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Masquerade Heist

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Shinichi looked out at the guests slowly filing in through security and couldn’t believe they were actually going through with Sonoko’s plan. The idea had been so absurd sounding when she proposed it that he’d fallen over in his chair: a masquerade ball in a rented art gallery.

At first glance, tossing a master of disguise into a masquerade seemed like it would be the easiest heist in Kaitou Kid’s career. However, Sonoko had argued, Kid always knew who the police were at a heist, while he was able to be anyone. With everyone disguised, the police (and high school detectives) could disappear into the crowd as well. It would be Kid’s turn to have to wonder where his foes were.

Shinichi still suspected Sonoko was more focused on the romantics of a masquerade ball and the idea of Kid sweeping her off her feet, but her passion for the idea had led to her building a rather thorough argument.

To further throw Kid off, the only official security was the private security firm chosen by the gallery and volunteer assistance from Shinichi and Sera, the pair having been invited already as Sonoko’s friends. In reality, 15 officers of the Kid Task Force, as well as Inspector Nakamori, were here in disguise. Heiji, Kogoro, and Hakuba had been brought in as well.

Shinichi headed over towards his friend as Heiji arrived, picking up a lot of stress in the Osakan’s body language as he finished getting checked by security to ensure he wasn’t Kid. Most of the guests were Kid enthusiasts or aspiring investigators, who found the extra security as part of the excitement, but Heiji was clearly rather less thrilled.

“Something wrong?” Shinichi asked Heiji, his voice quiet enough that there was little risk of being overheard by the still fairly sparse guests mingling about.

“Kazuha’s blamin’ me for her failing an English exam,” Heiji muttered as he headed deeper into the corridors of the gallery.

“I heard from Ran that you promised to help her study and then never showed up,” Shinichi said, eyes peeled for anyone suspicious as he talked.

“I got held up at the bank,” Heiji hissed.

“Long line?”

Despite the mask the Osakan was wearing, Shinichi could tell he was being glared at.

“Literally held up. I was a hostage! Managed ta help the police end the situation faster, but then I had to deal with questioning,” Heiji snapped, waving his arms as he complained.

Shinichi shushed him, which led to Heiji grumbling, but accepting that it was best not to try to hide his identity at least a little.

Dropping his volume, Heiji continued, “Anyway, when she found out the thieves were using fake pistols, she decided I could have escaped earlier. So now I get stuck with no sympathy at all.”

Shinichi couldn’t help smiling. The Osakan duo were always a good source of entertainment.

“Well, hopefully the heist can get your mind off it for a bit,” Shinichi said. “We should split our back up. Nakamori will come to find you in a bit. Speaking of, I need to go check in with him myself.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll keep myself busy lookin’ at some of the art exhibits, I guess,” Heiji muttered.

Shinichi offered a weak smile before heading off. Part of the masquerade system meant the unofficial security weren’t supposed to draw attention to themselves and had been told to mingle.

Walking along the quiet hallways of the gallery, Shinichi nodded approvingly at the wait staff sticking to pairs as had been instructed. It was only the guests they had to worry about, and security was checking everyone for masks. He had to admit to feeling curious as to just what Kid might pull. They were on the 23rd floor of the building, and security was watching the emergency exits. As extra precaution, invisible ink barcodes were printed on every invitation card, which no guests had been informed of and security was checking at random throughout the night.

“What do you mean you don’t have any crab cakes!?” a familiar sounding man shouted.

Shinichi looked over and saw Nakamori yelling away at some unfortunate waiter, his messy hair and blocky mustache confirming his identity. The poor inspector wasn’t handling sitting quietly very well. Shinichi slipped through the guests (most of whom were moving away from the source of the yelling) and made his way to Inspector Nakamori’s side.

“Now, now, the wait staff are trying their best, my good sir,” Shinichi said in a calming tone.

“Huh, I thought you went—Wait, no, Kudo, is that you?”

“At your service,” Shinichi replied with a slight European style bow. If Sonoko was going to insist he wear a Regency inspired outfit, then he’d play the part up a bit.

“Any sign of the uninvited guest?” the inspector asked.

