will also use some Japanese terms for items, which are unique to Japan, which makes the English translations a little clumsy.

Words between the brackets <...> are in English.


Part Ten


"And that's the plan," Shinichi finished his explanation and leaned back, warily regarding the two people seated on the sofa before him. "I think you can see that it really IS the best option."

"There's no need to be so defensive, Shin-chan!" his mother beamed at him. "I think this is a perfectly splendid plan!"

Yusaku nodded. "I agree," he said. "You've clearly weighed up all the options available to you and while I can see some flaws - let me finish, Shinichi - I confess that a more viable alternative does not present itself to me at the moment, although I imagine that given more time..."

"Which we don't really have," Shinichi pointed out, a little stung by his father's remarks. He looked at his watch. "Vermouth's call was totally unexpected, we thought that she'd wait until after dark like she said, but..."

"This is why you should have confided in us more, Shin-chan!" Yukiko scolded. "I could've told you that Sharon's daughter was bound to be tricky if she is ANYTHING like her mother!(1)"

Shinichi bit back several acerbic remarks regarding his reasons for not confiding, top on the list being the way his parents regarded his predicament as one enormous joke. He wouldn't have let them in on this plan at all if they hadn't sneaked in through the back door and burst in while he and the others were having a strategy meeting in the kitchen. Not that they had been able to get back to the meeting once Yusaku and Yukiko had seen how much their son had 'grown' (Yukiko was most distressed, but Shinichi privately thought she was more remorseful about how his new age would 'age' her) and then Yukiko spotted the ring glittering on Ran's finger. This had started a chain of exclamations and congratulations, for Heiji and Kazuha hadn't noticed the ring earlier - being so befuddled with sleep when the fatal phone call had come through and then swept up in the urgent need to devise a workable plan - and Shinichi wasn't about to stop the celebrations once he saw the happy expression on Ran's face.

"Shinichi!"

He jumped slightly and turned his attention back to the present. "Er, yes?"

His parents regarded him with amusement. Yukiko leaned over and stage-whispered to Yusaku, "I bet he's thinking about Ran-chan!"

Yusaku smiled benevolently as his son spluttered with embarrassment. "I'm sure they'll be both very happy."

"You're so adorable!" Yukiko squealed and hugged her son.

"Ack! Mum... need... air..."

There was a sudden, embarrassed cough behind them. Shinichi jerked away, his face red, and saw Heiji lingering in the doorway. "What is it, Hattori?"

"There's been an interesting development," he said.

"What do you..." the words died on Shinichi's lips as another person stepped past Heiji. "Oh."

Yusaku raised an eyebrow. "So you decided to take the cure yourself?"

Ai Haibara, now once more in her true form, shook her head. "Not completely," she said. "This is the one that lasts for 24 hours. I don't know if I'm quite ready for the other. Besides, I need to perfect it - obviously something went a tad awry."

"Why are you doing this?" Shinichi was puzzled. "You were so adamant that you were not going to involve yourself anymore. What prompted the change, Haiba, uh, Miyano.?"

"Calling me Haibara is fine, Kudo-kun," she shrugged. "After reflection I realised that I was being unfair. You're all risking so much for me, I couldn't not help - no matter how much I wanted to refuse."

Shinichi smiled. "Thank you, Haibara."

"So this changes things a little, right?" Yukiko asked brightly.

"Yes, but I still would like you both do as we discussed earlier," Shinichi said, turning back to them. "Please."

His father got to his feet and laid a hand on Shinichi's shoulder. "Don't worry, son, we'll look after Ran-chan and her friend."

***

Ran stepped slowly away from the door, taking care to move quietly. She sat down and sighed, fingers lightly brushing her engagement ring. "Take care of."

Sitting at the kitchen table opposite her, Kazuha frowned. "It does seem a bit unfair," she said, answering Ran's unspoken complaint. "After all, we are part of this."

"Yes, but," Ran leaned on the table and picked up a pair of Conan's old glasses that were lying there. "I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything else, after everything else Shinichi has done," she said, twirling the glasses around in her hands.

Kazuha grinned at her. "It's very sweet the way he worries about you, Ran- chan!" she teased. "Heiji just yelled at me when I suggested coming with them!"

Ran glanced slyly at her friend. "But surely that's just Heiji's way of saying he cares..."

"Ha!" but Kazuha flushed slightly and looked away briefly, a fond smile curving her lips.

