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.
The world was extremely fuzzy. The air was extremely heavy.
And, Kaito realized belatedly as he attempted to move, his head was extremely hurty.
What had happened? He struggled to clear his thoughts enough to pull up those last few coherent memories. He had been given a lift home by Officer Kurosawa, He had gotten a phone call from Kudo saying that the victim profile was physical appearance, a profile that they both fit. He had gotten out of the car while they were still discussing it on the phone. He had walked up the sidewalk towards his house. And then…
That's where everything went blank. His head hurt a bit too much to contemplate much beyond that.
Instead, he focused on trying to move limbs that were resisting. It took him a few seconds to grasp exactly why that was, and why his whole body felt so heavy and weighted down: his hands were bound securely behind his back, and his legs were tied at the ankles. A little wiggling sent fresh sparks shooting from behind his eyes (god, his head hurt!), but he was able to ascertain that it was some sort of rope. It might take a couple of minutes, but he could probably get out of it.
As his vision cleared, he realized he was lying on a hardwood floor - a far cry from the cement sidewalk he knew he had last been standing on. With an effort, he was able to turn his head, and catch a glimpse of what looked like curtains, some sort of set (though he couldn't see quite what it actually was from his current angle without rolling over)…
He was on a stage.
Even as muzzy as he felt, Kaito's remarkable brain began to kick into gear, and the pieces began to fall into place.
Outside at night.
A headache and presumably a missing chunk of time, both possibly indicative of some kind of blow to the head.
Waking up on a stage, expertly restrained.
…oh god, Kudo had been right and Kaito realized he hadn't been careful at all and this meant he was going to find out who the killer was but not in the way he had hoped and wait didn't the killer kill his victims elsewhere or was that just some of them and why was he thinking about that at a time like this and oh god Aoko what was she going to do when they found him and what about his mother and-
The voice above him, out of his line of sight, was male, deep and low and almost amused; it knocked his thoughts into a standstill. Even worse, Kaito realized he recognized the voice. He turned his head as his would-be killer walked into view, and finally, he found out exactly who the serial killer.
Kaito's eyes widened. "You're…"
Megure and Nakamori broke probably ninety percent of the traffic laws on record getting to Kuroba's house. Their subordinates showed little more by way of restraint. Was this the break they had been hoping for? And would they get there in time to save Kuroba? Was Kuroba even in any danger, or was something else going on?
Riding shotgun with Megure, Shinichi's eyes were glued to the scenery beyond the car window, where houses were zipping by as little more than blurs. He was on edge in a way he hadn't been since his day on the witness stand during Gin's trial, when he had testified about his experiences following his run-in with the assassin.
Why hadn't he figured it out sooner? Where was his brain? Granted, if he actually let himself answer that question honestly, he would have admitted that his brain was generally on Ran these days, right where it needed to be, was supposed to be, and he generally felt much better for it. As did she, he suspected. But if someone died because he'd been too busy chasing after his girlfriend…
Megure stopped the car in front of a pleasant-looking house in a pleasant-looking neighborhood. Still, Shinichi didn't waste too much time admiring the scenery. He was out of the vehicle before the inspector had even put it into park, fully prepared to start running towards the house. But he only made it about two steps before he stopped.
There was what appeared to be a body, lying across the sidewalk.
Ice clawed its way into Shinichi's gut as he dove towards the body. It didn't fit the killer's MO, but there was always the chance…
The body wasn't actually a body, per se. A moment's examination proved that the man was merely unconscious, but still breathing and quite happily alive. And it wasn't Kuroba Kaito, a fact which left Shinichi relieved and worried at the same time.
Shinichi glanced around before looking up at Megure. "There wasn't another police car here before we arrived, was there?" He was sure there hadn't been, and got confirmation when Megure shook his head and affirmed that there had been no cars at all in front of the house before they pulled up.
Yet here was Officer Kurosawa, lying unconscious on the ground in front of the Kuroba residence, a livid purple bruise glowing on the side of his head.