“None yet,” Shinichi replied. “I’m gathering you brought some extra guests yourself?”

“Yeah. My daughter demanded I take her since security is so thorough; she insisted it would be safe. I think the real reason is some teenage girl romantic ideas about a ball. Her best friend wanted to come too, but the lad ended up getting food poisoning and ran back home,” Nakamori explained.

Shinichi nodded, assessing the information. “I’d give him a call once it’s been long enough for him to get home. Just to make sure he really went back.”

“You think Kid would be that reckless and come in disguised as someone right next to me?” Nakamori asked.

“It would fit his behaviour in my experience. He seems to be a bit of an adrenaline junky. And you’d surely lower your guard around someone you trust. Plus, if you could mistake me for him then he’s probably a viable choice for Kid to disguise masklessly as,” Shinichi said. “Well, I must be off. Ran wants me around at least part of the night.”

-b-

Kaito grinned as he pulled the disguise he’d prepared from the baby changing table in the men’s bathroom. It had seemed a very safe hiding spot, though Kaito had kept a back up plan. This option was just so much more fun though. And his bugs had told him there was a golden opportunity not to be overlooked.

It also had benefits for finding out where all the security was more easily, which had been the reason he’d given to Jii for the idea. But seeing a certain someone turn into a frazzled mess again was his real goal. Kaito always craved an audience, even if it was just an audience of one.

-b-

Aoko stared in wonder at the prized jewel of the night: a fiery red topaz at the heart of a golden sculpture shaped like a bird of some sort. The wealth on display in the room, which held three other gems of similar value as part of an exhibition on the Suzuki group, left Aoko stunned.

“Careful about studying it too closely, or else someone might think you’re Kid,” a voice said, close enough to make Aoko jump and spin around.

The source of the comment was a handsome man dressed as some sort of European prince, his mask hiding just enough to be mysterious, but not enough to cover too much of his pleasant features. A smile revealed some rather sharp fangs, that combined with the outfit to give an almost vampiric appearance. Aoko wasn’t sure if she found that menacing or alluring.

“Sorry, miss. I didn’t mean to spook you.”

“You’re very quiet. And Aoko has good ears, since her best friend likes to be sneaky. Maybe you’re Kid?” Aoko shot, trying to regain her composure as she did so.

“I suppose we’ve both got reasons to suspect the other. Though, with your short skirt, I can tell you’re not crouching, so that reduces your odds of being Kid,” the masked ‘prince’ replied. “You can feel free to pinch my cheek to check if I’m that thief, if you like?”

Aoko felt herself blushing from how casually this stranger admitted to having been checking her out. She decided a little vengeance with a cheek pinch that would make her dad proud was in order.

“Yow! Got a good grip on you,” the stranger replied, rubbing his cheek.

“Oy, Sera! You’d better not be harassing the guests too much,” a girl hissed. Turning, Aoko saw she had light hair pulled back and held into a sharp angled bob.

“You’re the one who asked me to keep an eye out for Kid,” Sera replied. “And she was getting a good look at the gems.”

“Apologies about my over enthusiastic friend,” the girl said, turning to Aoko with a slightly tired looking smile. “I didn’t think she’d cause trouble at my party.”

“Your par—you’re Suzuki Sonoko? The one who arranged all this?” Aoko said, feeling more than a little nervous about being in front of a member of such an important family. Someone who could make or break her father’s career with ease.

“Yeah, that’s me,” Sonoko replied, her expression turning warmer. “Don’t be so nervous. I don’t really have my own money, just a big allowance if I keep my parents happy.”

Aoko felt herself calming, the other girl had a reassuring presence after the initial intimidation. She was much less aloof than Aoko had expected.

“Nakamori Aoko. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Nakamori? You’re the inspector’s daughter?” the ‘prince’ asked.

“Yes, that’s me. I don’t really investigate much myself though,” Aoko replied.

“Wish that he’d told us he had such a cute daughter earlier,” the prince said, arms crossed in annoyance.

“You’re shameless sometimes, Sera,” Sonoko said. “Apologies for her flirtatiousness.”

Aoko blinked. “Her?”

