Fandom: Detective Conan
Disclaimer: I don't own Detective Conan. But I do have homemade hand-puppets for each character...that's normal, right?
Summary: Sequel to A Perfect Act. There's a killer on the loose, with an very odd MO. Helping with the investigation means that Kaito might need to watch his back.
As Kudo Shinichi took the seat that had been left vacant for him beside Megure-keibu, Kaito remained nonchalant. While Kaitou Kid might have the oddest of workin relationships with the great detective, Kuroba Kaito had never encountered him, though he had undoubtedly read about the young man in the papers and was aware of his reputation.
He particularly recalled a case from several months earlier, just after his first case with the police, that had made papers the world over. Turned out that Snake wasn’t the only trigger-happy lunatic in a black coat. Kudo had been on the run from a few of his own, and when the case had broken it had immediately been international news. If Kaito hadn’t borne personal witness to Kudo’s shrunken alter ego, he would have found the whole thing almost too outrageous to believe.
And he bit back a smile as he also recalled a newspaper story that had come out only a couple of months before, detailing that with the information garnered from the Organization’s files, an antidote to Kudo’s rather unusual “condition” had been found, and he was once again back to his normal self.
And, Kaito presumed, more or less joined at the hip with a certain young woman.
Once Kudo was seated, Tokishiro (the high-ranking officer who had been so dead-set against forging a police alliance with Kaitou Kid) rose and began the briefing. “We’re bringing in some of our best and brightest on this one. For the sake of those who are new to the case, let’s start at the beginning.”
He shifted a few pieces of paper around on the table in front of him, and then began to speak. “Last week, a body was found on the stage of a school auditorium. The victim was Hana Yukito, a twenty-two year old software designer with a family and no criminal record. The autopsy led the coroner to rule the cause of death as suffocation. Bruising indicated that the victim had been bound, and had been conscious enough to struggle. Bruising around the neck was consistent with tape, possibly duct tape. It is our belief that the victim was bound, and a bag was placed over his head and tape around his neck, leading to his death.”
The only other sound in the room was the sound of scratching pens as other officers jotted down notes.
Tokishiro went on. “The staging of the scene is what set this apart. A posthumous gunshot wound to the chest, marked bullets scattered around the body, and a card with the phrase ‘Lower the curtain’ typed in English. This is reminiscient of the death of an American magician named…” the officer paused to check his notes, “…Chung Ling Soo. Nakamori-keibu brought this possibility to our attention after a conversation with Kuroba-kun about the odd ways magicians tend to die. It was for this reason that we asked him to consult on this case.”
“The whole thing seems too meticulous to be the work of an amatuer, and so it is our fear that we might have a serial killer on our hands. Kuroba-kun has been looking through some of our cold case files. I believe he has a few he considers suspect, so I will turn the floor over to him to explain his findings and his reasoning on the matter.” He nodded to Kaito with none of the animosity that had marked their dealings in the earliest days of his direct dealings with the police.
Now that the floor was his, Kaito stood. He had the folders in front of him as reference, though he knew the death stories by this point as well as he knew his own name. He picked up the first one and began to address the assembled officers.
“I went as far as two years back to at least give us a starting point. If it is required, I can look back further. I found five cases that I felt were suspect. The criteria I used was fairly simple. I looked for cases with a similar cause of death, and from those I looked at the state and location of the body upon discovery. Here’s what I found.”
He flipped open the first folder. “Two years ago, a man’s body was found. Caue of death was suffocation. The man was later identified as a twenty-five-year-old businessman named Yamazaki Satoru. He left work one night after a meeting, and the next day his car was still in the lot. His body was found behind the counter of a local shop that sells, among other things, basic magic tricks and supplies. He had been shot, posthumously.”
“I presume that this is reminiscient of some magician?” one of the officers sitting with Megure (Shiratori, Kaito’s excellent memory quickly supplied, of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force) asked.
“You presume correctly. Lynn Searles was murdered during a robbery of his magic shop,” Kaito nodded. “The next one that seemed suspect to me popped up three months later. Another man, aged twenty-three, named Saki Touya, told his wife he was going to run to the store down the street for milk. He never came home. His body was found outside a hospital. A nurse going on a smoke break found him and called the police.”
As he spoke, he shuffled to the next folder. “The basics are the same. Suffocation was the cause of death, and there was evidence of a blow to the head and the victim having been bound. But this victim had actually been cut open, and his appendix and a small portion of his intestine were removed.”
Nakamori spoke up then. “You’re telling me there’s a magician who died from that?”
