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 Eight


"Where have you been?" Aoko Nakamori demanded as Kaitou flopped down in the seat beside her. "Sensei was about to leave without you!"

"Sorry," he made an apologetic gesture. "I got lost."

She stared at him disbelievingly. "You got lost in the temple? Do you have some kind of directional problem or something?"

Kaitou shrugged. "I don't know…"

"Or perhaps you were being a Good Samaritan?" Akako leaned over the back of Kaitou's chair and smirked at him. "Just like in Yokohama this morning?"

Kaitou shot her an unfriendly look. He really wished Akako would drop the dramatics and `subtle' hints, Aoko wasn't that naïve and she was already suspicious enough about his frequent disappearances. She was looking at him now, a puzzled expression on her face.

"What happened at Yokohama?"

Akako laughed. "Oh, he was just showing off some of his magic tricks… to a very appreciative audience!" at that moment the bus started and Akako was tipped back into her seat, much to Kaitou's relief.

Aoko frowned. "School trips aren't the time to be showing off, Kaitou!"

He slumped in his chair. "Fine, fine, I promise I won't go wandering off anymore today." *I'm too tired anyway… sprinting from the hospital back to here took a lot more out of me than I expected!* he yawned and closed his eyes, *I shouldn't really have gone, but I couldn't resist _that_ challenge… and it's really going to put Shinichi Kudo's nose out of joint when he finds out about MY involvement.*

Aoko's frown deepened. "What is he grinning about?"

***

Heiji peered around the corner and glanced from side to side. "Well, it all looks clear," he said, pulling back and rejoining Ran in the alleyway. "Although there's a car down the round that just screams `Police!' to me."

Ran nibbled thoughtfully on the tip of her thumb. "That's odd… I wonder if Dad knows I'm not with Sonoko…"

Heiji stuck his hands in his pockets and leaned against the wall. "Well, my parents know that something's wrong and that you're with me, so it's likely they called your Dad. However, that really doesn't explain the police car – unless he's in there talking to the Inspector."

"Or something's happened to Dad," Ran whispered fearfully. Heiji looked sharply at her and laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Hey, don't worry Neechan, I'm sure he's fine," he looked into the main street again. "Are you sure you want to go in?"

Ran fidgeted. "I know you think it's a bad idea, Heiji-kun, but I really don't think this skulking around is doing much good. If that Tadashi guy dot away he'd have told his bosses about out disguises by now so that's not going to help us anymore," she sighed. "And I really am _tired_ of running!"

Heiji briefly considered the idea of trying to drag Ran away, but rejected the idea quickly. One did not force a prefectural karate champion when she was upset and tetchy, and he was quickly learning how stubborn Ran could be. Besides, he half agreed with her anyway – it was very tiresome being constantly pursued. *I never appreciated how much it must have frustrated you, Kudo, hiding for so long, never able to show your true self except to me and the other two.* "Okay, but let's keep the disguises on while we go in, alright?"

"Alright."

Ran's fists clenched as they walked into the bright sunlight and crossed the road. It was so hard to appear nonchalant and she was grateful for Heiji's cap because she was sure her nervous apprehension showed quite clearly on her face. No one leapt out and stopped them from entering and the office was eerily quiet.

"Dad?" Ran spoke softly, hardly daring to raise her voice. Heiji crossed over to the desk and scanned it intently, taking in the red message light blinking on the phone, the half-empty coffee mug and the scattered newspaper pages. "He's not here, Heiji," she said finally and he nodded.

"But he was here earlier this morning," he pointed to the evidence. "I think he left in a hurry though."

Footsteps sounded on the stairs outside and they both tensed, Heiji's hand reaching back to grasp the hilt of his katana and Ran settling her body into a defensive posture, but when the man entered the officer they immediately relaxed.

"Officer Chiba!" Ran cried in relief.

The round-faced, spiky-haired policeman blinked at the sight of her. "Ran-san?" he glanced at Heiji. "And Hattori-kun?" his anxious expression gave way to relief. "Thank goodness! We've been looking all over for you two! What happened?"

Heiji let out a short laugh. "That's a rather long story," he said. *And I'm not willing to spill it all just yet.*

"I'm sorry to worry you all," Ran said. "But, Chiba-san? Where is my Dad?"