"I'll do what I promised," Ran said suddenly. "I'll go to my parents and the police, give them the tape and keep my mobile phone on just in case there's a change in plans."

Kazuha blinked. "Ran-chan, sometimes you're too good."

"Am I?" Ran sighed again. "Not really, you see... I promised I'd go, but I didn't promise I'd stay..."

"Ran-chan..."

"I've been hunted and attacked by these people," Ran continued in a low voice. "One of them even posed as my teacher and acted like she was my friend! I know Shinichi wants to protect me, but..." her face crumpled, tears trickling down her cheeks. "I'm so afraid, Kazuha-chan... I'm so scared that he'll go to face them and I'll never see him again, not even as Conan!"

Kazuha rushed round and put her arms around Ran. "Ran-chan, I hate this as much as you, but he'll have Heiji with him..." Kazuha swallowed against the lump of fear in her own throat. "And Ai-chan... And the police will be right behind once we give them the information. I'm sure it will be okay."

Ran sniffled. "I know you're trying to help Kazuha-chan, but... I can't help feeling..."

"Do you really think we can help them if we follow?" Kazuha asked, fighting her own tears. "I'd never forgive myself if Heiji got hurt because he was too busy worrying about me to look after his own stupid hide!"

"Oh..." Ran sucked in her breath. "Oh... I didn't think of that..." she brushed her tears away. "Yes, you're right, Kazuha-chan. And what we're doing IS going to help a lot..."

Kazuha squeezed her gently. "Yeah and it'll all be over after tonight," she stepped back and smirked. "You and Kudo can get married..."

Ran blushed. "And what about you and Heiji?" she shot back. "Hmmm?"

Kazuha blinked innocently. "What about us?"

The kitchen door opened and Shinichi poked his head around the door. "Are you guys rea... Ran, what's wrong?" he asked anxiously, noticing the tear stains on her cheeks.

Ran hastily wiped the tears away. "Oh nothing, you know me... I cry at almost anything."

"That's true!" Shinichi agreed emphatically and was rewarded by a glare. He sweated. "Uh... but it's one of your... er... 'charming points', Ran-chan!"

She quirked an eyebrow at him. "Quoting Sonoko is not going to help, Shinichi," but the smile on her face indicated that she was not really annoyed.

Shinichi snapped back to business. "Mum and Dad are going to sneak you guys out and take you to the hospital that your Dad's in, Ran. They'll call Megure and the others on the way."

"Is this what you're wearing?" Ran asked suddenly changing the subject. He nodded and held out his arms, displaying his taller, broader form in the new clothes.

"Dad suggested, and I agree, that I should wear clothes I was prepared to run in," Shinichi's expression was grim. "Because there's a strong likelihood I'll have to."

Ran bit her lip and hugged him tightly, not caring that Kazuha was still there. "Shinichi, you will be careful!"

"Idiot..." he looked fondly down at her. "Of course I will and I'll come back, I promise."

Embarrassed, Kazuha slipped out of the room and bumped straight into Heiji who was just about to enter.

"Hey, wa... umph!" his indignant cry was cut off as Kazuha applied her hand to his mouth for the second time that day.

"Don't go in," she said. "Ran and Kudo are saying goodbye."

She felt him smile against her hand before he gently removed it. "Well, then... I guess we need to give them some time."

"Y-yeah," a wave of anxious fear washed over Kazuha and she reached out again, grabbing his shirt. "Heiji, promise me you won't do anything stupid!"

Heiji looked down at her with an oddly soft expression. "Idiot," he said gently. "Of course I won't."

Kazuha felt her heart beat quicken. Words bubbled to her lips, things she longed to say, but was still not yet ready to confess. "Well, your track record hasn't been that great," she said, taking refuge in their usual banter. "Being shot, hit over the head, stabbed in the hand...(2)"

"Hey! That last one was YOUR fault!"

"Well if you hadn't sent that marker rolling..."

"If you hadn't stupidly lunged at me!"

"I was saving your life! AHO!"

"I was FINE! AHO!"

They stopped abruptly, red-faced and nose-to-nose. Heiji let out a little, slightly abashed, laugh. Kazuha followed suit, blushing.

"I'm the idiot," she said softly. "I wasn't intending to yell at you, Heiji - sorry."

He grinned, good humour once more restored. "I just bring out the best in you, hey?"

She twitched an eyebrow. "Don't you mean worst?"

