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 Five



 

"I'm sorry, Mouri, but there isn't much we can do that we're not doing already," Inspector Megure spread his hands. "I assure you that as soon as we spot Ran-kun, we'll let you know."

"We're all concerned for her," Sato added, trying to help calm the man who was standing before them. Mouri's face was drawn into harsh, worried lines and his whole body was tense. His gaze slid away from Megure when Sato spoke and fixed on her.

"I appreciate the concern," he bit out. "But I want to know WHAT my daughter is doing running around in Osaka with that loon who calls himself the detective of the West! AND why Heizo Hattori thinks she was abducted while in Heiji's company!"

Megure and Sato exchanged quick glances. "Ran-kun didn't say anything about a trip to Osaka?" Megure ventured. "After all, she's quite close to..."

"If she was going to go to Osaka, why did she leave me this note?" Kogorou thrust out the small piece of paper he had found earlier that morning.

"Ah... well," Sato read it, frowning. "That definitely sheds new light on things."

"How can you be so calm when my daughter is in danger?"

Megure sighed. "Mouri... we've known each other for years, please... trust me when I tell you that we are doing our utmost to find Ran-kun! I'll make contact with the police departments in the outlying areas and put out an APB. We'll find her!"

"And I think you can trust Heiji Hattori to look after her," said Takagi, smiling hopefully. "He seems like a capable boy."

"Who's managed to get himself shot, near-drowned and stabbed since I've known him!" Kogorou howled. "That doesn't inspire me with confidence!"

"It's probably due to _you_..." Megure muttered sourly under his breath. Luckily no one but Takagi heard and the younger man smartly ignored it.

"Oh, Mouri-san... you have to trust the excellent policemen!" Jodie laid a placating hand on Kogorou's arm. "They care about Ran very much!"

Megure blinked. "Saintemillion-san? Where did you..."

"I came with Mouri-san!" Jodie said brightly. "How nice to see you again, Megure-sa..an!"

"Ha... How nice to see you too," Megure spluttered in confusion, Jodie always surprised him. The blond English teacher was one of the strangest women he had ever met and he wasn't quite sure if that was just because she was a foreigner. He cleared his throat. "Saintemillion-san is right, Ran-kun is important to us all, Mouri, you know that."

Kogorou slumped. "I know..." he rubbed his face. "I just want Ran back safe."

"So do we," Sato patted his shoulder. "But the best thing you can do, Mouri-san, is go home. Ran-kun might call you."

Kogorou nodded, but the policemen moved away he grabbed Takagi's arm and pulled the young man back. "Kudo told me to ask you about something," he muttered his ear.

Takagi blinked in confusion. "Kudo? As in Shinichi Kudo?"

"Yes, he told me to ask you about the files on my cases," Kogorou glared. "Do you know what he's talking about?"

"Ah... ah..." Takagi tried to extract Mouri's grip from his arm. "Well... I..."

"He implied I was in some sort of danger!" Mouri hissed and Takagi stiffened.

"He did? Oh..." he frowned, his flustered air disappearing and his expression turning serious. "Well... Mouri-san, a little while ago all the reports of the cases you've been involved in were stolen."

"WHAT?"

"Shh... shhh!" Takagi glanced over his shoulder. "They were all returned later and in perfect condition, but we haven't been able to identify the thief yet."

"And how long were you going to conceal this from me? And how did Kudo know about it?" Kogorou demanded, looming over him. Takagi swallowed nervously.

"Well... it might've been because I... er... told... um... Conan..."

Jodie smirked as Kogorou yelled at the young policeman. She had placed herself quite nicely, the two men's low voices carrying perfectly to her ears. So... her suspicions had been correct, the other player was close to her target. Her smirk turned into a full, satisfied smile. Well, this would make things more interesting!

***

With one final choking splutter, Heiji's motorbike finally died. It had been threatening to collapse for the last half hour of the
journey and it had only just made it into the heart of Nagoya city. The two teenagers regarded the bike with a mixture of feelings, Heiji even going to far as to pat the bike fondly.

"I'm so sorry, Heiji," Ran said and he shook his head.

"It isn't your fault, Ran... I pushed it a little too hard today."

