Fandom: Detective Conan
Characters: Shinichi, Ran, Heiji, Kazuha (General series)
Word Count: 10,194 words
Rating: R (for language and blood)
Author's Notes: I do not own Detective Conan. It all belongs to Gosho Aoyama. I simply borrow the characters, tie them up, and dance them around like life-sized puppets. I do wish they’d stop complaining.
Summary: If they didn’t escape, they were to become the victims of a truly perfect murder…
Shinichi’s last solid memory was of letting Ran into his house, and being overjoyed that he was a little bit taller than she was. Newly restored to himself, the first thing he wanted to do was see her, and that had left him momentarily blind to everything else. In hindsight, it was either a very stupid thing to do, or he just had incredibly horrible timing.
Either way, he knew that she had come into the house. She had been babbling excitedly, not quite believing that it was him. She had hugged him tightly, and he had hugged her back without any desire to let go. He had started to say something, and noticed her horrified expression, her eyes focused on some point over his shoulder. He started to turn—
And that was the end of his concrete recollection.
He had a very faint memory of someone talking above him. Something about doing it all at once. He could have sworn he was moving somehow. And he thought he heard Hattori’s name…
But wasn’t Hattori staying at the Mouri Agency for a few days? With the Toyama girl?
Whatever the case might be, his head was pounding, and it was a real struggle to open his eyes more than a crack for fear of the light. But when he managed this particular feat and looked around, he realized that something was very much amiss. Namely, he was sprawled on his back in the center of a long hallway. Ran was lying beside him, unmoving.
And he had no idea where they were or how they had gotten there.
Sitting up proved to be a bit of a chore, but he managed and took a more in-depth glance at the unfamiliar surroundings. They were, indeed, in the middle of an expansive corridor. The ceiling above them was high and arched; it all was decorated very ornately, in a decidedly Western style, and had an extremely archaic feeling to it.
But that wasn’t all. Something about the place seemed very…off. Odd. The air didn’t feel right, or something. Shinichi was having an extremely difficult time placing exactly why the hair on the back of his neck was standing up and a chill was running down his spine. He tried to write it off as being a shaky remnant of the realization that he had been kidnapped, but somehow it didn’t seem like that could explain the entire feeling away.
Ever the pragmatist, he gave himself a shake and turned his attention to Ran. He gave her shoulder a gentle shake. “Ran? Ran, wake up!”
After a moment, her eyes fluttered open. “Sh…Shinichi?” she murmured, wincing. Still, she sat up without his assistance and glanced around, one hand pressed to her forehead. “Where are we? What happen—oh my god…” Her eyes widened and she trailed off as she seemed to recall the answer to the question before she could finish asking it.
“We’ve been kidnapped,” he said, standing and offering her a hand.
Outwardly, he remained as calm as possible. To panic now could potentially be suicide. But his well-trained mind was already racing with all the ways that this scenario was odd. There was no doubt that they had been snatched from his home, but they should not have woken up as they did—free and unbound in the middle of a strange building. Most kidnapping victims were either killed outright, or imprisoned somewhere, weren’t they? At least, that’s how it seemed in the majority of kidnapping cases he was familiar with.
…for that matter, if the parties responsible were who he suspected, why hadn’t they just been killed?
Ran was talking to him. Focus. “Sorry…thinking.” He gave himself a shake and took her hand. “Come on, let’s see if we can find a way out of here.” He belatedly thought to check his pockets, and was unsurprised to find them empty. No matter, though. They just needed to find an exit…
Though this all seemed far too simple. He slowed his steps and inched a bit closer to the wall. And though he tried to push the thought aside, he couldn’t help but find himself recalling a story he had read once, where a man fixated with hunting sought the ultimate prey, and only found it in the form of other human beings. For human beings were the only creatures capable of thinking at the same level as the hunter, making them much more challenging targets.
It was just another possibility to add to the short list that was forming in his mind. Were they to be hunted down like animals in this place? Was this some sort of cat and mouse game? Or was it an honest mistake—perhaps that they were the wrong targets—and they had been dumped here for lack of a better place, and they were going to be able to waltz right out of here?
Somehow, Shinichi sincerely doubted that last possibility.
“Shinichi? Does this place feel weird to you?” Ran murmured in an unconscious echo of his earlier thoughts. But she took it a step further, managing to put words to what he felt but couldn’t quite put his finger on. “It’s like the walls could just reach out and grab you. Or something’s going to jump out at you from around the next corner…”
“That pretty much sums it up,” Shinichi agreed and tightened his hold on Ran’s hand. “Stay close. We need to stay together.” They were creeping along, keeping close to the wall. Both were looking around, every sense on fullest alert. This was strange, unfamiliar territory, and neither would be comfortable until they had found a way out.
Shinichi couldn’t stop replaying his last memories in his mind, over and over and over again. Being in the house, letting Ran in, her expression just before everything went black…oh! A sudden thought struck him, and he glanced back over his shoulder. “Ran?”
“Did you see the person who grabbed us?” he asked, a bit louder than he had meant to. But if she had seen their assailant, that could mean a lot—it could confirm or destroy his personal suspicions, which could potentially clear up his thoughts on the motive for whatever was going on.
Ran opened her mouth to respond, but froze in her tracks and instead whispered, “Shinichi…listen…”
He immediately stopped and listened as well, and was startled to realize that he also heard something.
Coming from up ahead, around the corner—in an intersecting corridor.
Instinctively, he pushed back against the wall. “Stay close,” he whispered in the softest voice he could manage and still be heard. “I’ll go first. If something goes wrong, start running and don’t look back.”
She looked infinitely pained at that, but swallowed hard and nodded.
Meanwhile, the voices up ahead had quieted as well. Perhaps they had been heard as well. All the more reason for caution, then. Slowly, they crept towards the corner, backs pressed against the wall, hands firmly entwined between them to make sure that they did not lose each other. Shinichi hesitated, took a deep breath to steel his nerve, and leaned forward to peer around the corner and see who it was.
To his absolute amazement, Hattori Heiji stared back, standing in exactly the same pose and peeking around the corner with the exact same trepidation.
