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.

Authors note: I believe I forgot to mention what ‘Kuro Koi’ translates to in the last chapter. Sorry! It can mean either ‘Black Carp’ or ‘Black Love’ depending on the kanji used.


Part Eleven


Satou Miwako’s hands drummed on the wheel, betraying her impatience. In the front seat beside her, Takagi glanced at her and felt an obscure sense of relief that he was not the only one feeling tense.  His head was still whirling with the news that the weird little genius kid, Conan, had been Shinichi Kudo all along. Of course, it did mean that Takagi felt a little better – it was galling to be out thought by a teenager, but not as bad as being out thought by a seven year old!

“Have you ever heard anything about this Organization?” Satou asked suddenly.

“Uh...” Takagi racked his brain. “No, no I can’t say I have.”

“One of my old superiors once hinted that there was a criminal ring that was so secret and so insidious that many officers considered it an urban myth, but he was convinced that it really existed,” she smiled tightly. “Looks like he was right.”

“Maybe,” said Takagi. He frowned. “But why couldn’t Kudo-kun come to us? We would have protected him!”

“Yeah, but...” Satou pursed her lips. “You heard the tape, he couldn’t let it leak that he was still alive – especially once he found out more about these people – because they would have targeted the people close to him,” her smile softened. “And obviously the thought of anything happening to Ran-chan was enough to stop him talking to us.”

“He really does care about her...” Takagi murmured.

“Mmm,” she shot him a quick glance. “What would you do in his situation, Takagi?”

He swallowed. “I... uh... I...” he cleared his throat and stared resolutely ahead. “Perhaps I’d do the same thing...”

“Really?” Satou’s smile widened. “Good.”

The radio crackled then, preventing Takagi from pursuing this rather interesting conversation. Quickly he picked it up and announced himself. Megure’s voice crackled over the com.

“We’ve just received an urgent call from Officer Otaki,” he said. “Looks like Kudo has had to change direction. Otaki’s
investigating, but we are to proceed to the original location for now.”

“Yes sir!” Takagi exchanged a quick, worried glance with Satou.

What had happened now?

***

She felt the heat first, and then heard the roaring, crackling sound of fire. She stirred, opening her eyes and briefly succumbing to hysterical panic when she found that something was covering her body. Getting herself under control she realised that it was a large piece of roofing iron and she remembered why she was underneath it.

“Ran? RAN?” Kazuha’s voice, edgy with fear, drifted to her ringing ears.

“K...Ka...” it took an effort to speak, her throat was painfully dry. “Kazuha!” she finally managed to croak out her friend’s name.

“RAN!” the Osaka girl’s face appeared beside her as Kazuha looked beneath the iron covering Ran. “Oh God... I thought...”

Ran smiled at Kazuha’s dirty, tear-streaked face. “I’m okay... a little woozy, but okay.”

She managed to sit up, pushing the metal away from her, wincing because it was hot to touch. “Ow...”

Kazuha helped and between them, the two girls managed to extract Ran successfully from the rubbish. Ran stood up shakily. Miraculously, she really was all right – apart from a few cuts and bruises. She stared across the road, at the blazing pile that once had been...

“Otaki-han...” Kazuha sobbed. “He saved us, but...”

Ran swallowed against her own tears. She remembered the car slowing down and Otaki leaning out of the window, muttering something that Ran couldn’t catch. Suddenly he pulled back, turning to yell at them to get out NOW! They didn’t question, just scrambled out, stumbling in the darkness and just reaching the other side of the road when the car exploded behind them. If they had been a fraction of a second slower, if they had been wearing seatbelts...

“He didn’t get out, did he?” Ran said in a stunned mumble.

The other girl was distraught, tears streaming down her face. “I d-don’t t-think so... oh, Ran...” her head slumped onto Ran’s shoulder, tears soaking Ran’s shirt. “This is all MY fault! If I hadn’t, if I...”

“No, no Kazuha-chan, it’s not your fault,” Ran’s fists clenched. “If anyone’s to blame then it’s me...”

“Actually, the people who really have to take the blame are the ones who blew up the car. After all, they’re the ones who started this whole mess, right?”

Ran and Kazuha whirled around, both moving into defensive postures, and stared at the person standing in the shadows behind them. For a moment Ran thought it was Shinichi she was staring at, but then she realised her error and relaxed her guard.

“Kaito Kid!”

“Come with me,” he said, grabbing their hands and pulling them back into a narrow alleyway. “I don’t think you’ve been seen, but we’d better not take any chances. Besides, there are two people who will go mad if they don’t see you and soon!”

***

“What the HELL were you thinking?” Vermouth screamed in Vodka’s ear. “Do you think no one’s going to notice a car exploding? Do you really want to announce our presence to EVERYONE? You idiot!”

Vodka cringed slightly in the full blast of her rage. “It was a cop...” he started to explain.