“I knew I shouldn’t have let you dress that boyish,” Sonoko muttered.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Sera protested.

“Oh, Aoko knows about you! You’re one of the high school detectives! The tomboy one,” Aoko said, before an idea struck her that made her cheeks hot. “You’re trying to hide from Kid, with the masquerade, right?”

“Yeah, that’s the general idea,” Sera replied, an eyebrow raised.

“Well, maybe if you had a ‘girlfriend’ at your side, then Kid wouldn’t suspect you as much?”

“I mean, probably. Sonoko-chan refused though,” Sera said with a shrug, receiving a glare from Sonoko for her trouble.

“Well, Aoko would be happy to do anything that helps catch Kid,” the inspector’s daughter blurted.

Getting to be on a cute someone’s arm the whole night was just a side benefit, and she insisted to herself it was barely even an influencing factor.

Sera lit up with a smile. “Ooh, I happily accept.”

-b-

Jii jumped a little when the phone rang in the Kuroba family kitchen. He’d been expecting it, but had only the vaguest of timeframes to work with. Picking it up, he heard Nakamori’s voice on the other end.

“Hello, Kaito?”

Jii lifted the audio player with Kaito’s recorded lines on it and pressed the first option.

“Heeyy... That you Uncle Ginzo?” Kaito’s voice replied, a sick and tired tone to it.

“Yeah, it’s me. I just wanted to make sure you made it home alright,” Nakamori asked.

“Eh... I made it. With the way my stomach feels, I’m probably going to bed soon,” Kaito’s voice said, after Jii had selected the appropriate option.

“That sounds best. Hopefully it’s nothing serious. I’ll have Aoko check on you in the morning... I’ll probably still be at the office. Might be interrogating Kid, if all goes well,” Nakamori replied with a slight laugh. “Have a good night.”

“Thank you, uncle. Good night,” Kaito’s voice said, before Jii hung up.

The magician’s assistant could only shake his head softly, wondering how much all these lies to the Nakamoris had to hurt Kaito, and wishing there was some other way.

-b-

Heiji stared at the painting on the wall. Some impressionist painting imported from North America. The stormy nature of it felt like it fit his mood right now.

“A very direct approach, lurking outside the women’s washroom. Maybe not the most tactful option, though,” a female voice said.

Heiji blinked and looked up, only now noticing where the painting was. The next thing he noticed was the elegant white dress the mysterious and athletic woman wore. The skirt was short, revealing long well toned legs, and, while the front was modest, he could see in a nearby mirror that the dress was backless, only held together by a pair of small angel wings.

Her face was only mildly hidden, a white and gold mask covering her blue eyes and a little of her brow and cheekbones. It showed enough to reveal strong features that balanced each other well. She was distinctive looking, though in a pleasant sort of way.

“Either you’ve fallen in love with me already or... you’re that detective the hostess invited. What was his name... Kuno Youichi?”

“You’re thinkin’ of Kudo Shinichi, but I ain’t him. I’m—” Heiji froze, remembering he wasn’t supposed to reveal he was here. What to say? He didn’t want to seem like a womanizer... “I’m just an amateur trying to spot Kid before Kudo does.”

Man that stung to say.

“Haha, you too? It does seem like such a fun game,” the girl said. “I’ve been trying all evening myself. Not much to go on, though. I read that he was first active 18 years ago, so we’re probably looking for a man in his mid-30s to early 40s with an athletic build, right?”

Heiji felt himself shiver a little at that idea. The Kid who’d disguised as Kazuha couldn’t have been that old. The Kid that made his heart—no. He’d told himself he wasn’t going to think about the thief in those terms.

“I’ve heard a lot of people think that it’s a new Kid these days,” Heiji said, his tone a bit more defensive than intended.

The girl raised an eyebrow and leaned in at that. “You sound rather invested.”

Before Heiji could reply, he found his cheek being pinched by her. “Huh, well, it’s not a mask. Though it doesn’t prove anything, since I have heard Kid is handsome.”

Heiji was about to snap defensively when he noticed the smile and wiggling eyebrows. “I... are you flirtin’ with me?”

“Well, I am a young woman who came to a party alone.”