They stood like that for a good couple of seconds before both simultaneously let out a sigh of relief and slumped against the wall, the tension flooding away to be replaced by relief and a slight feeling of stupidity for getting so worked up.
Startled by Shinichi’s reaction, Ran stepped from behind him, and nearly crashed into Kazuha, who had been standing behind Heiji.
After a small chorus of various relieved and startled exclamations, they finally got down to some sort of business. “What are you two doing here?” Shinichi managed to grab the lead and steer the conversation away from the admittedly reasonable surprise and towards the situation at hand.
“We were back at the Agency. Neechan said she’d be back in a minute, so we were waiting,” Heiji explained, gesturing to Ran as he mentioned her. “And then some lady walked in.”
“We thought she was a client for your father, Ran-chan,” Kazuha broke in. “But when we said that he wasn’t there, she got this weird smile on her face and said ‘Good.’ And then there was some guy behind her, and…everything after that is sort of a blur, but I remember feeling a sting on my neck.” She rubbed at the side of her throat, remembering.
That rang every kind of bell with Shinichi; as Conan, he used sleeping darts on a regular basis to turn Mouri Kogoro into his own personal puppet, suitable for the solving of murders. “I don’t get it, though,” Shinichi said thoughtfully. “They just let you see them like that?”
“…that doesn’t make any sense.”
The detectives were interrupted by Kazuha clearing her throat. “Here’s a thought, guys—how about instead of standing around talking, we find a way out of here?” She wrapped her arms around herself and glanced about. “I really don’t like it in here. It just feels weird.”
Shinichi privately agreed with both of her statements, but it seemed that Hattori just couldn’t keep himself from making a comment. “Aww, is poor Kazuha-chan still afraid of the dark?” he snickered.
“AHOU!” she was mad, and rightfully so, most spectators would agree, and turned on her heel to start stalking away. “Fine! Stay trapped in here forever! See if I care!”
“Wait up! Ahou!” Heiji snapped back on pure instinct, and chased after her as the familiar sound of an argument rang through the otherwise-silent house.
“Honestly, will those two never stop…Hattori, would you wait up!” Shinichi called, but the Osakan pair was merrily bickering their way ahead of them with no thought to the other two behind them. He sighed and quickened pace, rounding the corner. “We’re going to have to catch up to them. They’re not exactly thinking. Or paying attention.”
He heard Ran’s voice and footsteps, a few meters behind him. “Shinichi, would you slow—“
There was a soft hissing sound, and Ran was cut-off in mid-sentence. Her footfalls went silent.
Shinichi froze. Something did not feel right. “Ran?” he called into the dark hallway.
There was no answer.
“Ran? Where are you?” he tried again, and still got no reply. Growing more and more alarmed by the second, he started inching back towards the corridor from whence he had come. He knew Ran had been right behind him up until he had gone around the corner. Where was she now? He took a deep breath, and peered around that corner.
It was empty. There was no one there.
Now completely alarmed, Shinichi turned and ran after the Osakan pair. “Hattori!”
There were footsteps, and the two came sprinting into view. “What happened?” Heiji asked in between gasps for breath. He was glancing around, as though expecting there to be some visible problem or attacker or something of that nature. “Where’s Neechan?”
“That’s the problem!” Shinichi said, his usual collected demeanor going right out the window. “Ran’s missing, I can’t find her anywhere! She was right behind me until I came around this corner, and then I heard a weird hissing sound, and then she was gone!”
“That’s impossible—K-Kazuha!” Heiji said, his statement turning into a yelp as Kazuha brushed past him. She was already moving towards the hallway in question. “What the hell are you doing, ahou?”
“Looking for Ran-chan! What else?” she snapped back, pausing at the spot where the two hallways intersected. “I should be asking what you’re doing, just standing around when she could be in trouble!”
“If she went missing, who’s to say you won’t disappear too? Don’t go wandering off by yourself, ahou!” Heiji said angrily, stalking towards her with Shinichi sticking close, hot on his heels. “If you vanish, I’m not looking for you!”
Shinichi knew that last part was a complete and total lie. If Kazuha went missing, Heiji would tear the place apart to find her. But the fact was that in this case, he really had to agree with the Osakan detective. “Hattori’s right,” he said. “We need to stick together. It looks like Ran disappeared during that split second when we were in separate hallways. Maybe there’s a door or something and someone grabbed her…or she tripped a switch?”
But a search of the walls and floor revealed nothing. Kazuha even let the two boys hoist her up to do a quick inspection of the ceiling, but she could find no sign of any trick or secret door that would account for Ran’s mysterious disappearance. There was, however, a window in the middle of the ceiling. She couldn’t see anything through it except for more of the ceiling, but it was decidedly discomfiting.
With all three of them getting more and more nervous by the minute, they started tearing through the house, searching frantically for any sign of Ran. They called her name, but got no answer. The house itself, meanwhile, seemed to grow more and more like a maze with every room they entered. There were doorways that led nowhere, windows that opened onto empty rooms, and one stairwell that nearly killed Shinichi by going up to a wall; he managed to clock himself on the ceiling.
When they opened another door and found themselves in a library, they stopped for a moment and sat down to catch their breath. Or at least Heiji and Kazuha did. Shinichi kept moving around the room, pulling books from shelves with little care for their condition. When that failed, he moved to the desk and started rifling through the drawers and papers. What exactly he was searching for remained unclear, but it was obvious that nothing would escape his scrutiny as he searched for Ran.
“Kudo!” Heiji finally jumped in. “You need to calm down! Freaking out isn’t going to help!” He did spare a moment to wonder exactly when he became the voice of reason in this ensemble, as that position was usually awarded (with honors) to Kudo.
“I’m not stopping until I find her!” Shinichi barked, slamming one hand on the desk.
There was a click, and a section of the carpet suddenly depressed, as though hanging.
The two boys looked at each other for a moment, then moved towards it as one person. Kazuha jumped to her feet and joined them. They had to move a chair in order to get the carpet up, but in relatively short order they had pulled it aside to reveal an opening in the floor. It appeared to be some sort of trap door, and judging by what they could see through that opening, it led to a crawl space.