“And we could have disposed of him FAR more quietly INSIDE!” Vermouth swore in English and her fingers twitched, creeping towards her gun. But Gin’s hand closed around her wrist, squeezing painfully.

“Losing your cool?” he said, smiling sardonically.

Vermouth inhaled deeply, regaining her self-control. “No,” she said coldly. “Only this idiot...”

“It’s your fault,” Gin growled. “You’re the one who placed him there. You KNOW Vodka’s limitations, Vermouth.”

She looked at him, eyes glittering, murder clearly stamped on her face. Then, her customary mask snapped back into place and she smiled, easing her wrist out of his grip. “Well, maybe you’re correct, Gin,” she tossed her hair back. “Why don’t you take his place then?” Vermouth quirked an eyebrow at him. “Or is that beyond your limitations?”

He thrust his face forward so that they were nose to nose. “Don’t push it woman... I am getting sick of this whole fiasco! What makes you so sure that this little detective will dance to your tune? He’s already proven that he’s a tricky little bastard...”

“Yes, but I’ve studied him,” she said smoothly. “I know how he thinks. He’s smart, but he’s still a child. He’ll do exactly as I predicted and even if there IS an anomaly, well...” she glanced to the side, eyes resting on a closed door. “I have an ace to play...”

***

Kazuha was both shocked and thrilled by Heiji’s reaction when Kid led her and Ran to the boys and Haibara who were waiting a little way down the road. First he stared, like he couldn’t believe his eyes, clearly not hearing Kid boasting that he knew the girls had survived. Then Heiji grabbed her and held her so tightly that Kazuha’s face was squished against his chest and she could barely breath. His voice sounded in her ear, a gasping sound, muttering over and over, “You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay...”

If Kazuha could have turned her head, she would have seen that Shinichi had reacted in almost exactly the same way, enveloping Ran in a tight embrace.

All too soon, Heiji released Kazuha and gave her a rather violent shake. “What the HELL are you DOING here?” he hissed. “How could you be so STUPID? You could have been killed just now, do you realise that? KILLED!”

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry..." Kazuha sobbed, guilt welling up within her again. "But we found out you'd changed direction and we had to try to find you so the police would know..."

"How did you know that?" Shinichi asked, his arms still around  Ran. She raised her head from his shoulder. "Your glasses," she said.

"Huh?" Shinichi looked blankly at her. Then he delved into one of his pockets and pulled out a pair of his Conan glasses.  "Oh... you sneaked these in my pocket?"

"Yes," Ran confessed. "And Doctor Agasa gave me another pair so  I could keep track of you. When we saw you were moving we wanted to contact the police, but we had no idea where you were going so..."

"So I suggested that we follow so Ran-chan could keep you in range," Kazuha explained breathlessly, her eyes on Heiji. "And call the police. Otaki-san..." her voice cracked.

Heiji's glower cleared. "Oh, so Otaki-han is with you? That's not so bad..." he looked over Kazuha's shoulder. "Where is he?"

Silence greeted his question, Kazuha finding herself unable to speak and Ran searching for the words. But Heiji soon realised the truth as it was written clearly on their faces.

"No..." Memories of the large, hearty policeman flitted through his mind. Otaki had been a part of Heiji's life since before he could walk, looking after him, teaching, and even aiding him in various escapades. In some ways Otaki had filled a gap that Heiji's stern father left vacant, becoming a second father who admired and praised Heiji's abilities without censure. Heiji gasped, feeling like a fist was driving into his gut. For a moment, he reeled in shock and grief, and then anger forced its way in and his hands curled into tight fists. "I'll kill them for this..."

Shinichi laid a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Hattori," he said, a cautionary note in his voice. "You won't do Otaki-san any favours if you lose control."

Heiji closed his eyes and drew in a couple of deep breaths. “I know, Kudo... I know...”

“Speaking of control,” Kid spoke up for the first time. “Houston, we have a problem...”

They stared at him blankly, not understanding the reference, but then Shinichi looked over at Haibara and understood.

She was pale and shaking, her eyes wide and staring into space. Shinichi recalled the last time he had seen her like this and groaned softly. “Great...”

Heiji scowled at Ai, his emotions seeking an outlet and finding it in anger. “I knew she’d freak out! What do we do now?”

“Actually, I did have a back up plan for just this possibility,” said Kid cheerfully before Shinichi could say anything. He whipped a blond wig out of nowhere and waved it about. “It’s no trouble for me to take her place.”

Shinichi hesitated. Kid was the element of surprise that was supposed to extract them from any trouble they got into once inside the building. If Kid played the part of Sherry, then they would no longer have that ace. However, he was forced to admit that the alternatives were few. They had to show up with Sherry.

“Umm... Shinichi?” Ran’s voice interrupted his thoughts.