“No. But there is a very famous magician and escape artist who died as a result of peritonitis, which came about as a result of untreated appendicitis,” Kaito said.
“Harry Houdini,” Kudo spoke up.
Kaito nodded. “The master himself. Would have probably lived if he’d just gotten some medical treatment.” He glanced down at the file folder in his hand. “It could be that our murderer has some sort of basic medical training…but then again, if there’s enough time, anyone could crack open an anatomy textbook and figure out what’s what. And the coroner did make a note that the removal did not appear to be surgically precise.”
"That's three victims, counting our most recent," Megure said.
Kaito grabbed the next folder on the stack. "There's another gap here, this one only a month long, before another victim was found. This was also a twenty-three-year-old man, named Gosho Aoyama, manga artist. His wife said their cat ran outside, and he went to look for it. The cat came home, but Gosho didn't. And yes, there is a pattern here."
"The killer was looking for victims of opportunity," Kudo observed. "That much is clear. We'll have to look a bit deeper to see if the potential victims have any other connection. Most serial killers have some sort of a victim profile. A specific type they look for." He gave Kaito a look. "Didn't mean to cut you off, but I thought I'd toss it out there. Continue?"
"Gosho was found the next morning. Again, suffocation. Like Saki-san, he had been cut open, but this time it was the heart that was removed," Kaito said. He had accidentally glimpsed one of the autopsy photos, and it was not a pretty picture. "Once again, the removal was not the work of anyone with surgical experience. And he was found in a very odd location. His body was discovered on the sound stage of a local television studio. A camera had been left turned on and rolling and pointed at him."
"Who do you believe this to be?"
"Tommy Cooper. Welsh magician, famed as much for his trademark of 'tricks going wrong' as he was for being an extremely unpleasant man. He had a heart attack on live national television and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital," Kaito explained, setting the folder aside.
There were now two left, and these felt rather like the worst ones. He sighed and began to explain. "These last two are actually two halves of the same case. Victims are identical twin brothers by the name of Hoshi. Yuki and Yuri, age nineteen. They went out to a bar with some friends to celebrate a birthday. The friends were questioned, and said that Yuri's cell phone rang, and he went outside to take the call. When he hadn't returned fifteen minutes later, Yuki went out to see if he was all right. Neither came back inside, and they were reported missing the next day. The missing persons report actually came in less than ten minutes before the call came about the body."
"…you say body, as in the singular. But aren't there two victims there?"
Kaito nodded. "The bodies were found on the stage at a club where live bands perform. The bar's owner and employees both said that there was nothing there when they'd close up the night before, which was around two AM. The young men had vanished over two hours before that. The next morning they came in to start getting things set up, and there's a pile of burned wood on the stage. They ran over to make sure it was out, and found a body."
He shuffled the folders, feeling the overwhelming need to do something with his hands. "The body was burned beyond recognition. It was ultimately dental records that identified the victim as Hoshi Yuki. His brother was still missing, and there was actually a bit of speculation that Yuri might be responsible for Yuki's death. That changed very quickly when they began sifting through the debris that had been left on stage and burned with the body. Not too long into the clean-up, they found a second body."
"No prizes for guessing who?"
"Again, dental records provided an identification that this was, in fact, Hoshi Yuri. Cleared of suspicion of murder by being a murder victim himself," Kaito affirmed. "Exact cause of death could not be determined, but the circumstances were singular enough that I'm confident including this one in our list of potential cases of interest. There was a magician named Lafayette, the stage name for Sigmund Neuberger, born in Germany. He was performing his most famous trick, the Lion's Bride, when an electrical short caused a fire to break out on the stage."
"Where does the second body come from?"
"That's what makes this case so odd. They found a burned body in the remains of Lafayette's stage, declared it to be the magician, and sent it off to be cremated. Well, they keep digging, and find another body. Turned out that the first body they'd found was actually Lafayette's body double, an element of the magical illusion. The second body was the magician himself."
"Hence the identical twins."
"It fits to a tee." Kaito closed the folders and set them aside before sitting once more. He held his hands open on the tabletop, as though to show that all of his cards were on the table. "Those are the ones I've seen thus far that appear suspect, and you have just heard my reasoning as to why I think they are. If it's needed, I can continue looking."
"If I may?" Kudo spoke up. "At the risk of sounding sexist, I suspect that our killer is a male. Not to say that a woman couldn't have done it, but our victim profile consists of young, healthy males. To first overpower the victim, and then move them? It just seems like a lot of physical strength would be needed to do all that."