Before the other two could say anything, Shinichi was already climbing down into the small area. “I’ll check it out. I don’t think it’s that big, but…I feel like I should stay in sight.” He didn’t know why, but he had a feeling that if he was out of sight, it would constitute being alone…and that was very, very bad.
He was proven right: it was a very small space, hardly big enough for him to move in. But he did find something down there—a few somethings, rather. There was a small framed document or picture of some sort, face down on the dirt floor, and on top of it was what appeared to be some sort of old monetary bill. He picked it up and looked at it. It was definitely a paper yen bill, one yellowed with age. And upon closer inspection, he saw what appeared to be writing on it.
“Kudo-kun? Did you find anything?” Kazuha called from above.
“…actually, yes. I did. Hang on,” he said, gathering both of the items and clambering back out of the crawl space into the lit room above. He quickly spread his discoveries on the floor so the others could see them. The framed paper proved to be a portrait, apparently hand-painted, and slightly faded with age. There was a signature at the bottom that was too far gone to read (presumably the artist), and an engraving at the bottom of the frame that read one word: Urado.
“Well, that’s…interesting,” Heiji said, raising an eyebrow. He picked up the bill and studied it. “What the hell does this mean, exactly?” He squinted at the writing, as though trying to make sense of some great puzzle. “What do you think about that portrait?”
“Beats me. It’s very good. But who is this Urado? I assume that’s this man’s name. Definitely a strange name,” Shinichi commented, giving the picture a closer look. The man in the picture was very thin, and rather sickly-looking, but there was something about the expression on his face or the look in his sunken eyes that did not sit well with Shinichi. And he couldn’t help but think that in some indefinable way…the man reminded him of Gin. And that was not a good feeling at all. “But Urado…why do I feel like I should know that name?”
Kazuha was tapping her chin thoughtfully. “It does sound sort of familiar…”
Heiji, meanwhile, passed Shinichi the money. “Take a look. I think I’ve got it, but I want confirmation.”
Shinichi obligingly took the bill and studied the writing on it. After a few minutes of thought, he realized why the kanji didn’t make any sense. He was reading it the wrong way—this was old Japanese. With that in mind, he reread it, having to search his memory for meanings. But finally, he passed it back, his expression very grim. “It’s a warning, right?”
“What?” Kazuha took her turn looking at it.
“It’s saying to stay away. People who come here die. And Urado’s name is on there—“ Heiji started to explain for her benefit, but was cut off when Shinichi’s eyes widened. “Kudo? What?”
“I almost missed it, but look at this!” Shinichi exclaimed, pointing at the very corner of the plaque that bore Urado’s name. There was a very tiny engraving there, barely legible.
“What does it say?” Heiji squinted.
“Vlad,” Shinichi read.
“…Vlad? Why does that sound familiar too?” Heiji frowned.
“Urado. Vlad. They sound similar…” Shinichi remarked.
Both turned to look at Kazuha in surprise. “What?”
“The only Vlad I’ve ever heard of is Vlad the Impaler,” she said, turning to Heiji. “Do you remember that project we had to do in our English class last year, where we picked an English novel and had to do all that research on it and write the big paper?”
“I picked Dracula. Sensei recommended it. And I researched the history of it,” she closed her eyes in thought as she tried to remember the details she had so meticulously looked up for her school project. “Bram Stoker was the author’s name. The vampire Dracula in the book was a character he invented, but there was a bit of basis in reality. The actual person was Vlad Dracul, I think it was. I can’t remember everything exactly, but I do know that he was called Vlad the Impaler because he liked to execute people by dropping them onto huge spikes and watching while they died.” She shuddered.
“…sounds like a very pleasant guy,” Heiji grimaced.
“But yeah. That’s the only Vlad I know of,” Kazuha shrugged, though she still looked thoughtful. “Not that it helps us a lot, really. Vlad the Impaler lived in Europe. Transylvania or something.” But she was still tapping her chin, a classic gesture that indicated that she was thinking.
Shinichi was on his feet, gathering the portrait and money to take with them. He was going on instinct a great deal tonight, but there weren’t many other clues left to him in this situation. “Let’s get going,” he said. “We need to find Ran.”
The three teenagers headed out of the library, and found stairs leading down, back to the ground floor. But as they started to descend, Heiji froze, his hand on the railing, his feet on two different stairs. He actually went two shades paler. “Kudo. Kazuha.”
They stopped and glanced at him. “What’s wrong?”
Heiji looked around, his head moving slowly and deliberately. “…there’s something else in this house. And we’re close to it. Right here.” His eyes were enormous, almost fearful. “It’s a secret. But people died because of it. And it’s near us, somewhere…” Now his gaze trailed across the wall, moving down along the line of the stairs until they stopped about two-thirds of the way down the stairwell. “There.” He started moving down the steps, purpose written into his face.
While Shinichi and Kazuha watched, Heiji dropped to sit on the stairs. He seemed to be fiddling with the wall. It took them both a moment to realize that it wasn’t just another piece of paneling in the wall.
It was a door. And Heiji was struggling with the handle.
“What the hell?” Kazuha muttered just loud enough for Shinichi to hear it, and rushed to Heiji’s side to help him. It took the both of them several seconds of hard pulling to wrench the curved handle downwards and push the door open. The handle actually slammed down suddenly and the door flew open; Kazuha nearly went tumbling forward into the black space beyond it. And both of the Osakan teenagers immediately started coughing at the cloud of dust they inadvertently stirred up.
Shinichi switched on the flashlight built into his watch and covered his mouth and nose with his sleeve as he peered into the darkness. “There’s something back here. A room…a big room,” he muttered, leaning in a bit further. He did have one moment of hesitation before he made his decision. “I’m going in. You guys can wait out here, or you can come with me.”
Though he tried to sound like the idea of wandering into the dark passage alone didn’t bother him, he was inordinately relieved when Hattori shook his head. “There’s no way in hell we’re letting you go alone. The three of us are sticking together.” Kazuha nodded, though she looked a bit less confident about going wandering around in there.
Apparently in agreement, they slipped through that opening and into the space beyond it. Shinichi went first, then Kazuha, and Heiji last. Kazuha kept a tight hold on Heiji’s hand until all three of them were safely on the ground. They left the door open, though the light from that opening wouldn’t stretch very far. But now they could look around a bit more easily.