"I know what I mean," he drew in a deep breath. "Look... Kazuha, I promise I'll take care - honest!"

She smiled up at him, her vision going a little misty. "You better... or I'll kill you!"

The living room door opened with an abrupt bang and the two whirled to see Yukiko standing in the doorway, her expression puzzled.

"Shin-chan is still in the kitchen with Ran-chan, right?"

Heiji blinked. "As far as I know, yes Ma'am."

"Then what is he doing standing outside the front gate?"

"That's impossible!" Kazuha said.

"Yeah, Kudo can't be in two places at once," Heiji frowned. "Unless it's one of them..."

"Who?" Shinichi came out of the kitchen, Ran close behind him.

"Shin-chan, we've just seen your double!" his mother said excitedly. She dragged him to one of the front windows. "Look!"

Shinichi looked and groaned. "Oh no... this is just what I don't need..."

"You know who he is, Kudo-kun?" Shiho asked.

He nodded. "Unfortunately, yes. It's Kaito Kid."

"Huh?" Heiji stared at the figure loitering outside. "What the hell? Why's he here?"

"Let's find out," Shinichi said and switched on the intercom. "Why hello, Mr Kid. Can we help you?"

"Actually just the opposite," came the cheery reply. "I'm here to help you."

There was a stunned pause, broken only by Shinichi who turned to Heiji. "Well?"

Heiji scratched the back of his head. "Well..."

"I think you should let him in," said Ran and both boys stared at her.

"But Neechan...!"

"Ran, he's..."

"A thief, I know," Ran said calmly. "But at this point I think you need all the help you can get and remember Shinichi, he's helped you before..."

Shinichi flushed under her steady gaze. "Y-yea..." he scowled. "Oh, all right!" he punched the intercom button. "We're letting you in, Kid, but you better remain in sight!"

"Your gracious hospitality is much appreciated, Kudo-kun."

About a minute later, all gathered in the living room and regarded the second Shinichi with acute suspicion and hostility - in the case of Heiji and the real Shinichi. Kid grinned, totally unfazed by his reception.

"Glad you made it here safely, Miss," he said with a little bow to Ran. "No other scares?"

"Uh... no, thank you," Ran's brow wrinkled. "So you were the boy at the train station?"

He grinned. "Guilty as charged!"

"I wish..." Shinichi muttered. "Look Kid, why the hell do you want to help me?"

Kid's grin vanished and was replaced by a much more serious expression. "Believe it or not, Kudo-kun, you and I are on the same side right now. The people you're after killed my father and I've been looking for answers ever since I found out."

Heiji's eyes narrowed. "Is that why you're committing all these crimes?" he asked. "To draw their attention?"

Kid raised an eyebrow. "That might be the reason, Hattori-kun, but a magician never reveals all his secrets!" he made a flourishing bow. "Besides, I thought it best that I work with you rather than independently - more chance of success that way."

"You do realise that we'll be bringing the police in on this?" Shinichi pointed out. "They're not going to have any qualms about arresting you along with the Organization!"

"I understand, but..." Kid grinned again. "If I can't make a good escape in the confusion that is bound to occur in the aftermath then I'm not much of a Phantom thief am I?"

Yukiko laughed. "Very well said!" she nudged her husband. "Doesn't he remind you of...?"

"Yes, but shhh," murmured Yusaku who was looking intently at Kid. He cleared his throat, drawing the attention of his son and the others. "Shinichi, I recommend you take advantage of this young man's offer, an extra element of surprise can only help your mission."

Shinichi looked a little sulky, but nodded. "I agree. But, if you're coming then you'll have to wear... be... something different. I utterly refuse to take you along looking like me OR wearing that white tux - which would be just like painting a bullseye on you."

"That's not a bad idea," Heiji said, grinning. "He could distract them and while they're taking pot shots at him then we sneak in..."

"As tempting as that is..." - Kid let off a small smoke bomb that covered him entirely for a few seconds - "I CAN go incognito when required!" - he stood before them dressed entirely in black and navy with a black cap shadowing his eyes. The jaunty monocle in his left eye the only thing indicating who he was.

"Better," said Shinichi grudgingly. He looked at the clock on the wall. "All right, it's seven-thirty - time to put this plan into action."

***

"When is Ran going to come?" Kogorou asked for the fifth time, checking his watch for the tenth. "She said she'd be over this evening!"