"Only a little?"

"Did you want to stay in the middle of the highway?"

"Mm... good point," Ran looked around. "So what do we do now?"

"Find a place to sleep," said Heiji, trying to muffle a yawn. "I'm beat and there aren't any trains until morning."

She sighed. "I guess we don't have a whole lot of choice..."

Heiji shot her a wry smile and pulled out his wallet to examine the contents. "Hmmm... okay, let's see... subtract food and train fare, that leaves... about 6000 yen. Not much."

Ran also checked her cash. "Well, I can add in about 7000," she offered. "But we'll have to find a ryokan or pension... or a business hotel."

"Hotels are going to be difficult at this time of year, let's try the others. We'll just have to hope they're not too expensive!"

However, fortune was not on their side that night. Despite knocking on many doors, Ran and Heiji were met with refusal after refusal everywhere. Most of the places were too full or too expensive, but some were simply reluctant to take in two bedraggled teenagers with no luggage except two small backpacks and a katana as well as a defunct bike. At the last ryokan, the proprietress looked down her nose and stated, very coldly, that she was not going to condone 'goings on' in her establishment and that they would be better off at a hotel 'better suited to their needs'.

"What was all that about?" Ran asked as they walked away. "She was awfully rude!"

Heiji sighed. The woman had implied something that had been going through his head for a while now and her suggestion, such as it was, and unfortunately looked to be the best option if they were going to get any rest.

"Ran, can you stand on the other side of the bike?"

"Why?"

"Please?"

"Ummm... fine."

"Now promise not to overreact."

"Huh?"

"To what I'm going to say."

Ran folded her arms and regarded Heiji with an air of puzzled irritation. "Can you just tell me what this is all about?"

He laughed nervously and rubbed the back of his neck, not meeting her eyes. "Well... ummm... that woman... she thought that we... er... wanted a room for something other than... sleep..."

For a moment, Ran remained clueless, and then the light dawned and her jaw dropped. "Wh-AT?" she shrieked, her face reddening. "She thought we... how could... why that...! I'm going to go and..."

"Whoa!" Heiji reached out and grabbed her arm, preventing her from stalking back in high fury. "Calm down, Ran! You can't blame her for... Anyway, she made a point that... well, it's worth considering that maybe we should stay in a..." he mumbled the last two words and Ran frowned.

"What?"

He mumbled again, looking away from her, his dark face going even darker. Ran put her hands on her hips. "Hattori-kun..." she said warningly.

"Love hotel..."

"Eh?"

"You _heard_ me that time!"

"Yes, but..." Ran swallowed, feeling very twitchy. "I didn't believe it. Uh... Hattori-kun, I don't..."

"Where else are we going to sleep?" Heiji challenged. "Sleeping outside isn't an option, not when it's clouding over and looking like rain. And Capsules are no good, they're segregated and I'm supposed to be protecting you!"

"Yes, but..."

"And love hotels are usually cheap and fairly anonymous."

Ran looked at the ground. Unfortunately, Heiji's arguments made an awful lot of sense, but she couldn't help thinking of Shinichi and Kazuha; they'd be very upset.

"I'm not going to tell them," Heiji said, reading her expression. "So I don't see why you should mention it. Besides... I'm sure they'd understand... knowing the circumstances."

He didn't sound very convinced and Ran couldn't stop a slight smile creeping across her face, despite the sheer embarrassment coursing through her. "Fine," she said. "But you are sleeping on the _floor_."

"Which is exactly what I was going to suggest," Heiji said quickly.

About twenty minutes later, Ran stood nervously in the lobby of the least garish love hotel they had found. She kept her gaze fixed on the glossy black stone floor while Heiji organized the room. To be honest, she had occasionally wondered what these places were like, but had never imagined herself _inside_ one and certainly not with Heiji Hattori!

"I got it," Heiji muttered, he was also still embarrassed and reserving the damn room hadn't helped alleviate the feeling. "Third
floor."

"Um... right," Ran followed him to the elevator where she finally looked up, bracing herself for garish decoration. "Oh."

"What's wrong? Did you forget to get something earlier?" he asked, referring to their trip to a convenience store just prior.