They had crawled into a small room, with a stone floor and dust and cobwebs everywhere. There was a door in the far wall, and some sort of boiler or furnace in the corner. Kazuha summed it up very nicely for all of them when she said, “Well. This is pleasant.”
Armed with the small beam of light from his watch, Shinichi wandered around the perimeter of the room. There wasn’t a great deal to see, but he kept shining his light on the wall, as though looking for any openings or trick latches. He paused when he got to the furnace, and dropped his light to shine down on it. Then came the strangled cry. “H-Hattori!”
Heiji and Kazuha were across the room in a heartbeat, and Kazuha immediately jumped back with a gasp when she saw what was down in the area usually reserved for the furnace’s fuel.
Two dead bodies, both covered in blood. Their throats were viciously slashed. Judging by the state of the bodies, they had died relatively recently, but neither detective could bring himself to actually check for the state of rigor mortis or any other indicating factors.
“I really, REALLY want to go home now,” Shinichi swallowed hard, turning away from the sight. “We need to find a way out of this hellhole. Now. Bring the police back later to check this place out. Or better yet, burn it down.” He was mumbling by that point as he made his way to the door on the far side of the room. “Burn this god-forsaken place down…”
The door in question was old; the knob actually broke off in Shinichi’s hand, and the door itself swung open very slowly, emitting a loud, ominous creak from the rusty old hinges. Heiji couldn’t keep himself from commenting, “Good omen, huh?” When Kazuha glared at him, he shrugged. “What? If we were watching this in a movie, this is where we’d be screaming at ‘em not to go in the room, right?”
Even in the dim light, it was easy to tell that Kazuha had gone paler.
The door opened onto another short hallway, which led to some sort of entryway or foyer. It was certainly one of the strangest layouts any of them had ever seen, and Shinichi had once toured the Winchester Mansion in California while visiting his parents. This horrific place made about as much sense architecturally as that place did. Then again, there weren’t any bodies in the Winchester House.
The three of them walked towards the mouth of the hallway and the room that lay there, sticking very close together, when Heiji suddenly stopped again, perhaps a meter or so from that opening.
“Hattori?” Shinichi asked, giving him a curious look.
He didn’t seem to hear the question. His eyes were focused intently on a door on the right side of the hallway just up ahead. He raised a hand and pointed. “Through there. They brought them through that door.” He frowned, his brow furrowing as he thought. “There’s a chair. A table. And a fireplace. They would take them through a door hidden in the wardrobe…” He fell silent, moving the raised hand to his mouth and dropping his eyes.
“Err, Heiji…” Kazuha started to say something, then fell silent. “L-let’s just check it out.”
“We have to find Ran,” Shinichi said, a quiet reminder of their main objective right now. Once they had her back with them, they could focus on their other goal: finding a way out of this strange place. He was still trying to remember if they had actually seen any doors or windows that led to the outside.
Obeying Heiji’s strange orders, they carefully pushed the appointed door open and looked into the room beyond it. Shinichi’s flashlight swept over the room, illuminating some things in there. A large chair, covered in dusty and faded maroon upholstery. A small table, lying on its side. A fireplace, ornately carved from white stone. And a wardrobe against the wall…
A cold chill ran through Shinichi as he opened the wardrobe and felt around inside it. It didn’t take long before he felt something strange under his fingers in the bottom corner. A slight application of pressure sounded a click, and he felt the back of the closet swing open.
Exactly as Hattori had said.
Before he could say anything, a rush of air swept past the three of them, and it was all Shinichi could do to avoid gagging when he got a whiff of it. It was old and musty and smelled strongly of blood. He froze at the mysterious draft and the awful smell, swallowed hard, and felt the strange, inexplicable need to remind himself that there was no such thing as ghosts.
…but if ghosts did exist, this certainly seemed like the kind of place where they would hang out.
“Hattori?” Shinichi said quietly after a moment. “What’s next? Do you know?”
A beat of silence, tempered only by their breathing. Then Heiji responded. “There’s…I think there’s a tunnel. Not a very long one. It leads to a garden or a park or something…a lot of bushes and hedges. At the other end of the garden is another building. The door there…it’s painted white. And beyond that door…” He fell quiet for a moment, then shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s next.”
“Heiji,” Kazuha piped up in a tense voice, “how do you know any of this at all?”
“…I don’t know,” he said. “We went through that door, and suddenly everything just kind of came into my head. I don’t even know how I knew it was right, but it was all so clear.” He frowned. “I don’t believe in ghosts, but…this house…it just feels like there’s something here.” He sounded faintly embarrassed to admit such a thought.
“Let’s keep going,” Shinichi said after a moment. “I think we’re getting close to Ran.”
They walked down the corridor. As Heiji had said, it was a short tunnel of perhaps fifteen feet or so. They emerged at the other end, apparently outside. The ground was an odd shade of brown, and they were surrounded on either side by tall hedges, like the kind one would find in a hedge maze. And the whole place carried a nauseatingly heavy scent of blood.
The three hurried through the maze, barely speaking to each other at all. Heiji seemed to know, somehow, which way to go, and they followed his lead. It was the only lead they had, and it hadn’t been wrong yet. There was no reason to doubt whatever was guiding Heiji and by default, guiding them. Whatever the case, something was happening here, and it seemed that whatever it was lay far beyond their immediate comprehension. They had no choice but to press forward.
Far too soon (or so it seemed, in a strange way), they found themselves staring up at the aforementioned building. It was made of wood, most of which was faded and rotting, and the door directly ahead of them had once been painted white, though it was now peeling, and the worn wood was clearly visible. It seemed that this was their destination.
“In there,” Heiji said softly. That was good enough for them, and Shinichi took the dubious honor of opening the door. The knob must have been rusty; it resisted a bit before turning in his hand.
What lay ahead could have been someone’s house; the initial glance almost reminded Shinichi of the layout of his own home in Beika, with the stairs to the left of the entryway. They moved inside, looking around in search of any clue; Kazuha moved ahead, staying well within sight of the two boys. “Hattori?” Shinichi asked, watching as Kazuha opened a door and peered inside. “Anything?”
Before he could answer, Kazuha screamed.