“What?”

She stretched out a hand and snagged the wig from the surprised Kid. Quickly she had placed it on her own head, tucking up her long brown dark hair. “There,” she said, spreading her hands. “All I have to do is keep my head down and they won’t know the difference!”

“No!” Shinichi cried. “Ran, are you mad? They want to kill Sherry! It’s too dangerous!”

She looked at him with stern eyes. “Too dangerous for me but okay for Ai?” she asked. “Shinichi, that’s not right. Besides.” She smiled slightly. “I do have some protection. Look!” she unbuttoned her shirt and showed them the flat, black material of a bulletproof vest.

Heiji blinked. “When did you get that?”

“Otaki-san,” said Kazuha. “He insisted that we put them on before we came here.”

Shinichi was still reluctant and it took a fair bit of persuading on Ran and Kazuha’s part to agree. Kazuha pointed out that they might as well do something while they were here and the Organization would definitely not being expecting Ran! Finally Shinichi looked at his watch and sighed. “All right, all right... we’ll do it, but you better listen to me, Ran. If I say run, then you run!”

“I promise, Shinichi.”

“Kazuha, you stay with Haibara, wait five minutes or so and then call the police,” Shinichi handed her his cell phone. “Officer Takagi’s number is in my address book.”

“Go a little further up the road,” Heiji said. He touched her shoulder, almost as if he wanted to hold her again, but he turned away. “Keep out of sight, okay?”

“Sure,” Kazuha nodded, clutching the cell phone nervously as she watched Heiji adjust his katana so it was settled comfortably on his back. “Be careful... all of you.” Her eyes remained glued to Heiji’s face and she felt a wave of fear wash over her. *This might be the last time I see him...*

Ran made a few adjustments to the wig and swallowed. “I’m ready,” she said.

Shinichi patted his side, feeling the holstered gun resting there. “Then let’s go.”

The four started to walk away, Ran in between Heiji and Shinichi, Kid melting back into the shadows.

“Heiji!” Kazuha called softly.

He paused and turned back to her, making a quick gesture to Shinichi, telling him to keep going. “What?”

Screwing up her courage, Kazuha hugged him. “You better come back to me, Aho.”

His hand stroked her hair. “You won’t get rid of me that easily,” he murmured.

Sniffing a little, Kazuha released him and gave him a little shove. “Well, goodby...”

His fingers pressed against her mouth. “Don’t say goodbye like that,” Heiji flashed her a grin. “You sound like we’re never going to see each other again and I promise you that is NOT going to happen!”

And with those words he left, running to catch up with the others.

***

He smiled when he saw them approach, a cold, hungry smile. Levelling the gun so that the cross hairs encompassed the trio entering the gates, Gin trained the laser sight on the woman in between the two meddling young detectives.

“Sherry...”

The name was hissed between his teeth and his finger caressed the curve of the trigger. All he had to do was press down and finally the traitor would be dead, bleeding red on the cold concrete. Then that thrice-damned boy, Shinichi Kudo, noticed the small red point on the young woman’s chest and glared upwards.

“Gin...” Vermouth’s breath ruffled his hair. She had sneaked up behind him and was now standing at his shoulder. There was a click and the cold point of a gun pressed against his temple. “I do hope that you are not going to emulate Vodka and succumb to temptation?”

He gritted his teeth. “No,” he eased his finger off the trigger. “But only because it would be too quick a death for her.”

Vermouth let out a little sigh and pull her gun away. “Excellent, I’m so glad you see it my way.” She smiled whimsically when he narrowed his eyes at her. “It would be most inconvenient if I had to shoot you.”

The detectives had stopped now and moved in front of Sherry – who kept her head cast down and hands clasped together. Vermouth chuckled. “Poor darling! She’s afraid of us!”

That made Gin frown. Something wasn’t quite right...

“Come in!” Vermouth called down to them. “I do apologize for my friend, Cool guy, but it’s been a long night!”

*Cool guy?* Gin rolled his eyes. He never understood Vermouth predilection for giving people odd nicknames.

“Well, keep him under control!” Kudo yelled back at her. He seemed remarkably confident to Gin (and a little taller than he remembered), but Gin suspected there was a lot of bravado covering Kudo’s real feelings. As for the other... Gin couldn’t quite make out the boy’s face, his darker skin fading him into the night, but his posture spoke of someone struggling to contain a lot of rage. Gin stroked the trigger again. No, he did not like this.

Vermouth moved away from the window and walked onto the landing and down the stairs she activated a small com on her chest. “Are your men in position, Rum?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” a voice crackled over it. “We’re waiting for your signal and I’ve got a couple of people watching the road.”

“Excellent,” Vermouth smirked up at Gin who was standing in the doorway of the room they had just exited. “What did I tell you? Everything is working out exactly as I predicted!”