Chiba licked his lips and glanced nervously around the room before moving closer to her. "Mouri-san is… well, I'm sorry Ran-san, but he's in the hospital at the moment…"

"What? Why?"

"Well… he was… er… shot earlier this morning…"

Ran's hands flew to her mouth. "Oh God… is he… okay?"

Heiji had to crowd in to listen to Chiba now, the man was almost whispering. "He's fine, just a little bruised, he was wearing a bullet-proof vest. However, the Inspector thinks it best that the public and the people responsible think he's even more seriously hurt than he is."

"Can I see him?" Ran asked tearfully and Chiba smiled. "Of course, but first…" he looked at Heiji. "Your father is very worried about you, Hattori-kun…"

Heiji's eyes widened. "Don't tell me he's _here_?"

"Not yet, but he did ask us to keep an eye on you once we found you, he should be arriving later today, and Ran-san…"

"Yes?"

"Inspector Megure wants you to be safe as well, so if you'll both come with me…?"

"Sure we'll come, Chiba-han," Heiji grinned. "But we both need to freshen up a bit first – can you give us fifteen minutes? We'll join you at the car then."

"Well… all right…" Chiba agreed. "Fifteen minutes."

"Right, where's the back door?" Heiji asked Ran as soon as Chiba was out of earshot. She stared at him.

"Eh?"

"We need to get out without him seeing us," Heiji explained in a very patient tone of voice. "So the best way is via the back door, right?"

Ran looked faintly shocked. "Heiji! You _lied_ to him!"

He flushed slightly. "Yeah well… once we get stuck with the police then they'll start asking questions that we don't want to answer yet… and that might put Kudo in even more danger. Besides, I don't know exactly what he wants flushed out into the open yet, so I'd rather confer with him beforehand."

"Oh," Ran frowned. "You're right… I don't know _how_ I can explain why I ran away… especially when I don't even know all of the facts yet!"

"Exactly," Heiji grimaced. "And while you might be able to evade things with these guys in Tokyo, there no way my father's going to let anything slide…"

Ran shot him a knowing look. "I see… this is really about you avoiding your father, isn't it."

"Ah…" Heiji coughed. "Maybe…"

***

"I've been waiting, Cool Guy..."

Vermouth's smile seemed inviting, but Shinichi remained in the doorway, partially hidden by shadows, still wary. He regarded her silently; taking in every aspect he could see, imprinting her on his memory for future reference. "Vermouth" was unlike "Jodie Saintemillion" in almost every way, but he now recalled the times the two had merged, stirring uneasy feelings within him. And he finally understood why he had had a nagging sense of meeting" Jodie" before when he first encountered her at the video game parlour (1) - her physical appearance had been strongly modelled on her mother, Sharon Vineyard, although "Jodie's" personality was a complete opposite.

She laughed, breaking the silence. "Why are you hanging back, Cool Guy? Are you worried that I'm going to ambush you?" she spread her arms wide. "Look, there's nobody here and no furniture for them to hide behind!" she grinned. "Unless you think I have Gin crouched behind this couch or under that little table!"

Shinichi flinched a little at hearing the name of the man who was ultimately responsible for his predicament and drew a deep breath. "I'm not afraid," he said.

Her eyebrows shot up. "My... it _is_ interesting hearing your voice... I almost expected..." she smiled slyly. "How nice the little scientist could make use of my present."

"I suppose I should thank you then," he chose to ignore the reference to Ai and moved into the light.

For the first time in a long while, Vermouth's face showed total astonishment as she gazed on Shinichi's form. However, her amused mask slipped quickly back into place and she pushed herself away from the window.  "Well, you had a little accident..."

He noticed that he was eye to eye with her now and that small thing boosted his confidence. "So sorry to disconcert you, Vermouth-san."

Suddenly she was merely inches away from him, her blue eyes intense. "I'm not disconcerted, Shinichi Kudo," she smiled like you _much_ more this way..."

"Ah..." eyes wide, Shinichi took a step back. "I..."

"What's wrong, Cool Guy?" Vermouth reached out and ran a finger down his cheek. "You look a little red... are you too hot?"