The two detectives were at her side in an eyeblink, Heiji grabbing her arm with intent to shield her from whatever lay inside. But the sight made even the experienced detectives freeze and stare in horror.
The room Kazuha had inadvertently opened…was full of bones.
It was a long room with a high ceiling, lined with shelves that ran from floor to ceiling. And on the shelves were heaps of bones, gathered in small piles. Each pile was topped with a skull, giving the impression that each of the individual heaps was an individual person. And there were seemingly countless piles, the remnants of so many nameless dead.
It brought to mind the blood-soaked bodies they had found in the furnace just inside the hidden door at the stairwell, how their throats had been so painfully slashed open…
“Hattori, where’s Ran?” Shinichi asked, his voice tense and no little frightened.
“Up the stairs,” Heiji intoned; he did not seem at all fazed by the fact that Kazuha was clinging to his arm now. “That’s where they would take them.”
“They?” Shinichi said, surprised. “Them?”
“Two men,” he said. “They would bring people here, bring them through the hedges to this place. They would take them up the stairs,” he turned to look up towards the stairwell, “and at the top of the stairs…a door.” His eyes widened. “A green metal door.”
“Then let’s go,” Shinichi said. He moved towards the stairs. “I want to know what’s up there. Hell, Ran could be up there.” He heard Heiji’s footfalls on the stairs behind him until they had gotten about halfway up; there the footsteps ceased. Shinichi turned back to look down at his friendly rival. “Hattori?”
Heiji was frozen in place on the stairs, his feet on two different steps, his hand clutching the railing, and his eyes focused on the landing ahead. “Kudo…” he murmured. “Every instinct in my body is telling me to run like hell and not look back.”
Shinichi shivered. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his gut as well, but he hadn’t wanted to voice the feeling. It seemed silly, really. It was just a flight of stairs, there was nothing up there to be afraid of.
No matter what he felt, though, he had to find Ran. “We have to keep going,” he said with more courage than he truly felt. “Ran’s still missing, and…well…” He trailed off, glancing back up the stairs. Dear lord, she couldn’t really be up there, could she? But they had to check either way…
“Kazuha,” Heiji said, reaching a hand behind him towards the girl, “stay close, okay?”
Surprise flitted over her features, but she nodded (though he couldn’t see it) and reached up to take his hand. “I’m with you.” Seeing the room full of bones had ended any and all arguments, and left only a dark realization as to how serious their situation truly was.
As if it hadn’t been obvious enough.
“Hattori,” Shinichi murmured as they reached the landing, “I’m still wondering how you knew all those things, like where the doors were and how to get through the maze.”
“I don’t know. I just remember it.”
“…someone else’s memories?” Kazuha ventured.
Under any other circumstances, both Heiji and Shinichi probably would have made some sort of remark as to the impossibility of such a claim, and Kazuha would have blushed and gotten angry. But given where they were and what was going on…it seemed strangely possible.
The conversation died quickly as they turned onto the landing and froze.
Ahead was a green metal door, just as Heiji had said.
“…we should run,” Kazuha said. “I want to run. This place…it’s a bad place…” Though a sort of childish way to put it, neither boy disagreed. The feelings of dread were completely mutual.
Shinichi swallowed hard and squared his shoulders. “Let’s go.” He was proud that his voice only quavered slightly, and they began walking towards that door. He reached out, hesitated, then pulled it wide open and peered into the semi-darkness. Strange how the room seemed to be very dimly lit.
And the smell of blood and death was so strong that it nearly sent him to his knees. He was almost ill, and he heard the other two behind him gasping in a similar fashion at the horrific stench. Steeling both his nerves and his stomach, Shinichi moved into the room. “Hello?” Aided by the flashlight built into his watch, he quickly scanned the room, noting that the door they had come through was the only one in or out of the room; finally, the beam of light fell across a huddled form on the floor in the corner…
“Ran!” the name tore from Shinichi’s mouth as he sprinted across the room, sidestepping a table that stood in the center of it to reach Ran’s side, grabbing her shoulders and giving her a gentle shake. She was sitting with her back against the wall, her knees pulled up to her chest, and her forehead resting on her knees; she seemed to be unconscious, oh please let her only be asleep… “Ran! RAN!”
After a moment of this, she stirred and blinked up at him owlishly, as though trying to make him come back into focus. “Sh-Shinichi?” she said dully with the air of one who has just awoken from a nap and is not fully coherent yet. “What’re you doin’ here?”
“Are you all right? Are you hurt?” Shinichi asked in a panic.
“M’fine…just cold…” Ran said. It had to be agreed that the room was inexplicably chilly.
Shinichi was wearing a long-sleeved shirt open over a T-shirt; at Ran’s confession of being cold, he moved to slip the outer shirt off and offer it to her. As he did so, he heard footsteps behind him, and took them to be Heiji, a suspicion confirmed when the Osakan detective said, “What happened?”
“Was walking behind you,” Ran said, accepting the shirt with a grateful look. “And then I couldn’t move, and there were two men there and they pulled me through the wall and through the garden and brought me here…I really don’t know…”
“I think we need to get out of here n—“ Heiji straightened, but his statement was cut off when he slipped. He let out a squawk that turned to a gasp of pain when he caught himself by slamming his elbow down onto the table situated in the center of the floor.
“Heiji!” Kazuha was right behind him. “Are you okay?”
“Damn, that hurt…” he pushed himself upright and shook his head. “I’m fine. Let’s just get out of here.”
Shinichi started to nod his assent, then his eyes widened and his jaw dropped. “Hattori…” he swung his light up towards Heiji. “Your arm…”
Heiji glanced down at his forearm, the one he had braced against the tabletop to keep himself from crashing when he had slipped. And now it was his turn to look stunned when he realized that his sleeve was stained bright red.
The table was covered with blood.
The entire room was blood-soaked, splattered across the walls and floor.
Shinichi stood and reached a hand down to help pull a shivering Ran to her feet. “Hattori…” he murmured, “…was it like this when we came in?” As a detective, Shinichi prided himself on being meticulously observant at all times. But now as he wracked his memory for what the room had looked like when they had entered, he could not say for certain whether there had been blood splattered everywhere or not.