He merely snorted. “We’ll see.” He did not put away his gun.

Vodka hovered in the entrance way to the room on their right, half in the shadows. He shot a wary glance at Vermouth, but said nothing as she held up a small remote and clicked it, allowing the doors to swing open to admit their ‘guests’.

Shinichi stepped inside first, his face taut with suspicion and keeping Sherry behind him and Heiji just a step behind. He took in the interior quickly, taking in all possible escape routes and ambush areas. Clearly the building had once been used as a storehouse and, from the ill-defined shapes he could see in the large room behind Vodka and piled on the walkway, it still contained some items. Vermouth stood at the foot of a steep set of stairs that led to a walkway that ran around the entire circumference of the main room they now stood in. In the dim light, Shinichi could just make out another set of stairs and the entrances to several rooms branching off the walkway. A shiver ran through him when he saw Gin standing on the left side of the walkway.

“Welcome to Kuro Koi, Cool Guy,” Vermouth said with a phoney, sweet smile. “You’re very timely and I see you’ve brought a friend!” she looked at Heiji. “<<How nice to see you again, Heiji Hattori!>>”

Heiji’s expression could have been carved out of stone. “<<You think I’d let him walk in here alone?>>”

“Such touching loyalty,” Vermouth murmured. Her eyes glinted dangerously. “How sad the same quality isn’t part of your make-up, Sherry!”

Shinichi laughed sharply. “Isn’t this the pot calling the kettle black?” he said, recalling an old English saying his father had taught him. “I doubt very much whether you people trust each other at all!”

Gin made an impatient sound. “This is a waste of time,” he growled down at them. “Come up here, Sherry!”

She had kept her face lowered the whole time, but now she looked up, meeting the cold eyes of the man who was ultimately responsible for Shinichi’s fate. Internally, Ran shivered, but outwardly she kept herself composed. “I don’t think Sherry will be joining you today,” she said the words she had been rehearsing in her mind. “She is otherwise engaged.”

There was a short, stunned silence for a moment as the Black Organization stared at the girl in front of them. Shinichi pulled out his gun. Heiji unsheathed his katana. But before they had moved more than one step, Vermouth threw back her head and laughed.

“Wonderful! Wonderful!” she cried. “I KNEW you wouldn’t really hand her over so easily, Cool Guy, but I never expected this!” she froze Shinichi with a cold, oddly triumph look. “Using your precious angel...”

She threw up an imperious hand to halt Gin and Vodka. Gin’s eyes were blazing with cold rage, clearly he was not happy about his long await pleasure being thwarted – nor was he pleased that Vermouth had known that this was a likely outcome.

“However,” Vermouth continued. “As I expected something like this I’m not as shocked as I’m sure you hoped I would be,” she laughed again as faint flickers of angry vexation crossed the teenagers’ faces. “Such a pity though,” she mocked. “I really was going to spare you, Angel. And all the others,” she tutted. “How does it feel, Shinichi Kudo, knowing that you’ve brought the one you wanted to protect most to her death?”

Ran clenched her fists. “It’s not his fault!” she cried. “I asked to come!” she glared at the woman whom she had once considered something of a friend. “And I’m glad that this means you won’t ever find A... Sherry!”

“Oh, really?” Vermouth’s eyes widened. “You think so?” she snapped her fingers. “But you see, I always play to win and one of you will bring Sherry to us – as I am sure she is not too far away. Madeira!”

They heard the voices first. Small, high-pitched voices struggling to hold back frightened tears and attempting to be brave. Shinichi’s face went chalk white and Ran gasped in horror, while Heiji’s dark skin paled to milky coffee.

Shinichi’s eyes flew up to the right side of the walkway where a tall, black clothed woman was prodding along three frightened children, all trussed together with rope, only their legs able to move.

Ayumi saw him first and hope shone through the fear on her little tear-streaked face. “Kudo-niisan! And Ran-neechan!”

Shinichi’s heart twisted as Genta and Mitsuhiko also swallowed their own tears and gazed hopefully down. The sickening feeling that he had been out manoeuvred welled up in him. How could he make a move while Madeira had a gun pointing at the children’s heads? She was watching him so closely that he knew one move on his part and the Detective Boys would immediately be a member short. Beside him, Ran let out a strangled sob.

“Oh Shinichi... what are we going to do?”

“Do, Angel?” Vermouth smiled. “I would think that’s rather obvious. You won’t do anything.”

Gin pointed his gun at Shinichi. “Except die,” his cold gaze flickered over the three teenagers. “The only question being which one goes first...”

“Let them go!” Shinichi demanded, trying not to think about the gun aiming directly for his heart. “They’re not a threat to you!”

“No,” Vermouth agreed. “But they make such handy little hostages for your good behaviour,” she raised her own weapon. “It’s been a fun game, Cool Guy. But as with every game there has to be a winner and a loser – and I never lose.”