"No..." Ran looked away. She was hardly going to tell Heiji that she found the bland, functional interior of the elevator surprisingly disappointing.

However, the room he led her into surpassed all her wildest imaginings.

"This is supposed to be _simple_?" Heiji spluttered.

Ran blinked several times. "It's very... lush."

"I'd hate to see the more expensive ones," Heiji muttered, closing the door behind them and stalking over to the mini-fridge. "Shall we tidy up and then eat?"

"Uh-huh," Ran walked around the room, twirling around, trying to take in everything. The one thing that her eyes kept being drawn to was the huge, heart-shaped red bed draped in crimson satin. Mirrors glittered on the ceiling and the walls were decorated with thick, crimson curtains. The mini-fridge, a small table with two chairs and a bedside cabinet with a phone on it made up the rest of the room's furniture. There wasn't even a wardrobe, just two yukatas with the hotel logo hanging on a discreet hook by a door that Ran discovered led to a small bathroom. Ran cautiously approached the bed and looked at it, the idea of sleeping in it was almost too ridiculous to contemplate, let alone doing... other things.

"At least it's only for one night," Heiji commented as he put away their food. "And... what are you doing?"

Ran guiltily removed her hand from the small control panel at the head of the bed. "I was just curious."

"Can you turn it off? A vibrating, singing bed is just the sort of thing to give me nightmares."

Ran giggled. "He fearlessly chases villains and whacks people with his sword, but when it comes to a vibrating bed..."

"Ha ha," Heiji looked up at her. "Hey, Ran... why don't you call Kudo? I don't mind footing the additional cost."

Ran inhaled sharply. "Call Shinichi? Will it be okay?" her voice wavered with hope and Heiji smiled.

"Yeah, but don't tell him _exactly_ where you are!"

"As if I would!" Ran sat on the bed and picked up the phone. As she started dialing, Heiji grabbed one of the yukatas and slipped into the bathroom. Ran let out a little sigh of relief, glad to be able to talk to Shinichi in private. The phone rang and was picked up quickly.

"Hello?"

Ran frowned, the voice sounded like Shinichi and yet not like him, it didn't even sound like Conan. "Shinichi?"

"Ran!" his voice was sharp, a mixture of worry, happiness and something else in the tone that made a warm feeling run through Ran's body, pushing back the hurt and anger. "Ran, are you all right?"

"Yes, yes... I'm okay," she said. "What about you?"

"I'm... fine," he said, a little hesitantly. "What happened, Ran? I heard you were in Osaka..."

"Who told you that?" Ran asked sharply. Had the bad guys called him?

"Kazuha Toyama called me on your mobile phone."

"Kazuha-chan?" - a chill ran down Ran's spine. She hoped that her friend wasn't getting herself mixed up in this mess too. "Why my phone?"

"Apparently you dropped it... what happened Ran? When you didn't call I..."

"I'm sorry," she said softly. "I was going to call you as soon as I reached Hattori's house, but I was so upset and angry with you..."

"Angry?"

"Because I found out, Shinichi. About you and Conan... I knew I'd been right all along, as much as I'd convinced myself I was being silly."

There was a stunned silence on the other end. Finally Shinichi spoke, a hint of fear in his voice. "How?"

"When you told me to disguise myself I picked up a pair of you... Conan's glasses," dry amusement crept into Ran's voice as she imagined the expression on Shinichi's face right now. He probably never thought his own disguise would work against him. "Imagine my shock when I found out they weren't real."

"Oh."

"Oh yes, and everything just fell into place when I pressed something and a little tracking grid popped up on one of the lenses,"
bitterness quickly replaced the amusement as Ran's anger and hurt returned in full force and tears stung her eyes. "All this time I've been tricked by you and people I _trusted_, you've all been making a complete fool of me!"

"No, no! Ran, I never meant for you to feel that way!" Shinichi protested wildly. "But it was... there was danger and I... I was
trying to protect you!"

"Well, it doesn't look like your protection worked," Ran said tartly. "Considering that I've been attacked, threatened, hit and on the run since yesterday!"