He stepped back further. "I'm fine! What do you want?"

"I suppose we should get down... to business," Vermouth said lightly, clearly enjoying his discomfort. "I suggest we discuss things in English," she glanced briefly over her shoulder. "I doubt we'll be overheard, but still... it _is_ better to be prudent right now."

Shinichi started to object, purely on principle, but then nodded curtly. "Very well."

"<<I'm glad you're bi-lingual,>>" she said. "<<Your parents must be proud...>>"

His eyes narrowed. "Probably."

She looked away, presenting him with her perfect profile. "<<My mother never cared about what I could or could not do, she wasn't very maternal,>>" she looked at him again. "<<Although she did think highly of your mother, Cool Guy.>>"

"Does this have anything to do with why I'm here?" Shinichi demanded tersely. "I didn't come for a chat!"

"Don't be so impatient," she scolded. Crossing to the table, she picked up the bottle of wine and two glasses that were placed on it. "<<Now, have a drink and stop being so angry, Shinichi. We should be friendly... after all, we do work well together, don't you think?>>"

"I would never be friends with you," Shinichi snarled. "You murder, lie..."

"Oh? Who's calling who a liar now?" Vermouth deftly uncorked the bottle. "You have been lying to your precious Angel this past year."

Shinichi flushed and hated himself for it. "That was necessary..." he protested. "I had to protect her!"

Vermouth shot him a sharp glance before pouring out some wine for herself. "<<That didn't work very well, did it?>>" she sipped from her glass. "<<Mmmm... good... Face it, Cool Guy, you should never have let your curiousity get the better of you that night at Tropical Land.>>"

Shinichi clenched his fists. "Obviously you don't understand me half as well as you like to think," he smiled bitterly. "I am who I am, and I would have followed Vodka even if I'd had an inkling of what would happen to me," he regarded her challengingly. "I would have found out about you lot sooner or later... it was only a matter of time. Criminal actions won't stay hidden for ever!"

She laughed. "<<So you say! But... have you ever wondered why we're so active in Japan? After all, you're a smart one, you must have realised that we are quite multinational...>>" she smirked. "<<Your country is so easy to work in. Your corporate culture puts loyalty over everything else, even ethics. Big businesses, politicians, powerful people... they can get away with so much. Those who know won't speak in case they are branded as a traitor...(2) oh yes, this stigma is very useful... even within the organization itself...>>" her smile turned chillingly sly.

"You think no one will dare to question your actions?" Shinichi asked, stung by her words – even though he knew she was right. "That won't last, Japanese society is changing! And _I_ am not afraid to expose you!"

"And that's what makes you such an interesting person to deal with," Vermouth perched on the edge of the couch and toyed idly with her long hair. Her gaze flickered over his body and she licked her lips. "Even more interesting now..."

He swallowed. Was she...? "Achem... <<What did you want to discuss?>>" he asked, choosing to ignore her taunts.

She mock-pouted. "<<Business, business... how tiresome. Ah well,>>" she set down her wine glass and looked back at him, her expression disconcertingly serious. Now she was the glacial, elegant actress, Chris Vineyard. "<<I want you to hand over Sherry,>>" as Shinichi opened his mouth to deny any knowledge, Vermouth's eyes narrowed to glittering blue slits. "Don't try and hide it, I've suspected for a while and now I know for sure she'd hiding with you.>>"

"<<That's... direct,>>" Shinichi said. "<<What makes you think I'm just going to do as you ask?>>"

Vermouth laughed. "<<Of course you won't! But I am prepared to offer you a deal... one that will be very hard to refuse.>>"

"<<I am not going to...>>"

"<<Sherry for the lives and continual safety of Ran Mouri, Heiji Hattori, Kazuha Toyama, Eri Kiseki, Professor Agasa and the three little children... Sherry for your freedom from us - so you can stop looking over your shoulder. Give her up and give up your pursuit of us and we will never bother you again.>>"

***

Gin sat in the shadows, only the light from his cigarette indicating his presence. His cold green eyes watched the men gathered around the large table in the middle of the room and mocked them. They were all powerful figures within the organization, were responsible for its continual well being and they were too stupid to look into the future. Gin's upper lip curled. This discussion was a waste of time and he was annoyed that he had to listen to it.