Suddenly something whirred through the air and struck the gun out of Vermouth’s hand. It moved so fast that no one could see what it was until it hit the wall and stuck there, quivering. It was an ace of spades.

Shinichi moved first, whipping out his gun and firing at Gin who leapt to one side, firing back. Kaito Kid dropped in from a window and threw a smoke bomb, obscuring Gin’s vision. Ran bolted forward, knocking Vermouth to one side and running up the stairs towards the children. Meanwhile, Heiji covered Vodka, using his katana to force the larger man back.

Confusion reigned. Vermouth, moving as quickly as a cat regained her gun and composure. She whirled and fired on Ran just as Madeira did the same. Both bullets hit the girl on the torso and Ran staggered, grabbing the balustrade to stop herself falling. Vermouth’s eyes narrowed when she saw no blood spouting from what should have been a fatal wound. She started to press the trigger again, aiming for Ran’s head, but Shinichi rammed into her and the bullet went wide. Without pausing, Shinichi ran up the stairs, reaching Ran and pulling the winded girl to her feet.

Madeira aimed at them, but before she could fire, the children simultaneously kicked her shins. Then, they pushed her so violently that she fell heavily against the walkway barrier, breaking it and tumbling down to the lower floor.

Kid, having enveloped Gin in yet another cloud of smoke, reached the children and released them.

Meanwhile. Kid reached the children before Ran and quickly released them. “Quick,” he said, pushing them towards the other set of stairs. “Run and hide!

For once they obeyed without question, and only paused to shoot Ran and Shinichi worried glances before scrambling up into the darkness.

“Rum!” Vermouth yelled, picking herself up off the floor and running up the stairs. “Back-up! NOW!”

“Not so confident now, are you?” Shinichi taunted and Vermouth looked at him, eyes glittering with ice.

“Clever boy,” she snarled. “But as I said... I DON’T LOSE!” She kicked out, striking his wrist with a numbingly painful blow. Having watched Ran do similar things in many karate matches, Shinichi managed to twist aside just enough to avoid a broken wrist, but the pain forced him to drop the gun. Vermouth smirked. “And now we’re even!”

Shinichi clenched his fists, preparing to grapple with her, but then Ran leapt forward and knocked Vermouth aside with a lightening quick roundhouse kick. As the blond woman stumbled back, Ran advanced on her. “Shinichi, leave her to me,” she ordered.

He was about to object, but then saw Gin step out of Kid’s smoke. Gin leaned over the balustrade, aiming for Kid who was helping Heiji fight off Vodka and the now recovered Madeira. Quickly Shinichi picked up his gun and fired, shooting the hat off Gin’s shoulder.

“Be careful, Ran!” he yelled and ran up the stairs. Gin swore and got to his feet. His face contorted with anger, eyes intent, he ran after Shinichi.

Vermouth didn’t give Ran time to savour victory, she was on her feet and attacked Ran with a rapid series of kicks and punches that Ran could barely dodge. Soon, Ran found herself forced back into a large, empty room that was lit only by moonlight.

“This is most unexpected,” Vermouth panted as they circled each other, looking for weaknesses. “So even angels grow claws...”

“I don’t like your games!” Ran snapped. “And I don’t like my friends and family being terrorised by your damn Organization! I won’t just sit by and take it, not anymore, not after being hunted by you people! Aaaaaaaaa!” she attacked again, striking out with her most ferocious punches.

***

Heiji and Kid had managed to disable Madeira, but just as they were about to defeat Vodka, a horde of men burst through the door.

“Aw shit!” Heiji yelled as bullets flew at him. He dived into the other room. Shoving the katana back in its sheath, he brought the gun he had whipped off Madeira into play. Heiji was no slouch with this sort of weapon and the Black Organization members pursuing him went down with shattered kneecaps until they were all groaning on the floor.

“Not bad, kid,” Vodka’s heavy voice sounded in the shadows. Heiji crouched behind a crate and listened carefully, trying to pinpoint the burly man’s location through the groans and the sound of Kid’s fight in the other room.

“And to think I thought this was going to be boring,” Vodka said. “But between you lot and that stupid policeman earlier this is quite entertaining.”

Heiji froze. “What policeman?”

Vodka laughed, an ugly, hulking sound. “The one snooping around earlier. He was a good test for this baby!” he patted the heavy weapon in his hands.

Heiji’s eyes widened in shock. So this was the man who had killed Otaki! Rage surged through him and he slowly got to his feet. “I’m going to kill you for that.”

Vodka’s laughter intensified. “Really? And how with you do that when you are DEAD!”

There was a whine and something flew over Heiji’s head, impacting on the wall behind him and then exploding in a huge ball of flame. Glass shattered and the building rocked. Heiji was blown off his feet and sent tumbling across the floor. When he got to his feet, he realised that somewhere he had dropped the gun and now Vodka was standing before him, armed and aiming at his head.