There was another long and heavy silence on Shinichi's end and Ran felt a twinge of guilt. To be fair, he had always done his best to be there for her and protect her as Conan, but...

"When I see you," Shinichi said sadly. "Please hear me out, I'll explain everything, and if you decide then that you don't want
anything to do with me, then I'll understand."

"I don't have much choice, Shinichi. Apparently I'm supposed to be the weapon against you and I don't think the bad guys are going to believe me if I said that I wasn't part of your life anymore."

"Ran..."

She smiled. "Don't worry, Shinichi. I do want a full explanation from you, but after all that's happened and what little Heiji's told me... well, I think I understand."

"Thank you, Ran..." the relief flooded his voice.

The bathroom door opened and Heiji emerged wearing the yukata and rubbing his hair with a towel. He looked enquiringly at Ran and she nodded. "Shinichi, Hattori-kun and I are in Nagoya and we'll probably be in Tokyo early next morning. Should we meet you at Professor Agasa's?"

"No, come to my house."

"Uh... okay."

"Ran, is Hattori there? I'd like to talk to him."

"Sure," Ran beckoned Heiji over. "I'll see you soon, Shinichi."

"Bye, Ran, take care."

Ran handed the phone to Heiji and went to take her own shower, a slight smile on her face despite the tears in her eyes. Tomorrow she would see Shinichi, whichever form he was in, and she would finally know the whole truth.

"Hey, Kudo, how's it going?" Heiji asked, seating himself on the bed.

"Not too bad," Shinichi said a little too casually. "And yourself?"

"Okay, except my bike's had it, so Neechan and I will have to take the train tomorrow."

"I see," Shinichi said. "Hattori, IS Ran okay? Physically, I mean?"

"Sure she is!" Heiji said cheerfully. He saw no reason to mention Ran's bumps and bruises right now, there was no point Kudo worrying about something he couldn't change. "She's just a bit tired."

"Hmmm... good. Hattori, there's something I didn't tell her... I wasn't sure how she'd react, but I want to let you know, because it might come as shock."

"What?"

"Haibara's made a cure."

"Really?" Heiji cried, thrilled for his friend. "That's wonderful!" He frowned. "Why would this be a shock?"

"Well... there's a slight problem."

Heiji's exhilaration vanished abruptly. "Oh no... what have you gotten yourself into this time, Kudo?"

Shinichi spluttered. "What do you mean by that?"

"You seem to excel in bad luck," Heiji grinned. "I should give you some of my omamori!"

"Shut up," Shinichi growled. "The problem isn't _too_ bad, it just means that when you see me my physical age might be a little... wrong."

"Man... you're not going to be even younger are you?"

"No!"

"Phew... I had these horrible visions of poor Neechan having to change your diapers."

"Ergh... Hattori, you have a sick mind. No, I'm not going to be younger, the reverse in fact."

"You'll be an old man?"

"No!" Shinichi snapped. "Hattori, do you have to go to extremes? I may be a _little_ older, not ancient!"

"How much older?"

"I'm not sure, maybe twenty-two or twenty-three."

"That's not so bad, just a five or six year age gap," Heiji paused. "Hey! That means you'll be older than me!"

"Can't you focus on the more impor... oh, what's the use?" Shinichi sighed. "Where are you staying in Nagoya?"

"Just a hotel," Heiji said casually.

"Oh?" suspicion crept into Shinichi's voice. "That was pretty lucky considering the time..." he spoke more sharply. "Exactly _what_ kind of hotel is it, Hattori?"

Heiji sweatdropped. "Uh... well, I have to go now, Kudo... this is going to cost me extra you know. I'll catch up with you later! Bye!"

"Hattori, don't you dare hung up on me! Hattor..."

Heiji slammed the phone down and lay back on the bed, exhaling loudly. "Let's hope he forgets that question tomorrow," he muttered. He lay there for a while, staring at the ceiling (why was it covered in red velvet?) and listening to the shower running in the bathroom, and then sat up abruptly. It was all very well contacting Kudo, but there were some other people he really needed to get in touch with. *Mum, Dad and... Kazuha...*

Heiji's fingers hovered over the phone as he mentally constructed his words to his father. The old man was likely to be furious and would demand to know exactly where his son was, so that he could charge right up to collect Heiji and Ran. This thought made Heiji pause further. He had promised Ran that he would get her to Tokyo and if his Dad dragged them back to Tokyo...