The female officer (Satou, Kaito remembered) nodded. "It seems logical to me, although I don't think we can completely rule out the alternative possibility." She was peering at her notes, and the gears were almost audibly turning her head; Kaito liked her immensely. "My question is why magicians?"
"Resentment? Twisted admiration? It's hard to say," Nakamori tossed out there.
The discussion was growing increasingly lively as people read over notes and tried to form theories. Shiratori spoke up next. "There's the possibility of a trigger. Many serial killers have a great deal of some strong emotion shut away, and only start killing after someone or something triggers it. Many killers also form a pattern for various reasons. Sometimes they just hope that they'll be caught."
"But while there is a pattern here, it's one that the average person wouldn't notice," Nakamori added. "Even for us, it took an offhand comment to start the pieces falling into place. Up until this point, we had several cold cases, spread over many months, that were just extremely odd homicides. There wasn't really much to suggest that they were related."
Kaito sat back and listened carefully as theories bounced around him, voiced and discussed and mostly discarded just as quickly. This was not going to be an easy one. There was precious little for forensic evidence, a series of victims with nothing in common at present (although there was every possibility that something might come to light as they began to look further into the victims), and some of the cases were more than a year old.
This was not going to be a simple case to crack, but Kaito realized he had taken it as a bit of a personal affront towards magic and his fellow magicians. Adding that to his deeply rooted hatred of murderers and their deeds, and he would see this case through to the end, one way or another.
To Kaito’s surprise, Kudo caught up to him outside the conference room. “Forgive my rudeness, but…Kuroba, is it? Any relation to Kuroba Toichi?”
Kaito was actually a bit surprised by the question (though he couldn't say precisely why), but hid it behind a simple nod. “My father.” He smiled, a genuine smile. “I’ve been told that I’m well on my way to following in his footsteps.”
Kudo nodded. “He and my mother were friends. I met him once. I was just wondering.” He shrugged. “So I’m taking it that you’ve been called in for the purpose of lining up murder scenes with magicians?”
“Yup,” Kaito said as they began to walk together, moving in unison by some unspoken accord.
"I'd say it's sort of odd for the police to bring in such a young consultant, but I have a feeling that would be a case of the pot and the kettle talking about their favorite colors," Kudo said.
Kaito had to chuckle. "I think it's more a case of nepotism than anything else. I've known Nakamori-keibu since I was five, I've been following his daughter around for slightly longer than that, and at present I get to pester her to kiss me and bring her shiny things on White Day."
"That's a story I know all too well," Kudo grinned. There was a short pause before he spoke again. "This is going to sound weird, but…" Kudo hesitated for a split second before he seemed to decide to just bite the bullet, "…have we met before?"
Kaito managed to keep his expression neutral, even though the question made something in his stomach coil up and groan. "I don't believe so." A grin, worthy of any Oscar-winning actor. "I'm pretty sure I would remember meeting you, great detective."
Not surprisingly, Kudo didn't look entirely convinced. "I'm sure I'd remember meeting you outright as well. And I can say without bragging that I have an excellent memory…although certain persons would beg to differ." He rolled his eyes affectionately, and Kaito was fairly sure he knew that Kudo was thinking of long hair and pretty blue eyes at that moment. "But I can't shake the feeling that we've met before. Maybe in passing? At a party somewhere?"
"No. We haven't," Kaito said, alarmed to hear himself sound a bit short.
"…all right. Sorry, but you just seem very familiar to me," Kudo said. "I must have been mistaken." There was a tone in his voice that suggested that the matter was not quite dropped yet. His smile confirmed it, with the look of a man who knew there was a secret afoot and was determined to find out exactly what it was. "I look forward to working with you, Kuroba."
As Kudo walked away, Kaito couldn't help but feel like he might be in a bit of trouble.
"Kudo Shinichi's consulting on this case."
Aoko looked startled. "The detective?"
"He's chased Kid before, and he outright told me he swears he knows me from somewhere," Kaito said.
"Do you think he could be a threat to you? If the truth gets out, Kaito…" she wrung a dishtowel between her hands. "This isn't good at all." It sort of floored him to hear her say that, considering that six months ago she would probably have kissed the detective senseless if he'd brought down the phantom thief.
Things certainly had changed a lot in a fairly short length of time.
"I don't know. But I'm going to have to watch myself very carefully," Kaito said. In spite of everything, he felt a smile begin to tug at his face as he thought about the whole thing. Working in close quarters with his greatest (and in some ways, his friendliest) rival to try and solve a vicious crime, all while maintaining his Great Big Secret…
Let it never be said that Kuroba Kaito didn't like a challenge.