The patrol car he'd taken to give Kuroba a lift home was nowhere to be seen.
He stared at the man standing over him, despite the fact that spots were dancing before his eyes (they seemed to be doing a waltz of some kind and good lord why was he thinking about that now?)
But still, Kaito's excellent memory quickly supplied him with a name.
The man's name was Suoh.
He was a police officer, in the same department as Kurosawa. He was a large man, with a big nose, but was otherwise fairly nondescript. They'd bumped into each other a few times at the precinct during the course of this case.
And he was currently standing over Kaito, looking oddly stuck between amused and serious. How he managed that, Kaito hadn't the faintest idea, but he could not tell for the life of him which emotion the man was truly experiencing. But regardless, his eyes were quite possibly the most frightening thing Kaito had seen in a long time.
Kaito tried to speak, to say something, but he found that his mouth had gone dry. He attempted to roll away as Suoh knelt down, but he didn't get very far before the man was kneeling on his back, his considerable weight pressing Kaito face-down into the hardwood floor. In one move that spoke volumes of practice, he slipped a plastic bag over Kaito's head. There was the sound of duct tape being torn from a roll, and Kaito was sealed into his death chamber.
"It doesn't take long," Suoh was murmuring, the words barely audible between his soft voice, the plastic, and Kaito's own growing sense of panic. "You'll fall asleep and not wake up. And then I'll create it. The death of the world's greatest magician, right here." He rolled Kaito over with a press of one foot. "You recognize this, I'm sure."
Horror rushed through him with all the paralyzing force of icy water. He knew this set all too well. Even blurred by the plastic and the spots that were doing the polka in front of his eyes, it was something he had seen far too many times in his nightmares for many years.
A rather crude reconstruction of the props and set from the last trick his father had ever performed on stage.
"N-no…" The word escaped from Kaito's lips, hoarse and panicky, before he'd even had a chance to think about it. His head was still swimming, panic was setting in, and his hands refused to cooperate enough to slip out of his bonds, reducing him to outright struggling and dignity be damned. He was starting to sweat. His eyes were burning, but he couldn't tell if that was because of heat or panic or if he was actually crying.
Surely Dad would forgive him if he let Poker Face slip…
Just this once.
There were no clues outside, nor were there any inside the Kuroba residence. The only sign of any recent presence were a few broken twigs in a bush on the side of the home. Shinichi theorized that the killer had waited there for Kaito to come home, and then simply darted out and grabbed him with the same MO as the other cases. He had yet to be contradicted on the matter.
Kurosawa's story had proven both fascinating and disturbing. He said he had dropped Kuroba off and watched as the young man started up the sidewalk towards his house, with the intention of making sure he was safely inside before leaving. His radio had crackled to life then, and he had turned his head to answer it - a call to the precinct easily verified that story, that a dispatcher had contacted him around that time with a question about something that had happened earlier that day. When he looked back up from the radio, he saw Kuroba lying on the ground.
He had immediately jumped out of the car, only to find himself being stood over by someone in dark clothes. A male, if height and build were any indication; he couldn't see a face. And then there had been a shock of pain and his world had gone dark. The next thing he knew, he was opening his eyes to find a paramedic checking his vitals, police cars everywhere…
And Kuroba Kaito missing.
Takagi was speaking with him, taking the statement and encouraging the man not to get too far into self-recrimination. From the sounds of it, it could have been anyone in that driver's seat, and anyone could have easily been jumped in such a fashion. Wrong place, wrong time, and a perp who had the upper hand on both his victims from the get-go by simply virtue of the element of surprise. But should they not find Kuroba in time, there was no doubt that Kurosawa would hold himself entirely responsible.
Trying to push all those thoughts from his mind, Kudo Shinichi looked around the Kuroba household kitchen. It was neat, tidy, and held no clues whatsoever. He began to walk around, glancing up the stairs, down the entryway, and finally into the rec room.
A large portrait of Kuroba Toichi was hanging on one wall.