The Osakan detective had no good response for that. He hadn’t expected any risk of being flirted with while on this case.

“Don’t tell me you’re taken?” the girl asked, before letting out a dramatic sigh. “Always too slow...”

Heiji felt panic bubble up. Maybe he wasn’t here to find a date or anything, but making a cute girl upset also wasn’t on his to do list.

“I, uh, ain’t taken. I just ain’t lookin’ right now,” Heiji offered. He was probably somewhere between ‘single’ and ‘complicated’, and, with how Kazuha was glaring at him, he was probably closer to the single end, so it wasn’t really a lie.

“Well, I have two missions for the night then!” the girl said, her eyes lighting up under her mask.

“Two?”

“Catch Kid and win you over,” the girl declared, grabbing Heiji by the arm. “Let’s get hunting!”

Heiji wasn’t sure what he was being dragged into, but the girl’s enthusiasm was infectious. It might just be fun to have someone to show his deductions off to.

-b-

Aoko and Sera were scanning the gallery, comparing ideas on who might be Kid. At least as much as Aoko could focus, as Sera seemed quite comfortable playing the role of boyfriend. Holding her hand, wrapping an arm around her shoulder, and various other displays of affection that would have flustered Aoko from an actual partner.

“What do you think of the large guy by the Hiroshige? Kid could sneak equipment in with a fake gut,” Sera whispered into Aoko’s ear.

Aoko found herself blushing at the proximity. “Aoko’s not sure... Kid has used that trick before and doesn’t like being predictable.”

Sera nodded, looking ready to reply, when a gruff ‘ahem’ drew the attention of both of them. Turning, Aoko felt her heart skip a beat when she realised it was her father.

“D-daddy, hi,” Aoko offered.

“Who is this young man, wrapping himself around you like that?” Ginzo asked, pointing a finger menacingly at Sera.

“He--er, she’s Sera Masumi. She’s-she’s one of Suzuki-san’s friends,” Aoko said, studying the floor as she did so.

“Hey Mr. Inspector. Good to see you again,” Sera added with a fang- toothed grin and a friendly wave. “Don’t worry, I’ve been keeping the guys away from your daughter, sir.”

“Oh,” Ginzo replied quietly, clearly thrown for a loop. “I... well, uh, thank you?”

“No worries, Inspector,” Sera said. “Any luck finding Kid?”

“We’ve found a clue, at least,” Ginzo said, his tone growing quiet. “One of my men found a bug with a Kid doodle etched into the back. So we know he’s in here. The head of security has started doing sweeps to check invitation cards for any fakes. And check for masks.”

“Aoko has already checked Sera-san,” the girl offered, not sure if it helped, but wanting to show she was on alert.

“With fingers of steel. I’m surprised my cheek isn’t still red,” Sera added.

“Good to know we’ve at least got one of you young detectives on our side, at least,” Ginzo said. “Not sure I like that Kudo guy, though. He seemed so sure Kid had disguised as Kaito, but when I phoned Kaito’s home, he was home.”

“Kudo’s always busy thinking he’s the smartest guy in the room. Hates whenever Kid sneaks past him,” Sera replied. “I tend to want to laugh, but it means Kid outsmarted me too, which I’m less fond of.”

Ginzo nodded. “It’s always a mixed emotion when Kid knocks the smirk off some jerk’s face... well, I should go check on the topaz. You girls keep hunting.”

“Sure thing, daddy,” Aoko replied, waving as her father left.

It didn’t take long for him to disappear into the crowd, while Sera and Aoko wandered towards the main dance floor.

“I wonder if that means I have his blessings,” Sera said absently.

“Blessings for what?” Aoko asked.

All she got for her trouble was a wink. She wasn’t 100% sure what it meant, but she was pretty sure the blush that coloured her cheeks was an appropriate response.

-b-

Heiji did his best to follow the moves of the waltz as he also scanned the surroundings for Kid suspects. At least until a soft ‘ouch’ hit his ears. Heiji realised in an instant he’d stepped on his dance partner’s feet.

“Ah! Sorry! Sorry! I ain’t the best at this,” he began to apologise as the angelically dressed girl pulled him off the dance floor.