Suddenly, he felt a cold that had nothing at all to do with the temperature in the room.
And it was only compounded when Hattori, equally observant with an equally astute attention to details, shook his head. “I…I don’t know. Was it?” Kazuha had been relatively silent through most of this, and simply joined in the shaking of heads.
It was frightening to comprehend, really, that they could have somehow missed something that now seemed so glaringly obvious. Had they missed anything else? God, this whole place was horrendous, quite possibly evil, and they still had to find a way out.
“Heiji…”Kazuha said suddenly, taking the boy’s arm with one hand and pointing towards something on the other side of the room with her free hand. “L-look. What is that?”
All three gazes followed hers, and zeroed in on the object in question. “Is that…a bathtub?” Heiji asked, incredulously. But the question was more of an instinctive reaction than anything else because like the table and the walls, the white porcelain was splattered with something that looked far too much like blood for anyone’s comfort.
No, not just splattered.
A few steps closer revealed that it was actually filled nearly to the top with dark, thick red liquid, almost to the point of overflowing onto the stained floor. The surface of the liquid was still. And it brought to mind the bodies they had seen out by the secret door, with their throats torn open so violently…was that where all this had come from? And what about all the other bodies, those bones stacked on the shelves in that little room. Had they somehow contributed to this?
A sudden chill gripped Shinichi, and he squeezed Ran’s hand. Something was about to happen.
Sure enough, a single ripple started in the middle of the tub with no visible source for it. They all waited, each unconsciously holding their breath as they stood to see what was going to come from this.
And like a monster from some bad horror movie, this…thing began to rise out of the blood. It came straight up, as though the tub was deep enough for him to stand upright in, though that was visibly not the case. Bulbous eyes stared at them from a skull-like face atop a body that was nothing more than a skeleton draped with skin.
And it stared at them with a grin that bordered on the maniacal.
In hindsight, none of the four was sure who said it. It was a voice, possibly one of theirs, and it cut through the room, momentarily obscuring the sound of the THING’S heaving, panting breaths. A single word, a single syllable that jolted all of them out of their stunned stupor with its clear-cut order.
It made all of them jump to attention and jump to action as they rushed to obey. They tore around the table, heading for the door. There was no way that thing could catch them, could it? They just had to get away. They had to run like hell and make it out of this room, through the maze, and—
Something grabbed Shinichi’s ankle.
Moving as fast as he was, he didn’t have time to catch himself or adjust, and it was a foregone conclusion. He flew forward and crashed to the floor, face down. He smacked his forehead but good, and for a moment he was too dazed to move as pretty yellow stars danced in front of his eyes. But realizing where he was, he glanced back to see what he had tripped on.
A hand was coming out of the floor, its long dark fingers wrapped around his leg.
“What the—“ Shinichi let out an involuntary yelp of alarm and instinctively started kicking, trying frantically to free his leg and get loose from…from whatever it was that was holding him in place. But the hand held fast against his practiced soccer kicks, and panic was starting to set in.
And then a drop of something wet fell on his hand, which was splayed out on the floor, caught by another hand that had come out of the tile to grab at his wrist.
He really didn’t have to look. He was sure he could guess what it was. But he turned his head and looked anyway, and saw that it was, indeed, blood. And there were bare feet there, with rivulets of blood running down them to leave crimson footprints on the floor.
With a slowness that almost defied human physics, Shinichi dragged his eyes upwards to see the thing looming over him. It hadn’t seemed so huge when they saw it emerging from across the room, but now, standing above him as he lay immobile on the floor?
Shinichi had never been so horrified in his life, and he really didn’t care who knew it.
Especially when he noticed something in the monster’s hand, something that flashed silver as it moved in the dim light. He recognized it quickly as knife. A large, sharp-looking knife.
And those protruding eyes were watching him with a glee that bordered on sadistic.
Was this Urado? The man whose portrait they had found, whose name sounded so much like a man known to the long annals of history as a terror and a devil and whose legacy was one of blood and torture and pain and death?
And it was leaning down towards Shinichi, that hideous face twisted into a sick parody of a smile. The knife was held out, moving ever closer to his throat. It seemed fairly obvious as to what was about to happen, and it turned Shinichi’s blood to ice in his veins.
That was what this thing was after.
I’m going to die, Shinichi realized, unable to tear his eyes away from the creature. He’s going to kill me.
He had heard it said the answers came at the end, but there were no answers here. There was no who and how and why. There were only questions, and terror, and a desperate, animalistic need to escape.
He heard Ran’s voice from the door, and was finally able to break the spell that thing had cast over him to look towards her. He heard the words “RAN, RUN!” tear from his throat, but it didn’t sound like him. He had never sounded so hoarse or frightened in his life.
And Ran didn’t move. Whether she was immobilized by fear or unwilling to leave him there, he didn’t know, but he wanted to scream with frustration. If she died here and now, like this, then him coming here at all had done nothing. He had not saved her, whether at the cost of his life or not.
The knife pressed against his throat, and he heard it make a coughing sound amidst the heavy breaths; he took that sound to be some sad attempt at laughter as it prepared to kill him. Oh my god…
He felt the knife move and he felt pain as the sharp edge cut into his skin and oh god he was already bleeding and he was going to die like this…
A burst of light flickered in front of his eyes, then exploded into streams of light, like a gymnast’s ribbon, twirling and arching in the narrow space between him and the thing.
Shinichi stared at it, wide-eyed. It felt like…for some reason, as he watched those ribbons of light moving in the air, he thought of a woman he had known a long time ago, a woman to whose senseless death he had been the only witness, the only ears to hear her last words, and whose younger sister he now did everything in his power to protect…
He breathed that woman’s name without meaning to.
The knife clattered to the floor as the monster stepped back, its face going from sickening gleefully to alarmed and confused in the time it took Shinichi to let out a hoarse gasp of relief. Still being held to the floor by the hands that had come up from the floor to hold him, he watched as the white lights moved around that thing before they seemed to attack.
The monster, Urado, seemed to burst into pieces and vanish.
A second later, the hands gripping Shinichi’s ankle and wrist also vanished.