"I'm sure there's a good reason," said Eri, barely glancing up from her book. "Don't be so impatient, dear."

"I don't know how you can be so calm..." he grumbled and she shot him a slightly superior smile.

Truth to be told, Eri WAS very anxious, but she had better self-control than Kogorou and furthermore, would rather die than let him see her worrying like a little child. Ran's phone call earlier had put to rest some fears, but Eri wasn't going to be fully satisfied about her daughter's wellbeing until Ran actually walked through the door.

So, when the door opened, Kogorou wasn't the only one to look at it with a hopeful expression - that quickly collapsed when Shiratori entered followed by Takagi and Satou. Takagi was carrying a tele-video and the other two were carrying some folded chairs.

"Hello," Satou said cheerfully, setting the chair she was carrying down. "How are you feeling Mouri-san?"

"Er... fine," Kogorou regarded the officers with bafflement. "What are you doing?"

"Inspector Megure sent us," Shiratori said. "He said we were to come here, bringing some chairs and a tele-video," - he nodded at the item Takagi was now placing on the bedside table - "And wait for him to arrive with Hattori-san and Toyama-san."

"Did he say why?" Eri asked. "We were expecting Ran any minute."

"I think this has something to do with Ran-san," said Takagi. "Inspector Megure received a call from the Kudos about fifteen minutes ago and that's when he told us to come over."

"He'll be here in about ten minutes," Shiratori said, checking his watch. "And then I assume we'll hear the reason why we've all been called here."

At that moment the door opened and Ran walked in followed by Kazuha. She paused for a moment, and then dropped the bag she was carrying and rushed over to her parents. "Mum, Dad! I'm so sorry!"

Nothing was said for a moment as the Mouri family embraced, although several people looked a little misty-eyed. Ran pulled away, wiping her eyes and smiled. "I'm glad you're okay, Dad," she said. "And I wanted to come sooner, but..." she bit her lower lip. "Well, you'll understand more soon."

"That damn boy isn't here?" Kogorou frowned. "Where's he hiding?"

"Dad..."

"Ran! Listen, I don't want you associating with that brat anymore! He's nothing but trouble to you - making you cry and now this...!"

There was a breathless silence, even Eri didn't say a word, as Ran drew in a deep breath. "Dad, I know you're upset," she said.

"Damn right!"

"But I don't want to stop associating with Shinichi and obeying you would make the wedding a little problematic."

For the second time in less than a minute there was dead silence.

"Wh...AT?" Eri finally gasped.

Ran held up her left hand, her face flushed and a happy little smile on her lips. "Shinichi proposed earlier today and I said yes," she lifted her chin and fixed her parents with a stern glare. "I know that you're both angry with Shinichi right now and that it's because you're worried about me, but please reserve your judgements until you've heard everything," she dropped her gaze and regarded the glittering engagement ring. "You see, I do love him..."

Kogorou opened his mouth to roar his objections, but Eri shot him a quelling glance and he checked himself, satisfying himself with grumbles and dark looks.

Eri put her arm around Ran's shoulders. "We'll listen Ran, I promise."

The police officers glanced at each other a little nervously, feeling quite out of place in this scene. However, a small smile hovered on Satou's lips indicating that she was pleased for Ran. Kazuha, hovering in a corner, relaxed and swallowed the words she had been readying in Ran and Shinichi's defence.

"Thanks, Mum," Ran smiled in relief. "I promise that everything will be much clearer soon, but we do need to wait for Inspector Megure and the others."

Megure, Heizo and Toyama walked in the door ten minutes after Ran's arrival, Yukiko and Yusaku with them. Toyama fixed his errant daughter with a stern glare.

"Well, Kazuha? What do you have to say for yourself?"

She met his eyes. "I had to come, Dad. I'm sorry I worried you, but I couldn't stay at home and wait."

Toyama sighed. "I knew you would say that," he reached out and hugged her tightly. "Just try not to do it again, hmm? I don't think my old heart can take it!"

"Dad, you are NOT old!" Kazuha hugged him back, relieved to have got off so lightly - although she was sure that her father would have more to say once they were alone.

Heizo glanced around the room. "Heiji isn't here."

"Uh, no sir..." said Ran hesitantly. Heizo's stern face made her feel even more nervous. "He and Shinichi... well, this tape will explain everything," - she picked up the bag she had dropped earlier and fished out a videotape. "but I can assure you that he's well."

"Hrm..." Heizo folded his arms. "Well then, let's see this video."