“I know the real issue is that you’re hunting for Kid. I can see how distracted you are,” she replied, shaking her head. “You’ve got me, a beautiful young woman, at your side, but your head is full of Kaitou Kid. Really hard on a girl’s heart.”

Heiji gave the girl a crooked grin, not sure what he could say. He’d always been terrible with words. Before his lack of comforting reply became an issue, the pair found themselves approached by a pair of security guards.

“Ahem, may I see you invitations?” the older of the two guards asked.

“Yeah, sure thing,” Heiji replied, passing his over.

The girl who’d been following him took a moment longer, having to fish hers out from her purse, but provided it without fuss. A quick scan of blacklight lit up the invisible ink and proved the passes were both valid.

“Sorry about this part,” the guard said, before leaning in and pinching at both their cheeks. When there were no masks to remove, the man nodded and returned their invitations. “Well, enjoy the evening. And, do let my men know if you see anyone suspicious.”

“Will do,” Heiji replied.

Turning back to his companion for the evening, Heiji wondered at the smile on her face.

“Hattori Heiji,” the girl said, with a large grin. “I knew you were too focused and too smart to just be some random amateur.”

“You managed ta read my invitation?” Heiji asked, even if it wasn’t really a question.

“I just wanted to know definitively. I’d been pretty sure to start with, though. That jawline of yours is pretty easy to remember from the newspapers,” she said, leaning into his personal space and turning Heiji’s cheeks hot.

What had he done to end up with such a forward and seductive ‘angel’ at his side tonight? Trying not to get caught up in the blue glint of her eyes, the shape of them mysterious under that gold and white mask she wore, Heiji tried to distract a little.

“Well, ya’ve got me at a real disadvantage now, don’tcha? I don’t suppose I could get a name too?”

The girl stood up and looked a bit surprised. “I thought for sure you’d read my card too. Well, here it is.”

She held the card out, the name Catie Carbonneaux written in a delicate font. He nodded slightly, as he processed the information. He’d thought she’d been a bit tall, and had somewhat sharp features for a Japanese girl.

“That’s French, right?” Heiji asked, thinking it was either that or Italian, but leaning a little to the former.

Mais oui ,” Catie replied with a wide grin. “Clever as always, Hattori-san.”

Heiji also silently wondered if that explained her forwardness. The French were known to be romantics, weren’t they? Before he could try a smooth reply, he found himself interrupted by a slightly strained voice.

“Ah, Heiji-kun!” Ran’s voice called out. “Can you watch Shinichi for a moment?”

“You could describe it in a way that doesn’t make me sound like a puppy,” Shinichi protested.

“I was thinkin’ it made ya sound like a little kid, myself,” Heiji replied with a grin.

Please don’t make me laugh right now, Heiji-kun,” Ran said. “I just need to run to the ladies’ room and you know it’s dangerous to leave Shinichi alone when Kid’s about.”

“Oh, yeah. Sure thing,” Heiji replied, not wanting to keep Ran any longer.

“It’s just down that hall and on your left,” Catie added.

“Ah, thanks!” Ran replied, before hurrying off.

“So, you two lovebirds gotten any dancing done?” Heiji asked, turning to Shinichi.

“It’s a heist. I can’t do much beyond hunt for Kid,” Shinichi muttered. “We’ve got... wait, who’s the girl with you?”

“Catie Carbonneaux. A pleasure to meet you.”

“A pleasure,” Shinichi replied, before shooting Heiji a questioning look.

“She was here alone and decided she’s going to win me over with the romance of the night, or... something like that,” Heiji replied, noting the slight nod from Shinichi.

“So... why is it so important we don’t leave you alone?” Catie asked.

“Unfortunately, Kid and I have rather similar bone structure, so he can get away with disguising as me with only a bit of contouring,” Shinichi explained.

Heiji nodded absently. That trick had been what proved they were dealing with a new Kid. It also made Heiji want to see Kid’s proper face, curious how they compared, and if he had that same presence Shinichi had, which always kept Heiji’s eyes on him. That cunning smile and glint in his eyes.