"I'll just tell I'm okay and leave it at that," Heiji said to himself. "He'll probably ground me for life, but maybe I can get Mum
on my side."

He dialed quickly and waited nervously as the phone rang, words ready to spring from his lips.

"Hello?"

"Look, I know I..."

"Heiji?"

"Mum?" Heiji slumped in relief. "Thank God!"

"Hei-chan, where are you? We've been worried sick! Are you alright?"

"Slow down, Mum! I'm fine... really," Heiji smiled slightly at his mother's use of the diminutive 'Hei-chan', a name she hadn't used for years although he felt guilty hearing the strain in her voice.

"What happened? You called and then we heard the Mouri girl scream... is she alright too?"

"Yes, yes... she's fine."

"Where are you?"

"Ah..." Heiji hesitated. His mother could be trusted with a secret, but in a case like this she might feel obligated to tell his
father. "I'm on my way to Tokyo."

"WHAT?"

"Ow!" Heiji winced. "It's a long story, I promise I'll call when I get to Tokyo and explain." *As much as I can at least!*

"Oh Heiji... what have you got yourself into now? Your father is going out of his mind and it doesn't help that Kazuha-chan has... oh!" Shizuka made a startled sound as if she was muffling her mouth.

Heiji's tenseness returned, with friends. "What about Kazuha?"

"Er... well, she's gone... left a note for her father telling him not to worry..."

Heiji bit back the swearwords. Stupid, stupid girl! What the hell was she thinking of? And where was she going? Tokyo? Would she have guessed that was where he was going? He took a deep breath and spoke as calmly as he could. "Has she contacted Toyama-han yet?"

"No, she only left tonight. Do you think she's gone to Tokyo?"

"Maybe," Heiji sighed. "Mum... I'm so sorry for all of this... I promise, I'll find Kazuha and bring her back safe."

"Bring yourself back safely too, Hei-chan," she said softly. "Do you... want to talk to your father?"

"I don't think that's a good idea right now, just tell him I'm okay."

"Take care and call us again soon!"

"I will... bye."

"Who was that?" Ran asked, walking out of the bedroom just in time to see Heiji put down the phone. "Still Shin..."

"AHO!"

Ran's eyes widened. "There's no need to yell at me, I was only..."

"WHAT THE HELL IS SHE THINKING?"

Ran quickly surmised that Heiji was not talking about or to her and just as quickly she deduced the identity of the girl most likely to put him in such a state. "What happened to Kazuha-chan?"

"She's only run off, leaving her father a vague note, and is probably in Tokyo right now!" Heiji spat out. "Stupid, stupid girl! No brains, no sense of self-preservation!"

Ran let him rage on, sensing that most of his angry words came from his affection for Kazuha and fear for her safety. She was also afraid for Kazuha, knowing what little she did, Ran was unwilling to drag any more people into this mess, but she also sympathized with Kazuha's actions. Like Ran, Kazuha was not the type to sit quietly, waiting for news. Finally Heiji ran out of expletives and stopped pacing, so Ran felt safe enough to switch topics.

"What time should we leave tomorrow?"

"As soon as possible," Heiji snapped, his temper still short. "Let's aim for a seven am start, that should get us in to Tokyo by nine at the latest."

"Okay," Ran grabbed a pillow and one of the covers from the bed and held them out to him. "Shall we eat now?" she suggested.

He managed a slight smile as he took the bedding from her. "Sure… and we need to discuss the disguises too."

"_What_ disguises?"

"The ones we'll need to slip past the goons looking for us at the shinkansen station of course."

***

"Hattori!" Shinichi yelled down the phone, but his effort was futile and he threw the phone down. "Damn!"

"Everything alright, Shinichi?" Agasa asked.

"Grrr… apart from Hattori being a pain in the ass as usual? Yes, I think so… " Shinichi sighed. "Ran is a little mad, but it isn't as bad as thought… she might yell and punch me a few times, but she isn't going to leave me."