“Well?” Vodka grinned. “How are you going to kill me, kid?”

Heiji looked at him, a red mist clouding his vision. Without thought, the Osaka detective ran straight at the big man, pulling his katana free.

“Idiot!” Vodka yelled and fired.

Years of martial arts training and pure, dumb luck enabled Heiji to swerve and duck just in time. The bullet grazed his cheek and blood flowed down, but Heiji didn’t feel it. Vodka fired again and again, managing to hit Heiji in the thigh, but still the boy came at him. Disbelieving, Vodka tried to move aside, but it was too late and he couldn’t avoid the sharp blade that sliced into his hand. Involuntarily he dropped the gun and let out a yell of pain as Heiji swiped the katana across his front, slicing through layers of clothing and cutting flesh.

As Vodka stumbled back, Heiji threw aside the katana. The sword wasn’t enough, Heiji wanted to have the satisfaction of pummelling Vodka with his own fists. The red mist still obscured his sight, all he could think about was Otaki and how this person, this thing had snuffed out the life of a good man and then laughed about it.

Vodka tried to fight back. He was a good fighter, one of the best, but while he managed a few excellent blows, he was no match for the murderous rage powering Heiji. Finally Heiji’s fist slammed into Vodka’s face, smashing the dark glasses into the man’s eyes and sending him reeling back. For a moment, Vodka swayed on his feet, but then gravity called and he crashed onto the concrete floor with a loud thud.

Heiji stood over him, breathing heavily, his hand dripping blood and embedded with little pieces of glass. Still Heiji refused to register any pain and calmly picked up the katana he had thrown aside.

“You want to know how I’m going to kill you?” he said, raising the blade. “You’re about to find out!”

“HEIJI!”

The cry tore through the anger and he turned to see Kazuha standing in the doorway, her father and his father just behind.

“No, Heiji, don’t...” she said, stepping towards him. “It’s over.”

He looked down at Vodka who was beginning to stir and hesitated. Behind Kazuha, Heizo and Toyama exchanged glances and followed the girl. Heiji closed his eyes and lowered his hands. “What the hell am I doing?” he murmured as Kazuha’s arm slipped around his shoulders.

“It’s okay,” she said soothingly, her voice soft in his ears. “It’s okay...”

Heizo and Toyama forced Vodka to his feet and cuffed him. Heizo looked at his son. “You better get yourself seen to,” he said gruffly. “Your mother will never forgive me if you come home with all of those injuries!”

Heiji blinked. “I’m injured?” he murmured and then winced as he finally registered all this wounds. “oh yeah...” he sucked in his breath. “Kudo... Dad! What about Kudo and Neechan? And...”

His father’s face was grimmer than usual. “That’s not your concern anymore.”

***

Earlier:

Mitsuhiko led the way, holding Ayumi’s hand to help her up the stairs. They stumbled up, frequently slipping, looking for an open door, anything that could be a hiding place, but all they encountered were windows. It felt as if they had been climbing for hours and they were beginning to despair until they reached a small landing with two rooms on the right and left. Genta did some unusually quick thinking and threw one of his shoes into the right hand room and then they dashed to the left. They scuttled behind some crates and crouched down, trying to muffle their breathing.

Mitsuhiko peeked around the crate and his heart leapt into his mouth when he saw Gin’s long figure pause on the landing. However, Genta’s ruse seemed to work and Gin entered the right hand room. Mitsuhiko sank back, giving the others the thumbs up and a shaky smile.

Then, just as they were beginning to think they were safe, a scraping sound coming from the room’s one window made then tense up once more. Before their frightened eyes, a tall figure climbed in and started moving stealthily forward. Ayumi let out a small, frightened squeak. Immediately she clamped her hands over her mouth, but it was too late. The figure stopped and moved towards them. They sat there, too terrified to move.

“Good hiding place,” the figure whispered and a low light suddenly illuminated his face. The children gasped in relief and astonishment.

“Shinichi-niisan!”

Shinichi joined them behind the crate, lifting his wrist so that he could see their faces in the beam of his wristwatch flashlight. “Are you three all right?”

“Yeah,” said Mitsuhiko. “But that guy...”

They heard a crash from the other room and some swearing. Shinichi huffed. “At least he’s being thorough, that may buy some time,” he gave them all a confident grin. “You guys stay here and don’t move unless someone you know, like me or the police get you. Okay?”

“Yes, but...” A loud boom cut Genta off and the building rocked alarmingly. Shinichi looked up. “What the...?”

“Is the building collapsing?” Mitsuhiko quavered.