Well, at least Shinichi usually drew Heiji’s attention. Kazuha had won out in the past, as had Kid when he disguised as her... and, right now, he was finding himself studying Carbonneaux as she and Shinichi chatted lightly about the way the party was going. Watching her lips move a little as she chatted, Heiji felt a desire to reach over and kiss them. A desire he’d not felt this strongly since... why was he thinking back to then again? Heiji shook his head to clear his thoughts.

“A gymnast, really? Not one for the parallel bars though, I see,” Shinichi was saying, as Heiji pulled himself out of the spell of who he was surrounded by.

He’d done so just in time to see Shinichi checking Catie’s thighs, and found jealousy bubbling up in his gut.

“Not the most polite place to check a girl,” Heiji shot, his eyes narrowing under his masquerade mask.

“You made sure to get a pretty good look earlier, Hattori-san,” Catie pointed out, turning Heiji’s face hot.

“Well, I guess we’re ev—” Shinichi began, before trailing off, his eyes drifting towards a passing pair of security guards.

Heiji’s eyes followed Shinichi’s, and the Osakan quickly spotted the odd bulge in bother guards’ suit jackets. The location of the bumps left few options of what it could be...

“Pistols,” Shinichi muttered. “I wasn’t informed the security would be that heavily armed.”

“What about the task force?” Heiji asked, his eyes drifting to Catie, who was looking rather nervous with the news. Was she just naturally nervous about firearms, or...

“There’s been reports of firearms being shot near Kid heists, so a couple of them should be armed, as a precaution, but private security... did they...” Shinichi said, his mind clearly a few steps ahead of his mouth, and growing further ahead as time went on.

“Do the security know the police are here?” Catie asked, grabbing onto Heiji’s arm and dropping to barely more than a whisper.

Shinichi shook his head. “Only the head of the firm and one or two of his assistants were told, to minimize Kid’s opportunities to find out.”

“You don’t think some of them are planning to try to steal the jewels before Kid can?” Catie asked.

“Or while Kid is here,” Shinichi said, his tone flat and efficient. “I doubt they’d care—no, they might even find leaving an injured Kid behind a good distraction to divide the focus of the authorities. Kid’s probably as useful to them dead, even.”

Heiji felt Catie’s grip on his arm tighten, a look of fear briefly flashing in those blue eyes, even if the mask hid it a bit. She blinked, and an instant later there was a (slightly too big) smile replacing the fear.

“Well, I’m sure Kaito Kid wouldn’t get done in by some common robbers. We’ll p-probably just get a good show.”

The glint in the ‘angel’ ‘s eyes showed that Heiji’s companion for the evening was suddenly just as lost in thought as Shinichi was right now. Both trying to guess the plan of the rogue security guards, but, Heiji knew they were coming at this from very different angles.

-b-

As they danced, Aoko found herself the focus of Sera’s attention. The detective spun her along to the music, eyes never darting across the crowd or showing any other signs of hunting for Kid.

“Aoko thinks you’re slacking on your security duties a little.”

Sera gave her a grin. “There’s still 35 minutes until Kid’s heist starts. I think a beautiful girl like you deserves at least a little undivided attention.”

Aoko felt her heart flutter. She so rarely got that sort of direct compliment. She soon found herself lost in the moment of the dance, Sera’s kind confidence making her feel so at ease. Aoko’s heart continued to race when the dance ended and Sera decided they should slip back off the dancefloor.

Absently, a thought struck Aoko and made guilt well up in her chest. “S-sorry for mistaking you for a guy earlier.”

“It happens all the time,” Sera replied as she led them towards some punch.

“That can’t be fun,” Aoko said, looking at the other girl with concern.

“Eh, not like the way I dress prevents it or anything,” Sera replied, filling up a small glass of punch. “Did you want any?”

“Maybe a little,” Aoko said, before continuing the conversation. “How do you handle it, though? Whenever anyone says I’m boyish I... well, I don’t like it one bit.”

“Well, that’s easy. You’re not boyish, and so it’s clearly a comparison done to annoy you,” Sera replied. “I’d be happy to give whoever bugs you like that a quick exhibition of Jeet Kune Do if you’d like?”