It took him a second to realize that he was once again mobile. But once he did, he surged to his feet and dashed towards the door where Ran was still standing. He grabbed her hand to pull her along, but she was already moving beside him, matching his pace.
“What happened?” Hattori was at the foot of the stairs with his hand on the banister, like he had been preparing to climb the stairs. Kazuha was standing right behind him, one of her hands on his shoulder; it seemed that she had been trying to stop him from going up there again.
For the third time in as many minutes, the single word was barked: “RUN!” This time it was definitely Shinichi, who actually jumped over the railing to the ground level without ever breaking step. Heiji didn’t need to be told twice, and the four teenagers tore back threw the door, the maze, the room, the hallway, and out through the door.
The entire way, Shinichi kept glancing back. In the shadows, he swore he saw Urado’s face. He swore he heard that heavy breathing in his ears, smelled that horrific stench of blood and decomposition and death dancing in front of his nose as something thin and icy cold pressed to his throat…
They flung themselves through that door, scrambling back up onto the stairwell. For a lack of anything else to do, Heiji kicked the door closed behind them before pushing away from it and continuing on their mad sprint down the stairs, as far away from it as they could possibly get.
None of them saw the glimmer of white light that moved across that door.
Nor did they hear the growl from beyond it, like the snarl of a beast that has just been caged.
It was some distance before they skidded to a stop. Heiji slumped over, putting his hands on his knees to support himself as he panted desperately for air; Kazuha leaned on him. Ran put one hand on a table in the hallway as she gasped. Shinichi dropped to the floor and curled up, putting his hands on the back of his head with his fingers interlocked as he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet.
“Th-that was…” Kazuha stammered, still white as a sheet. “Oh my god…that thing…”
Ran actually looked like she was going to cry, but whatever she was going to say faded into concern as she noticed that Shinichi was still sitting in a modified fetal position, staring at the floor. “Shinichi?”
One hand loosened itself from its grip on his head and waved. “Just…just give me a minute…” His voice was hoarse and harsh and strained, and he would not look at anyone. Still, a red stain was visibly forming on the neckline of his shirt.
“You’re hurt!” Ran dropped to her knees beside him, her hands already grappling at her pockets in search of a handkerchief or something she could use to wipe away the blood or press against the wound to try and stave off the bleeding. The location of this injury made it even more alarming—what if he was dying? They still hadn’t found a door in this place! How would they get him help?
“I said give me a minute!” Shinichi repeated, his voice even more grating.
Heiji ignored him and reached down to move his head off to one side for a better examination of the cut on his neck. After a moment, he sighed. “I think he missed the major artery. Don’t know how, but it’s not bleeding enough for it to be the artery. But you’re still going to want to have a doctor look at that, Kudo. It’s pretty deep.”
“No shit…” Shinichi muttered. He was shaking now, visibly, from head to toe. But after a moment, he straightened his legs and stood hunched over with his hands braced against his thighs. Another minute passed before he rose to his full height and gave himself a shake. He looked pale and shaken. “Let’s go. Please. Let’s just…let’s just get the hell out of this place…”
No one argued. They started walking, all four of them keeping close together both for support and for self preservation. If anything else came out of the walls or attacked them…they needed to stick together. It felt a little silly to be fearful of things crawling out of the walls. That seemed more like something out of a child’s nightmares, like the boogeyman in the closet.
But they had found the boogeyman. He lived in a house within a house, beyond a hedge maze that was drenched in the nauseating stench of blood. Given what had already happened, they did not want to take anything for granted or write anything off as impossible. This seemed a place where the impossible came to life and terrorized you, possibly at the expense of your life.
After several more moments of walking, Kazuha stopped so suddenly that the other three ran into her. “This is not getting us anywhere!” she said. “We’re not finding a door! Guys, let’s come up with some sort of plan, please!” One hand tugged nervously at the end of her ponytail. “Something…anything, we need an idea. At the rate we’re going, we’ll never get out of here.”
Ran took Kazuha’s arm. “She’s right. Let’s…let’s come up with a plan. Please, guys. This is awful.”
Heiji glanced over at Shinichi as the girls started talking between themselves, and paused. “…Kudo?” he said, noticing that Shinichi was staring up at the ceiling, his face blank. It almost made Heiji wince; that particular pose made the bleeding cut on his neck impossible to miss. “You okay?”
“I’m just thinking. I feel like we’re missing something,” Kudo said in response, turning his head to look straight at Heiji. “What’s bothering me is the why of all this. Why bring us here? Why go to all this trouble? Why not just, I don’t know, shoot us in the head or something?”
Heiji glanced back over at the girls; they were talking nearby, seemingly oblivious to the discussion their boys were having. “It does seem weird. And I’ll go you one better—they let us see them. We could identify them, no problem.” He folded his arms. “I think it’s pretty obvious that they don’t think we’ll ever get that chance. In other words—“
“They expect us to die, right? I mean, that’s the only way they can be one hundred percent certain that we won’t talk,” Shinichi nodded. “But why go to such lengths? I mean…come on, really.”
“A ghost who kills people…” Heiji cocked his head to one side. “I gotta say, that’s a new one.”
Shinichi shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. “New or not, I don’t care. Whatever the hell is going on, I want to know. I was a split second away from being a murder victim myself. So I think I’m entitled to some goddamn answers.”
Heiji tapped his chin thoughtfully for a moment, then froze. “…say that again.”
Startled, Shinichi said, “…I’m entitled to some answers?”
“The part before that.”
“I was almost murdered?”
“Kudo,” Heiji gave his friend an odd look, “tell me something. What’s the legal definition of murder?”
“Hattori, you’re not making any sense.”
“Just answer the question.”
Shinichi sighed. “Legally, murder is the killing of one human by another…” He trailed off at the end of that statement as it clicked, and his eyes widened. “You’re not actually suggesting…”
“One human kills another. Malicious intent. That’s murder. So if you died in that room…who’s the murderer?” Heiji asked. There was a certain speculative glimmer in his eyes that only appeared when he had a mystery in front of him. Ran and Kazuha, meanwhile, had apparently realized that something important was being unraveled and had come closer to listen.
“…does Urado count as a human?”