“Why do you keep coming up with these bad case scenarios?” Shinichi murmured. “Well, maybe it isn’t safe for you to stay here. Wait for me to lead him away and then go out the window, there’s a fire escape there – that’s what I climbed up – you can get down to the ground from there. The police will be coming soon so wait for there somewhere away from this building!” he grinned at them. “Come on, I know you guys can do it! You’re the Detective Boys!”

“C-Conan...”

They all looked at Ayumi who was staring at Shinichi. “You’re Conan, aren’t you?” she whispered sadly.

Shinichi didn’t try to protest or even ask how she had figured it out. He simply sighed. “I’m sorry, Ayumi-chan.”

Tears brimmed in her eyes, but she blinked them away and got to her feet. “We’ll do as you say.”

“Thanks,” he said. “For everything.”

He left and children stared after him. “He’s Conan?” Genta hissed. “That’s impossible!”

They heard several shots and shouts, and then the sound of hurrying footsteps going up the stairs. Mitsuhiko cautiously moved out from behind the crate. “Come on,” he said. “We better go.”

Ayumi glanced over her shoulder. “I hope he’s gonna be okay.”

Genta tried to give her a reassuring smile. “Hey, this is Conan-kun, remember? He gets out of big problems all the time!”

***
 
Shinichi literally ran for his life up the stairs. Gin was close behind him, a fact made potently clear by the bullets that whizzed past Shinichi’s ears. *How many bullets does he have in that gun anyway? I’ve only got two left and that’s after reloading! Ah... idiot Shinichi! Of course he’s going to have a second gun in that damn great big coat!*

He slammed into a door at the top of the stairs and for a few frantic seconds struggled to open it. Thankfully it was not locked, only stiff with unuse and he managed to get it open and run out onto the roof with merely seconds to spare. This saved Shinichi’s life, but...

“Argh!” he howled and stumbled as a bullet ripped through his upper arm. “Damn!”

Shinichi spun around and faced Gin who was standing a few feet away, a triumphant smile on his face. “Well, great detective... I get to kill you again!”

“Don’t be so sure,” Shinichi gasped. Trying to ignore the agonizing pain, he lifted his gun and pointed it at Gin, all the while walking backwards to get as much distance between them as possible.

Gin laughed coldly. “Your hand is shaking,” he said. “How well do you think you can... argh!” he swerved to the side as Shinichi fired.

*Shit... he’s right! I can’t stop my hand moving!* Shinichi clenched his teeth. *Gotta make the next one count!*

“Wha...”

Before Shinichi could squeeze the trigger for a second time, Gin moved forward at an incredible speed and wrenched the gun out Shinichi’s hand. At the same time he punched the young detective on the wounded shoulder, which sent Shinichi to his knees, his mind whirling with pain.

“This time I won’t leave before the final act,” Gin grabbed Shinichi by his collar and hauled him over to the edge of the roof. He pressed the gun muzzle to Shinichi’s temple. “Finally farewell, detective Shinichi Kudo.”

“GIN!”

He paused and turned, eyes lighting with an unholy gleam at the sound of her voice. “Sherry...” he rasped.

Shinichi heard the shot and then saw the bullet strike Gin in the chest, blood blossoming on his chest. The blond man staggered back, a look of shock and anger on his face. He tried to raise his gun. “Sherry...” he hissed again and another bullet slammed into him.

Gin’s nerveless fingers lost their grip and the gun fell with a clunk just as its owner lost his balance and tumbled over the edge of the roof. Shinichi jerked forward, making a wild grab for Gin, but the man fell swiftly and disappeared into the dark seawater. Shinichi looked back at the woman standing in the doorway, her face pale and the gun still raised in her outstretched hands.

“H-haibara!”

She lowered her arms, dropping the gun, and smiled at him. Relief flowed across her face. “I’m glad you’re all right, Kudo-kun.”

He got to his feet. “Thanks to you! But Haibara... I thought... you were...”

“Too frightened?” she nodded. “I was, and still am if you want the truth, but...” she met his eyes. “I realised that I couldn’t let you fight this battle for me, not when she was prepared to risk her life as well. So I sneaked away while Toyama-san was calling the police.”

He reached out and took her hands. “Thank you – again. I know this was tough for you,” he tilted his head and listened to the sounds from below. “The police are here?”

“Yes,” Ai sighed softly. “Your Osaka friend and that phantom thief acquitted themselves well. I think that was the element Vermouth didn’t expect. That and...”

“Ran,” Shinichi’s blood chilled. “Did you see her? She was fighting Vermouth...”

Ai shook her head. “I never saw her or that woman,” she touched Shinichi’s wounded arm gently. “Go and find her, Kudo-kun.”

He hesitated. “But...”

“I’ll be fine,” she said. “It’s best that the police don’t find me yet anyway,” she shoved him. “Go!”

Shinichi shot her a grateful glance and ran back down the steps. Ai looked after him, a strangely wistful expression on her face. She walked to the edge of the roof and peered over the side, eyes narrowed as she scanned the sea. He must be dead... must be...