"Did she say anything more?"

"Of course not, you know what she's like!"

"That woman has been causing trouble from the first! She's a maverick... always doing things her way. She never listens... it's time we neutralised her once and for all."

"Now, now... she gets very good results..."

"That's not good enough now! She's had several men killed and for no good reason – or at least none that she'll tell us!"

Gin suppressed a snort. He had a very good idea what Vermouth was up to and he understood it – although he considered her methods to be overly intricate. She was the most annoying person he had ever encountered, much too fond of games but, despite the infuriating aspect of her personality, she was also extremely clever so her jobs always yielded a perfect result even if the methods were unorthodox. Gin blew out a thin stream of smoke and watched it wind its way to the ceiling. It was almost time...

The door banged open and Vodka stood there along with another man who looked quite pale.

"M-mr..." he was breathing quickly. "Mr. Black is... we just found his..." he inhaled deeply and steadied himself. "We found the remains of James Black (3)... he's been dead for a couple of months..."

"What?" One of the men round the table leapt to his feet. "But he was with us earlier this morning! How could..." comprehension dawned. "It was her...!"

Gin silently got to his feet as the other men all began to talk excitedly. In the doorway, Vodka shifted and reached into his jacket.

The sudden, loud report from the shot Vodka fired into the messenger's head silenced all commotion.

"W-what are you doing?"

Gin levelled his own gun at the speaker. "Spring cleaning," he said and grinned, squeezing the trigger.

***

Inspector Megure looked up as Takagi and Sato walked into his office. "We're have you two been?" he demanded. "I've just had a call from Heizo Hattori – he's just arrived at Tokyo station with Toyama-san and one of his officers!"

Takagi flushed and bowed quickly. "I'm very sorry, sir, but we..."

"We saw someone suspicious hanging around outside Mouri-san's office," Sato broke in. "He was one of the hostages involved in that Bus Jack case a couple of months ago, the one Conan-kun was involved in, remember?"

Megure frowned. "Did you get a chance to talk to him?" he asked and Takagi shook his head.

"No sir, he ran off, but we think it would be an idea to go and talk to Conan-kun... he might have seen this man hanging around before."

"Hmmm... good idea, but I think Conan-kun might still be sick... Professor Agasa said he wasn't at all well when I called him about what happened to Mouri."

Sato and Takagi exchanged glances. "That's too bad," Sato said. "But perhaps we should go anyway?" she smiled. "It would be nice to wish Conan-kun well in person as well!"

Megure considered this and then nodded. "Very well, but don't push it if he can't talk to you..." he sighed. "I never thought I say this but... I miss that child!"

The two young officers thanked him and left. Megure pushed himself to his feet and straightened his hat. "And now I better prepared for Hattori-san..." he muttered.

His cell phone shrilled loudly and he answered it. "Megure here."

"Inspector! Oh God..." Chiba's frantic voice crackled over the phone. "I had them, but they... they just _left_! I don't believe it..."

"Chiba! Slow down!" Megure barked. "_Who_ left?"

"Heiji-kun and Ran-kun! They came to Mouri-san's office, and they said they'd come, but I left them to freshen up and they didn't come when they said, so I went back, but they'd gone!"

Megure digested this. "Ran-kun... Heiji-kun... Are you saying that they came back and then ran away AGAIN?"

"Uh... yes..."

"Oh God..." Megure rubbed his eyes. "I don't know _how_ I'm going to explain this to Heizo Hattori..."

***

Shinichi walked down the road leading towards Professor Agasa's house (and his own), his hands thrust into his pockets and his head down. Over and over, he assessed and reassessed his meeting with Vermouth and the `deal' she had offered him. She was definitely a tricky person and someone who wouldn't be easy to trap. He was also unnerved by her obvious interest in him – did she see herself as his Moriaty? He sighed as he turned the corner. It would be good to talk this over with the others.

"I really don't think this is a good idea, you guys!"

Shinichi screeched to a halt and looked wildly over his shoulder. No, he hadn't been mistaken... that voice _did_ belong to Mitsuhiko and he was coming up the road behind Shinichi _with_ Ayumi and Genta!