***

Shinichi looked at his watch. "They should have started the video by now," he said.

"Good," Heiji said. He replaced the kendo magazine he had been flicking through. "I guess we better get moving, right?"

"Um." Shinichi glanced around. "Yeah. Where's Haibara?"

Heiji nodded to the left. "Browsing in the science section. Uh, Kudo?"

"Yes?"

"Are you sure about bringing her along? She seems pretty freaked by these guys and from what you told about her reaction during the bus jack, well, what's going to stop her flipping out again?"

Shinichi sighed. "I know, but we need her to make this trick work - remember our first idea? _That_ was a disaster in the making!" he laid a reassuring hand on Heiji's arm and managed a grin. "Look Hattori, if she starts freezing up when we get there then we'll stuff her somewhere safe and use the back-up plan."

"We have a back-up plan?"

"That's what you brought your katana for, right?" Shinichi's expression was grim and he patted his side. "And I brought. something too."

Heiji's eyes went wide. "You better keep that thing hidden, Kudo! You going to jail is _not_ part of that plan!" he looked around. "I feel nervous enough carting a sword around..."

"Just keep it in the case and no one will worry about it," Shinichi said. "I'm going to get Haibara."

He moved away and Heiji stared, unseeing, at the rack of glossy magazines in front of him. For once he was not the one exuding confidence and he felt uncomfortably aware of his own unease regarding this whole operation. Despite the attractive vision of triumphing over the crooks without police help, Heiji's inner good sense argued that perhaps this time they were in danger of being too over confident.

"The Keiyo line train will be arriving in less than ten minutes," a voice murmured behind him.

"Right," Heiji said, not turning around and taking care not to let his lips move too much. "I'll let them know."

"I'll see you when we get to Shin-Narashino," said Kid.

Heiji didn't say anything back. They had decided that Kid was to be the 'ace', an unexpected element to throw into the mix should things go wrong. So, Kid was a shadow, trailing unobtrusively behind the core three, keeping his distance until they reached the final destination.

Shinichi returned, Haibara trailing behind him, her face as expressionless as ever. She was dressed in some of Yukiko Kudo's old clothes and therefore looked a little odd in the capri pants and dark plum silk sweater, but she didn't seem to care. Her eyes met Heiji's and for a brief moment she smiled one of the strange little enigmatic smiles that had looked so out of place on her childish face. He was about to demand what she found so amusing when he caught a glimpse of Shinichi's strained face and decided not exercise restraint for once. His friend didn't need any more worries. So Heiji simply told them what Kid had said and the three walked out of the bookstore.

The platform was not very full at all and when the train came they were easily able to find good seats. Shinichi sat near the window and looked out, or at least appeared to. In reality he was watching the reflections in the glass, scanning for anyone who might be an Organization member spying on them. However the only person he saw was Kid, seated at the other end of the carriage, reading a newspaper. So Shinichi let his thoughts wander, back to Ran and the others who were probably halfway through the video by now.

*Her Dad really IS going to kill me after this...*

***

"And so Heiji Hattori and I will be going with Shiho Miyano to the location arranged by the Organization. We expect to arrive at 8 pm and hope to lull them into believing that we're playing along. Inspector Megure, I've factored in the time and calculated that by the time you have finished this video and made the arrangements, you will arrive at the meeting place not more than five minutes after we enter the building."

There was total silence in Mouri's hospital room. All eyes were glued to the small tele-video screen and Shinichi's image that had been speaking calmly for the last half hour.

"I know that many of you will be angry that we didn't contact you sooner," Shinichi was saying. "But I really couldn't think of anything else to do, so I'm sorry."

The video ended, the screen fizzing into static and Megure switched it off. He turned and regarded Ran and Kazuha, his expression stern. "How long have you girls known that Kudo was Conan?" he asked.

"About two days," said Kazuha bluntly. "I only came up here because I was worried about Heiji and Ran-chan. I didn't have a clue about Kudo-kun's situation."

"I see," Megure looked at Ran. "And you, Ran-kun?"

She sighed, absently rubbing her engagement ring. "I've suspected it on and off for a while, but I was never one hundred percent sure, not until about three or four days ago, so that's why I never said a word."

Satou nudged the stunned Takagi. "Looks like the theory you came out with in the tearoom wasn't that far fetched!(3)"

He shook his head. "I don't believe it... that was a wild, improbable suggestion... a science fiction that I never considered could actually happen!"