“Oh!” she gasped involuntarily as a ripple of pain shot through her. Not the pain of being shot, but... “How? It was the twenty-four hour...” she sank to her knees, steam rising from her overheated body. “Oh well... per... haps... this is... best...”

***

They had been duelling for what seemed like hours and both were feeling the strain. Several times they broke apart and eyed each other, seeking weak spots over and over again. Ran was breathing hard, her arms and legs aching and there was a persistent burning pain on her left side from where Vermouth had managed to land a blow. She divorced her mind from the hurt; this was not a competition where a referee would call the match so she could be checked out before she could fight again. This was reality and one false move could mean death.

“I’m quite impressed, Angel,” Vermouth said, during one pause in the battle. “That you have a dark side too.”

Ran frowned. She knew Vermouth was trying to psyche her out, but it was hard not to respond to the woman’s barbed comments. There was no trace of Jodie-sensei in Vermouth now. She was a completely different person, cold and mocking, her whole being focused on defeating Ran.

“Why?” Ran panted. “Why are you doing this? You’re a famous actress... you don’t need to...”

Vermouth’s mouth quirked into a half-smile. “Maybe I was a little bored,” she said. “After all, my talents are much more useful here!”

“You kill people... play games because you’re bored?” Ran cried. “That’s terrible!” She launched herself at Vermouth, anger lending her renewed strength. Her fists flew out at a rapid pace and Vermouth was forced to jump backwards, leaping out of the room and onto a balcony. Ran zoomed forward to follow up on her newly won advantage, but Vermouth grabbed a supporting beam and swung herself around. Ran saw Vermouth’s feet coming towards her and had just enough time to throw up her arms, protecting her face. The force of the kick sent Ran smashing painfully into the wall and she sagged, stunned.

Laughing, Vermouth perched on the railing. “Dear Angel... so naïve...” she reached into her jacket.

*She’s going to kill me,* Ran thought, struggling to get to her feet. Sirens sounded nearby and she felt some measure of satisfaction despite Vermouth pulling out a gun. “The police are here,” she gasped. “Your Organization is finished. Shinichi won.”

“Really?” Vermouth sneered. “Too late for you though.”

“I don’t care!” Ran flashed defiantly, finally managing to stand up. But she was lying. She did care, very much.

Shots rang out above them and Vermouth flicked a glance upwards. “Bye bye, Cool Guy,” she murmured and Ran let out a cry of loss.

“Shinichi...” He couldn’t be dead! No, no! She wouldn’t believe it... never.

“Goodnight sweet Angel...” Vermouth levelled the muzzle of the gun. “It certainly was enjoyable knowing you...”

Something whooshed past, striking the edge of the balcony and falling into the sea with a loud splash. Ran’s eyes widened. She had seen enough to know that it was body and it wasn’t Shinichi.

Vermouth had seen the same. “Gin?” she cried incredulously, staring after the body. “No...”

An ominous cracking sound drew both women’s attention away from Gin’s death. His body had hit the same support that Vermouth had used and that had been too much for the old wooden structure. Before their horrified eyes, the support and the part of the railing Vermouth was perched on gave way. Vermouth made a wild grab, trying to find something solid to stop her following the balcony into the sea. Nothing came to hand and she started to fall, but then her wrist was caught by a strong grip and she looked up to see Ran. The girl was holding onto another support with one hand while she held Vermouth in the other.

Their eyes met, Vermouth’s wide with surprise and Ran’s narrowed with strain.

“Why?” Vermouth croaked.

“Because...” Ran gasped. “I’m not... like... you!”

The rest of the balcony creaked, more pieces starting to give way under the combined strain of their weight. Ran tried to pull Vermouth up, but her arms were too weak, damaged by Vermouth’s earlier blows. “You’ll have to...”

“Too late,” Vermouth smiled ruefully. “You really are an angel... Ran.”

With a sharp movement Vermouth twisted her wrist out of Ran’s grip and plummeted into the water.

“No!” Ran screamed.

The balcony swayed and she clung on to the support, sobbing. Hands reached out and pulled her to safety, arms enfolding her in a warm embrace. She looked up into Shinichi’s face.

“Sh-shinichi... you’re all right...”

“Idiot,” he kissed her forehead. “What were you trying to do? Get yourself killed?”

“N-no...” Ran sniffed. “Jodie...Vermouth... She fell. I tried to hold her but... she wouldn’t let me...”

Shinichi glanced over at the dark sea, his expression unreadable. Behind them came the sounds of police officers rounding up the remaining Organization members. Ran laid her cheek on Shinichi’s chest and sighed. “This is it, right? It’s all over?”

He rubbed her back gently. “Yes, Ran. It’s all over...”


Go on to Part Twelve

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