Quickly Shinichi ducked behind a tree in the garden opposite Agasa's house. *What the hell...? I thought Agasa told them Conan was very infectious!*

"Mitsuhiko, my mum said that Conan must be better now if he's only got a cold," Ayumi was saying as the trio stopped outside Agasa's gate. She clasped her hands together and sighed. "Besides... I want to be his nurse and help him get better!"

Genta looked grumpy about this. "Lucky Conan..." he muttered.

Shinichi rolled his eyes. *They'll go when Agasa tells them I'm still sick... at least I hope they go!*

"Hello, kids!"

The Detective boys turned and all beamed at Takagi and Sato who were walking towards them. Behind the tree, Shinichi's jaw dropped. *What are THEY here for??*

"Officer Sato! Officer Takagi!" Ayumi cried. "Are you here to see Conan too?"

"That's right," Takagi held out a brightly wrapped box. "We even bought him a gift!"

"So did we!" Ayumi pointed to the basket in Mitsuhiko's hands. "I made him some cookies!"

"I'm sure he'll love them, Ayumi-chan," Sato winked as she rang the bell.

"Yes?" Agasa's voice blared from the intercom.

"Excuse us, Professor," said Sato. "But Officer Takagi and I would like to see Conan, and so would the Detective Boys."

"Oh... uh... well, he's still quite sick," Agasa stuttered. "In fact he's sleeping at the moment."

"Oh..." Sato paused. "Well, will he be able to call us later?"

"Umm... maybe..."

"Can he call us too?" Genta asked.

"And what about Haibara-san?" Mitsuhiko asked anxiously. "Is she alright?"

"Well, she's not feeling too well at the moment either..."

Eventually the little group dispersed and Shinichi could come out of hiding. However, the appearance of the kids and the police officers had another dimension to his growing multitude of problems. *How AM I going to explain Conan's disappearance to them? Perhaps Haibara would dress up again... nah, don't see her going for that this time...*

"Shinichi?"

He paused, hand outstretched to open Agasa's gate, and remained still while the running footsteps behind him drew to a halt.

"Oh... no, Kudo-san?"

His heart twisted and he turned to face her. "No Ran, I'm not my father, I'm me..."

She stared, trembling hand covering her mouth. "Shinichi..."

Behind her, Heiji blinked several times. "That's quite a growth spurt, Kudo," he said in a level tone. "So I'm guessing you're physically about twenty now?"

Ran let out a choked little sound. "Oh Shinchi..."

He spread his hands helplessly. "I'm sorry, Ran... I should have warned you..."

Her eyes narrowed. "You _knew_ this might happened?"

"Well..."

"Shinichi, YOU IDIOT!" she screamed and struck out.

Her hand connected to his cheek with a resounding slap and Shinichi was propelled backwards, falling to the ground on his backside as Agasa's gates opened behind him. He sat there for a while, head ringing and eyes closed. *I've ruined everything... why couldn't I tell her? I lied to her AGAIN...*

"Oh Shinichi..." a lithe body pressed against him, arms went around his neck and a face damp with tears was laid against his neck. He opened his eyes and stared down at Ran's head in disbelief, then slowly – hands trembling – he nervously hugged her. She let out another little sob and his embrace tightened... Soon they were holding each other as if they would never ever let go.

Heiji looked down at them and rubbed at a suspicious prickle of moisture in his eyes. "Well, at least that's okay..." he murmured.

"Achem..."

He looked up and his eyes widened. "K-Kazuha...!"

***

(1) Volume 27
(2) This is actually something that _does_ happen in some Japanese businesses. I recently read a report about a man's working life that was ruined after he blew the whistle on some corrupt bosses at his company.
(3) Conan, Ai and the Detective Boys encountered a British born American named James Black in volume 32. At the end of the case James was revealed to be not all he seemed and there was a strong suggestion that he was a high level member of the Black Org. I have a strong suspicion born from some things James said that he was actually Vermouth in disguise...

Aoko is Kaitou's classmate and childhood friend as well as the daughter of Detective Nakamori – the man determined to catch Kaito Kid! Akako is a classmate of Aoko and Kaitou's and knows Kaitou's secret identity.


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