"I never expected she would," Agasa said with a wink. "You don't trust that girl enough, Shinichi."

"Oh shut up…" he glowered at the professor. "Anyway, I told Hattori about the little… uh… problem."

"And not Ran-kun?"

"Professor, I'm not ready to spring that on her now…"

"As opposed to her finding out when she walks through the door tomorrow?"

"Well… I… I… damn! Okay, so maybe I should've told her, but it's too late now!" Shinichi grumbled defensively. "Maybe Heiji will drop some hints… not that there's anyway I can suggest that with no way to contact them…" Shinichi halted abruptly as he recalled Heiji's reaction to the question about the hotel. "Surely he hasn't…"

"Kudo-kun," Ai's voice drifted down to them. "There is a girl standing outside the gates to your house and she appears to be a
little upset."

Ran! Shinichi's heart leapt, but then he pushed the feeling down with a frown. There was no way Ran could have made it all the way from Nagoya already. He and Agasa joined Ai at the upstairs window that overlooked the Kudo house. Looking out of the window, they could make out a slim female figure at the gates and Shinichi groaned when she stepped back and the light from the street lamps played across her face.

"Kazuha Toyama! Great…"

"And why is she here?" Ai asked acidly. "You're not very good at keeping secrets, are you Kudo-kun!"

He ignored her. "Professor, can you go and get her in? I should've know she'd put two and two together and come up with me…"

Agasa nodded and trotted off while Shinichi and Ai descended slowly to the main room. Ai looked angry and she didn't hesitate to let Shinichi know her feelings. "You're making this even more of a mess than it is! We should just leave her and…"

"And she'll go to Ran's father who will then go to the police and things will get even messier!" Shinichi interrupted. "At least this
way I can keep an eye on her until Heiji gets here."

"You think he and Mouri-san will make it?"

"Yes," Shinichi said tersely and then he silenced as the sound of Kazuha's voice reached their ears from the entrance area.

"I only just managed to catch the last train… thought I wouldn't make it… and then it took ages for me to find this place, after all I've only been here once."

"Why are you here?" Agasa asked her.

"I'm sorry, Professor, but I'm only going to tell that to Shinichi Kudo," Kazuha said primly as she and Agasa entered the main room. She stopped abruptly and stared at the figures in front of her. Ai received a passing frown, Kazuha had never actually met the girl, but Shinichi received an arrested stare. "Are you…? No, you can't be… Kudo-kun is older, you're only fifteen or something… but… Ran-chan never told me that he had a brother…"

"I am Shinichi Kudo," the young man sighed. "I'm sorry about all this, Kazuha-san."

"But… but…" Kazuha stuttered. "How can you be? I _saw_ Kudo-kun, you… he… was older! How could you be younger? It's impossible to get younger!"

"Not impossible," Ai said with a wry smile. "Merely unlikely."

Kazuha rubbed her eyes. "It's late and I don't know if I'm dreaming… I just came here because I was sure Heiji was here…"

"He's on his way, with Ran," Shinichi said. "Kazuha-san, why don't you sit down? I'll try to explain."

"So if you're Kudo-kun, then…" Kazuha's eyes widened as she sat down. "Conan! Heiji was always calling him… oh my God…"

Shinichi sat beside her. "Kazuha-san, it all started when Ran and I went to an amusement park…"

***

Vermouth sighed irritably down the phone just two minutes into Koichi's panicked explanation and the man immediately silenced. "I'm very, very disappointed," she said coldly. "Not only do you fluff a perfect opportunity the first time, but you completely underestimated the girl the second time! Didn't I tell you she was a karate expert? Didn't you pay _attention_ after what happened to the ones who tried to take her at the Hattori house?"

"I…"

"Never mind," Vermouth cut off any further protestations. "Clearly the quality of hired goons has declined badly in this country, I'll deal with them myself from now on!"

"But I put someone at the station…"

"If _he_ succeeds, then good for him. But Koichi dear… I do not make the mistake of maintaining dead weight!"

"But… who? No!"

Vermouth held the phone away from her ear as several shots rang out and Koichi's voice turned into a pained gurgle.