"You've known about this, haven't you?" Eri glared at Yukiko and Yusaku.

"Yes," said Yusaku, quite unfazed by the fiery stare. "But Shinichi was right not to spread the information around. These are highly dangerous people he was dealing with."

"Perhaps it would be best to discuss Kudo-kun's culpability on the way?" suggested Shiratori. "Otherwise we will not make the deadline."

This sensible and logical suggestion shook everyone out of the shocked paralysis that Shinichi's video had induced and the police officers immediately moved to implement the plan. Kogorou demanded that he be included and it took the combined efforts of Shiratori, Heizo and Yusaku to force him to remain behind. Eri looked as if she was going to force her presence as well, but Yukiko quickly took her aside and murmured something in her ear. Ran and Kazuha were told to stay and Officer Otaki agreed to stay behind to protect them. All in all, the entire thing took about ten minutes and soon Kogorou's room was almost empty once again.

"Damn him! Damn him!" Kogorou ranted. "He comes into my house... takes advantage of me and my daughter... has the gall to... damn him!"

Eri's mouth tightened and she folded her arms. Clearly she was sharing some of her husband's sentiments. Ran's eyes blurred with tears. Would her parents never forgive Shinichi for his deception? Surely they could see now that that it wasn't his fault?

Yukiko and Yusaku exchanged glances and then Yukiko touched Kazuha on the shoulder. "Kazuha-chan, could you take Ran-chan out to the waiting room for a while? We need to talk to the Mouris privately."

"Uh... sure," Kazuha did as she was told and the two girls left. Once the door had closed behind them, Yukiko turned and treated the Mouris to an uncharacteristic glare.

"Right," she said firmly. "It's time we straightened a few things out..."

***

The sun was setting as Shinichi and the others disembarked from the train. Kid flashed a brief, cheeky glance in their direction and moved off, melting into the early evening shadows.

The others glanced at each other and started down the road leading away from the station. Shinichi's lips moved silently as they walked, listing the landmarks Vermouth had told him over the phone.

Heiji and Haibara walked side by side behind him, each glancing from side to side, alert for any ambush.

"This is all too easy," Haibara murmured. "She's up to something... she must be."

Heiji rolled his shoulders uneasily. "Do you mind NOT being such a pessimist about this?"

"Am I? I thought I was being realistic."

"Grr..."

Shinichi's phone shrilled and he dug it out quickly. "What the hell is Ran calling me for now?" he muttered, putting it to his ear. "Yes?"

"Hello, Cool Guy,"

Shinichi's heart skipped a beat. "Vermouth."

Heiji's eyes narrowed and Shiho caught her breath, both edged closer, straining to overhear.

"What do you want now?" Shinichi demanded. "We've almost reached the meeting place..."

"I know," he could hear the smirk in her voice. "But now you have to deviate slightly from the arrangement... turn left at the next corner and go straight ahead for about ten minutes, then you'll see the new spot... the name on the building is Kuro Koi. I'm so looking forward to talking to you again, Cool Guy! Give my regards to the Osaka boy and Sherry - I'm so glad she's back to normal!"

"Wait!" but she had already signed off. Shinichi cursed and stuffed the phone in his pocket.

"What happened?" Heiji asked.

"She's changed the meeting place," Shinichi gritted.

"Is it far?" Heiji asked. "Interesting," he said after Shinichi told them. "Kuro Koi is a new company... and that's a new building!"

"Think about the name," Shinichi snarled. "Damnit!"

"Well, let's call Neechan and let her know what the new location is," Heiji said. "Don't look so grim, Kudo, this doesn't mess things up completely!"

"We can't call the police," Shinichi sighed. "They can see us."

Shiho went white and she trembled. "H-how do you know?"

"Because she knows that you are back to normal," he said. "Which she couldn't know unless she could see us."

"They could've had spies at the subway station," Heiji suggested and Shinichi shook his head. "I thought of that, but when I said we were nearly at the meeting place she said 'I know', and that's the other thing that makes me damn sure she can see us!"

"Do they know about Kid?" Haibara asked stiffly.

"No, I don't think so," Shinichi began walking again. He activated the Detective Boys badge in his pocket and then put it to his mouth, coughing to hide his true intent.

"Problems?" Kid's voice crackled over the communicator.

"Change... in... plan," Shinichi coughed.