He waited, standing beside the desk and mentally ticking off seconds as they passed. Exactly seven seconds clicked by before the library door opened and Ran peered inside. "I tried to call earlier but you didn't answer." She stepped in and closed the door behind her. "Was it that case you mentioned?"
"I was at a meeting for that, yes," he admitted.
"Can you tell me about it?" she asked, dropping to sit in one of the overstuffed chairs.
"It's been a while since I've been involved in one like this," he said, imitating her moves and taking a seat in the other chair. "Serial killer. And a damned bizarre one at that." He glanced down at the book in his hands, a potential source of research entitled Great Magicians of the Twentieth Century, and decided to go ahead and tell her. Between being a policeman's daughter and the best friend-slash-girlfriend of a detective, she knew the rules of secrecy.
And to date, Megure and the others had always been kind enough to glance the other way when Ran seemed to know things about cases that she shouldn't necessarily be privy to. Just one more thing that Shinichi liked about the good ol' inspector.
"It looks like this guy's been operating for at least two years," he told her. "That's how far back we've gone. Kidnapping people, suffocating them, and staging the death scenes to resemble the deaths of famous magicians." Ran looked suitably startled, and he shrugged. "If I hadn't been at that meeting today, I'd think it was something more suited to one of my dad's novels, not a real case."
Ran frowned. "This sounds awfully…I don't know, Shinichi, should you really be involved with this?"
"That's the funny thing. I'm not the only kid they brought in on this. You've heard of Kuroba Toichi, right? Well, his son is apparently quite a magician in his own right. They've brought him in on the case to consult. He's the one who actually started the investigation off in the right direction in the first place. And he's our age, Ran," Shinichi paused.
"I know that expression," Ran said. She put one elbow on the arm of the chair and let her chin rest in her open palm, regarding him with a raised eyebrow. "I take it that something about Kuroba-kun is bothering you, but you don't know what."
"I feel like I've met him before, even though I know I haven't. He swears up and down that we haven't met before either," Shinichi steepled his fingers together in front of his face. "But I feel like he's hiding something. I don't know what it could be, and there's no real evidence. It's just a feeling, really."
"Do you think he might be dangerous?"
"No. I don't think he is. I just think he's hiding something, and I'd like to find out what it is."
She didn't look convinced, but she nodded. "Just…promise me you'll be careful, okay?"
If there was ever a phrase that spoke of forgiveness for his past transgressions, he thought that was it. "Always."
His arms were bound. He couldn't get loose, and it was getting hard to breathe.
The trick was set up nearby, passing through a wall of fire without being hurt.
That was Dad's last trick…
Kaito shot awake in a cold sweat, gasping and clawing at his bedclothes. The blankets had managed to work their way up over his face. That would account for why he had felt like he couldn't breathe, maybe why he had dreamt of a bag over his face.
He rolled out of bed and stood up, stretching his arms over his head. What a nightmare…what a nightmare, indeed. Rolling his shoulders to try and loosen tense muscles (and shake off the bad dream), he walked over to his bedroom window and looked out towards the darkened street and the night sky. It was a clear night, moon and starts in full view.
It had been so long since he'd had a nightmare about Dad's last show, what he had ultimately discovered to be a cover-up for his murder. The body had been burned beyond recognition, destroying any evidence of alternative causes of death.
…it was the case, he reasoned. He had been all but living with this case for almost a week, digging through files, researching, explaining his reasoning to law enforcement…it was getting under his skin and making him remember something that he would rather leave in the past. Hopefully they would solve this soon so he could resign that all back to its proper place in history.
He just hoped that they wouldn't find a scene staged to resemble that particular magician's death.
Kaito wasn't sure he could handle it if they did.
PS. Y halo thar, Mister Exposition. Nice to see you. How’s the family? I have to admit that I was a bit surprised, though. Of all the questions I received, the last one I really expected was to have so many people ask why/how Shinichi was in this story as himself XD I hope the first few paragraphs of this chapter cleared that up a bit?
Regarding the Gosho Aoyama thing: I’M SORRY I JUST COULD NOT RESIST. And yes, I know the age is wrong XD And yes, I did actually research magicians’ deaths before I started this fic. Apparently becoming a magician sort of means you have a better-than-average chance of dying in a strange (and potentially painful) way. Go figure, huh? A couple of people wondered if Aoko and Ran were going to be in this story. As you can see…they are :D
Hope you enjoyed, and hope you’ll tune in for the next chapter. Thanks for reading! Much love!