"It's done," a new voice spoke into the phone and she smiled.

"Thank you, Vodka, you're always so efficient."

"Anymore to take care of?"

"No, you can come back to Tokyo now… I'm going to need your assistance."

Vodka hesitated. "What about…?"

"Oh, don't worry about _him_, I'll deal with that too. Oh, and please make sure to make a little bonfire as you leave."

She could sense the hulking smile on Vodka's heavy face. "Of course."

"Wasting resources again?" a figure loomed behind her as she put down the phone.

Vermouth turned slightly and smiled over her shoulder at the speaker. "Gin, I never waste anything, I only require people to make necessary sacrifices."

He snorted and laid his hands on her shoulders, moving them inwards so that they started to encircle her slender neck. "What is this game you're playing, woman? Over the past week you've been utilizing more Organization resources than usual."

She leaned back against his broad chest, completely unruffled. "Worried?"

He made a low growling noise and his hands tightened, just slightly. "You ask me if I believe in heaven, you play these games,
you promise me my prey…"

"And I'll deliver her to you, trust me."

He did laugh then, a harsh and bitter laugh, and twisted her round to face him. "The day I trust _you_ is the day the world ends, Vermouth!"

Languidly, she wrapped her arms around his waist. "How nice that we understand each other," she purred.

***

"And you still have no idea where she is?" Eri Kiseki bit her lower lip; her usually composed expression tense and worried. Kogorou winced inwardly, even though he and Eri had separated years ago, he still cared for her (although he would _never_ admit it) and seeing the pain in her eyes hurt him.

"Megure and the Osaka police are doing all they can, I…" Kogorou scowled. "I have been… asked… to stay at the agency in case she contacts me, but I wanted to tell you face to face this morning, so I left Sato-san there."

"I see," Eri swallowed and looked at her husband. For a brief moment she thought of wrapping her arms around him and letting her fear for her daughter's safety overwhelm her in Kogorou's arms, but she controlled the impulse and folded her arms. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it," he said stiffly.

An uncomfortable silence fell between them, neither looking at the other, and then Eri broke it. "You don't think that she… she likes this Osaka boy and…"

He stared at her. "No! No… no, I'm sure she doesn't!"

Eri caught the uncertainly in his tone. "You're not sure, are you? Although…" she frowned. "It's not like Ran to do something like this, even if she did have a thing for the boy. Besides, I would have sworn it was Shinichi Kudo she lo…"

"Kudo!" Kogorou spat. "That… bastard! I'll bet _he's_ the one behind this!"

Eri's eyebrows shot up. "Blaming Shinichi-kun again? Kogorou, this is getting old. When will you start realizing that Ran is nearly an adult? She'll be eighteen in a few weeks and she's old enough to make up her own mind and be responsible for her own actions!"

"She's still my daughter!"

"But you can't…" Eri threw up her hands in exasperation. "I don't know why I bother! You won't listen, you never have, and you're blinding yourself to…"

"I knew I should have told you over the phone!" Kogorou roared, turning on his heel and stalking out of her office, slamming the door behind him.

"Oh!" Eri glared after him. "That… that man!" she huffed, but then her anger subsided, as quickly as it had risen and she felt sad. This was not the time to be arguing, not when Ran could be in danger, she and Kogorou should be standing together, prepared to help their child in whatever trouble she was in. "Damn…"

Eri ran out of the office, passing her startled assistant, and quickly made her way downstairs. She would apologize and offer to
help him, perhaps stay at the agency tonight… yes, and when Ran did come, then… maybe they could talk a few things over.

He was standing outside her office building, lighting a cigarette, and she smiled. "Kogorou!"

Before he could turn and answer, a shot rang out and he jerked as he was hit in the chest. Eri watched on in horror as he fell back, crashing heavily into the glass doors and smashing through them.

"Noooooooo!!!"

***

Love Hotels – these are quite extensive in Japan and are mainly used by couples looking for some privacy (Japanese homes are usually very crowded!). They can be quite cheap and are available for one hour and overnight stays. Having not stayed in one myself I don't know what they look like inside and have instead relied on various articles in travel books for my description of Heiji and Ran's room.


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