***

Kazuha blew gently on the hot tea in her hands and glanced in Ran's direction. Her friend was seated by the window, her eyes glued to the glasses in her hands. Kazuha smiled. It had been very sneaky of Ran to slip a pair of his old glasses in Shinichi's pocket and then take another pair so that she could keep track of his progress. Kazuha sighed and sipped her tea. The police were on their way to the appointed place now, soon it would be over and...

"What?"

Ran's startled exclamation almost made Kazuha spill her drink. She hurried over to Ran - who was pale and staring at the glasses in shock. "What's happening, Ran-chan?"

"I don't know..." the other girl said breathlessly. "But... Shinichi's changed direction!"

"But wasn't he supposed to call if something changed?"

"Yes, but..." Ran frowned. "Maybe he can't... oh!"

"What now?"

Ran looked up, her eyes frightened and tearful. "I've just lost the signal - they're out of range!"

Kazuha looked around frantically. "If we could get closer..." she spotted Otaki on the hospital steps. "Ran-chan, I have an idea!" she grabbed her friend's hand and tugged her to her feet. "Come on!"

"Wha...?" was all Ran managed to say as she was dragged out of the front doors.

"Otaki-han!" Kazuha yelled, startling the beefy policeman. "We need your help!"

One thirty second explanation later and Otaki was frowning. "If they have been diverted then Hattori-sana and the others need to know."

"But we don't know where Heiji and the others are going," Kazuha explained. "But we'll have a much better idea if you take us to the area... then Ran- chan can pick up the signal again, right Ran-chan?"

"Y-yes," Ran said. "But Kazuha, we promised Shinichi and Heiji..."

"If we don't then they'll be walking into the organisation's arms without any back-up!" Kazuha flared. She looked pleadingly at Otaki. "And once we know where they are we can contact Dad and the others! Please...?"

The big man sighed. "I don't see any alternative," he said. "But you two will OBEY my orders, okay? No heroics!"

"Yes sir!" the girls chorused and hurried after him.

***

"There's a car driving down the road," Kid's voice crackled over the badge's communicator that was now pinned just under Shinichi's collar. "I don't know if it's... oh shit..."

Shinichi swallowed. "Is it them?"

"No..." Kid said slowly. "I only caught a glimpse as it went past, but I'd swear it was a cop car and... Ran Mouri was in it with the Osaka girl."

"What?" Shinichi forgot himself and yelled. Without waiting to explain to Heiji and Haibara, he broke into a run, listening frantically to Kid's disjointed words.

"A corner... didn't see... slowing..."

Shinichi rounded a corner and almost tripped over Kid, who was crouched in the shadows. "Wh-where...?" he gasped, joining Kid in the darkness.

Kid pointed to the barely discernable silver car that was moving slowly towards them from the other end of the road. "They zoomed past me and went round the corner briefly, and then came back," he said. "They're just about to pass the Kuro Koi building," he pointed to a large warehouse type building halfway down the road.

"Who is?" panted Heiji who had just caught up with them.

Shinichi looked at him, his face pale. "Ran and Kazuha are in that car..."

"What the f... Why?" Heiji cried. "What the HELL are they doing?"

"Perhaps they are trying to find out where you are going, Kudo-kun," said Haibara. She held up a pair of Shinichi's 'Conan' glasses. "These fell out of your pocket when you dashed away."

Shinichi blinked. "How... Ran! She slipped them into my pocket!" he laughed softly then. "Sneaky of her..."

"And good for us," murmured Kid. "Now we can..." There was a sudden whining wail and something small burst out from within the Kuro Koi and impacted on the car that was just creeping past. Before the horrified eyes of group, the silver car exploded in a violent ball of flame and black smoke, the resulting shockwave sending them all tumbling back.

Shinichi scrambled to his feet, staring at the blazing wreck. Beside him Heiji let out a sobbing gasp of denial, "Kazuha..."

Rage and grief bubbled up within Shinichi, culminating in a hoarse scream:

"RAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNN!!!"

***

To be continued

(1) Sharon Vineyard is Vermouth's mother. She was introduced in manga vol 34 and she and Yukiko were good friends.

(2) Heiji was shot in vol 19, hit over the head in vol 23 and stabbed in the hand by Kazuha in vol 28 - she was trying to make him let go of her so they wouldn't both fall from the cliff.

(3) A reference to Jaelle's fanfic 'Teabreak' - read it, it's funny. ^^


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