Shinichi stopped and stared at that portrait for a long moment. It was odd, but he was having difficulty looking away. If the portrait was accurate, than Kaito was definitely his father's son in terms of appearance, at the very least. But that wasn't what kept him stuck to that spot, staring at the picture of a man long since dead.
Without really meaning to, Shinichi closed his eyes.
In the darkness behind his eyelids, he saw white and blue and red and black and fire as several pieces finally clicked into place and formed a picture he'd been grasping at since he started on this case, one that had been slowly coming into focus since a certain visitor had come to see him, and suddenly a lot of things made a lot more sense.
His eyes snapped back open. "Nakamori-keibu?" Shinichi barked, startled at how his own voice sounded. "Where did Kuroba Toichi perform his last show?"
Between blind panic and an increasing lack of air, Kaito couldn't seem to make his hands cooperate enough to shake his bindings. He was going to die here, like this, and his body would be left in the flames, reminiscient of his father's last show. It was a homage Kaito never wanted to make.
And Suoh was just standing there, watching him struggle and suffocate.
How could someone do this? Was this how all the other victims had felt? And-
Dammit, his vision was starting to go brown and the plastic was starting to stick to his mouth. There was no time left.
There was a noise, somewhere in the distance. He was vaguely aware of hearing Suoh curse, and then footsteps thudding away. He was alone on the stage. He was going to die, alone on this stage. What was that noise, anyway? It was loud and high and getting louder and he knew exactly what it was, but he just couldn't place it…
Another sound invaded his weakening consciousness, breaking through everything else as clear as a bell.
The oddly sweet sound of breaking glass.
Twisting his head a bit, Kaito could see the shard glistening in the dim light, perhaps a meter away from him. If he could get there, get to them, then just maybe…
Summoning all of his strength, Kaito began to move. He wiggled and pushed and rolled until finally his head was lying on top of those jagged pieces. At a loss for what else to do, he began to move, frantically pushing his head down against the glass and the floor, praying to any god who might happen to be listening that this would work.
There was a sharp sting of pain (life-affirming pain!) across his cheek, and the first faint whisper of air.
Ignoring everything else, Kaito kept going. So close, so close, that sound outside was getting so close.
Oh right, those were sirens.
A couple of minutes later, the police burst into the auditorium with a frantic Kudo Shinichi heading the pack. They found a rickety, hastily-built replica of the last trick of Kuroba Toichi constructed on the auditorium stage. They found lighter fluid and a book of matches to set the fire that had ended the magician's life.
And they found Kuroba Kaito on that same stage, a plastic bag wrapped around his head and taped at the neck. There was a bruise on his forehead, and he was bleeding from several cuts on one cheek, a couple of them quite deep…but he was alive, having used broken glass on the floor to cut a few small slits in the bag, allowing himself enough oxygen to hang on until help arrived. Chances were that if he hadn't managed that, he would have suffocated before they made it to him.
It wasn't until later, after Kuroba had been whisked away to the hospital by an ambulance, that the investigators noticed something odd about the scene: namely, the broken glass that had been the instrument of Kuroba's salvation. There were no lights or anything that appeared responsible for it. And there were no sheets of glass anywhere near that spot.
There was, apparently, no logical reason at all for that glass to be in that spot on the stage.
PS. I had fun with this, to a degree that I should probably discuss with a therapist. I got quite a few reviews that told me they knew who the killer was, it was obvious, etc. And…it kind of make me go lollerskates, and I say that primarily because I just wanted to use the word "lollerskates" somehow. A couple of you caught me out, though!
If you don't remember Suoh, he appeared in the previous chapter, in the same scene where we first met Kurosawa, in the break room. (With the rope! /shot) Also, Kaito's "survival method" with the glass was inspired by a Mary Higgins Clark book I read years ago - I think it was called "You Belong to Me." There will be one more chapter to put this story to bed. I hope you'll stick around for it. Thanks for reading, all! Much love!
FROM THE AUTHOR: I actually posted this on ff-dot-net quite a while ago, and somehow managed to completely space off posting it here. Sorry about that, folks! My bad!