“I don’t know. Does a ghost count as a human? I wouldn’t think so,” Heiji shook his head. “I mean, no self-respecting cop would ever suggest that a ghost was the culprit in a murder. If they did, they’d probably be laughed off the investigation.” He glanced at the girls. “Right?”
Kazuha nodded. “None of the officers I know would suggest it.”
“Let’s go back to the beginning,” Shinichi waved a hand in the air before pressing it to his forehead, as though trying to stave off a headache. “We’re kidnapped. They let us see them, which suggests that they don’t care if we could identify them because they don’t think we’ll ever be able to. We wake up in this crazy house, and the next thing we know, we’re face-to-face with a ghost intent on cutting our throats.”
“…but a ghost isn’t human, right?” Ran asked.
“That thing was not human,” Shinichi said quickly, his voice crisp. One hand moved to his neck in an unconscious gesture. “So…Urado couldn’t be the murderer in the legal sense. So then…”
“So then who murdered you?” Kazuha finished.
Heiji’s eyes widened as a thought struck him. “I’ll go you one better, Kudo. I wouldn’t ask who the murderer is,” he shook his head. “I’d rather ask what the murder weapon is. The knife? Or…?”
“…you’re actually suggesting that they’re using a ghost as a murder weapon?” Shinichi said.
“It’s the perfect weapon, isn’t it?” Ran interjected. “Completely untraceable.”
“So…they dump us in here to let us be killed by a ghost. That way…there’s no physical murderer. The ones who put us here—the real killers…they could be miles and miles away, so there’s no way they could be blamed for our deaths, right?” Shinichi almost seemed to be thinking out loud. “So…we die. There’s no murder weapon, no murderer…”
“…you know, legally there might not even be a murder,” Kazuha piped up.
The other three stared at her. “What?” Heiji said.
“Think about it,” she said. “Remember, my dad’s a cop too. I know how some of this works. Say it’s a kidnapping. They make a clean grab, and there’s no evidence left of any foul play. Then no one could really say that the person in question didn’t just decide to take off somewhere.”
“But the body—“
“What body?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “Remember that room we found, with all the bones? And there were quite a few in there, which tells me that they’ve done this before. Lots of times. Which is why they were confident enough to leave us here.”
“…the bodies don’t leave. They’re never found,” Heiji said. Comprehension was finally dawning as to what she was getting at. “If there’s no body and no evidence of foul play…”
“Then wouldn’t it be a missing persons case? At least initially?” Kazuha finished.
“…Kazuha, every once in a while you’re kind of brilliant,” Heiji said, and she swatted him.
“So…we vanish, but no one knows we were kidnapped,” Shinichi said. “Even if they do find some evidence of that, they can’t prove that we’re dead. We’re a missing person case, most likely. And then we die in here. No one knows where we are. No one knows that we’re dead. No one ever finds our bodies.” He ran nervous fingers through his bangs. “And so it stands to reason that no one finds the ones responsible. The real killers. They’re clean.”
“Using a completely untraceable murder weapon, a ghost…” Heiji was startled to feel a laugh bubble up from his chest, a harsh sound that he was hard-pressed to subdue. “Oh my god…I can’t find a hole in this plan. Some mistake. And I can’t. It’s brilliant.”
“It’s more than brilliant, Hattori,” Shinichi was actually fighting down stupefied laughter of his own as he tried to imagine what conclusions he would have drawn if he were investigating this from the outside; would he have ever dared to suspect a spirit? “I think it’s perfect. It’s a perfect fucking murder.”
Those words fluttered over all of them, fading into the silence.
“So…what do we do?” Ran finally asked quietly, nervously.
“If we die in here, then we’ll just be another notch in the pole, so to speak,” Shinichi sighed. “They won’t find us. Even if they do, by some miracle, they won’t know what happened to us. So the only way for us to solve the mystery, as it were…”
“Is to escape,” Heiji finished.
Kazuha cleared her throat. “I…didn’t see a door. Anywhere.”
A chorus of murmured agreements.
“I’ll make one if necessary,” Shinichi muttered. “Then let’s find a window, a hole in the wall…anything.”
There was a sound down the corridor then, a low moaning like an animal in mortal pain. It was horrific, both because it came from no discernable source, and because it seemed a harbinger of what was to befall them should they fail.
Ran shuddered. “Let’s go. Please.”
Megure stared in speechless shock at the four filthy, disheveled, exhausted teenagers standing in front of his desk. Half the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force was crowded around the door to the office, trying to see what exactly was going on. Officer Satou Miwako stood beside the four, having taken one look at them and escorted them directly to the Inspector.
“…all right, I’ll ask the obvious question,” he said after taking a moment to gather his wits. “What in the world happened?” His eyes slid over all four of them in turn: Kudo Shinichi, Mouri Ran, Toyama Kazuha, Hattori Heiji. All well-known to him, both from professional and personal connections, as honest and trustworthy individuals, none of whom ever made trouble.
Kudo sighed. “I don’t think you’ll believe me, but…here goes nothing…” Privately, he was cringing as he tried to imagine how the good Inspector would react to the part with the zombies.
It was a long time later, long after the raid of the Hell House (as the teenagers still called it) that they heard further news of the horrible place. The owner had asked various paranormal investigators to come in and examine the place, ascertain the identity of the ghost, and remove it.
Two investigators vanished and were presumed dead. An organization, named as the Shibuya Psychic Research group, recommended that the place be destroyed. Much as Shinichi had said while inside the place, they suggested purification by fire.
Shortly after the aborted investigation, the mansion burned.
PS. All right, it can has be full disclosure time now, because there is a story behind this one. This is a rather sizable quasi-crossover with another anime called Ghost Hunt, which is absolutely delightful if you like creepy things or paranormal things. Urado is a ghost they duke it out with in that anime, and his MO is much as you see it outlined here. After I watched GH, I got to thinking about this case, and it occurred to me that O HAY PERFECT MURDER. And lo, this story was born.
I did do a bit of research as well. The legal definition of murder is one human being killing another human being, usually with premeditation or malicious intent. Ergo, the potential for a ghost to be used not as a murderer, but as a murder weapon. The idea intrigued me.
So yes, that is the basic story behind this insanely long fic. Thank you for reading. Much love!