Before Aoko could reply, she found herself spotting a familiar face. Well, more a familiar build and hair colour, as most of Hakuba’s face was covered by his mask, but his height and light hair was trickier to hide.

“Nakamori-chan, have you seen your father around?” Hakuba said as he approached.

“Not for a while, why?” Aoko asked.

“Nothing too important,” Hakuba replied, his effort at lying rather poor. Aoko and Sera both noticed his eyes were tracking a nearby guard.

Oi, what’s up horse boy? ” Sera asked in English fast enough Aoko struggled to follow.

Certain gents amongst the hired help seem to be... sporting heat, as they say, ” Hakuba replied at a similar speed, his more firmly English accent harder for Aoko to follow. “ Kudo thinks they might be planning a ‘hit’ on Kid and then a... grab and dash of their own. At the very least, it’s suspicious.

All this slang is going to kill you, isn’t it? ” Sera asked, before turning to Aoko and switching back to Japanese. “Let’s go try to track you dad down. If there’s more groups after him, one of us should find him.”

Aoko nodded. She’d not followed everything said, but she thought she had enough of the idea.

-b-

Kaito was deep in thought as he followed Heiji in the hunt for Inspector Nakamori. There had to be a way that Kid could distract these armed robbers to help keep people as safe as possible. He’d gladly fail at the heist if it meant preventing casualties. But... he was already in the middle of the party. There was no way to make a grand entrance and draw the guards away.

The main hall had the best window for a quick escape, but also had the most guests in it, having been converted into the dance floor. There was a patio, but it was tucked too much to the side to draw attention. If only he’d brought one of his radio controlled paragliders, he could do a fake fly past. Jii was back at his home out in Ekoda, though. There was no way he could make it in time with equipment.

So, all that left him was the rather unenviable idea of showing up in the room where the Fiery Topaz was being held, and then trying to run the 13 metres to the nearest window hoping no one hit him. But, also hoping someone shot the window, since there was no way he could break through it fast enough otherwise.

Suddenly, Kaito felt his hand squeezed, drawing him out of his planning efforts. He looked up to see Heiji blushing a little as he gave an awkward smile.

“Don’t worry so much, Carbonneaux-han. You’ve got the Detective of the West at your side. I’ll... I’ll make sure ya get through dis all in one piece,” the Osakan said, turning away halfway through and slowly having his volume drop until it was barely audible.

Kaito offered his best poker face smile, trying to pretend like that reassured him. Although, to be honest, it did to a surprising degree. It was so rare for anyone to have his back.

-b-

“You’re sure?” Nakamori hissed, after Shinichi had quietly relayed the information to him.

“Reasonably. And I definitely think finding out takes priority over the Suzuki-family hunt for Kid,” Shinichi added.

Ran watched the inspector weigh the balance for a moment before he muttered a defeated ‘yeah’. As well as the judgmental look in Shinichi’s eyes over how long the decision took.

“Which ones have you seen with apparent firearms?” Nakamori whispered.

“Four, at least. I don’t know names. They were fairly nondescript men, average height, short dark hair, all that. Most had facial hair, though it’s had to tell if that was real or not,” Shinichi explained.

“Those two over there on your list?” Nakamori asked, pointing to a pair of guards walking not to far away.

“No... but they do look armed as well,” Shinichi replied.

Six? They were up to six armed security guards trying to rob the place? Ran stepped up, placing hands protectively on Shinichi’s shoulders... only to remember he was taller than her right now. He wasn’t trapped as a child anymore, so... so he’d probably assume he could protect himself, even if he’d still never bothered to learn any decent self defense skills. Which, of course, translated to her surely needing to be more on alert.

Well, she’d thought it would be Shinichi she had to worry about, only to watch as Inspector Nakamori walked forward towards a couple of men, tapping on their shoulders. The two men nodded, and Ran realised they had to be members of the task force.

The trio then moved to approach the two security guards, Nakamori flashing what Ran could only assume was his badge. They were out of earshot, but she saw a scuffle start. Then there was a bang. Everyone in the hallway turned for a moment, no doubt confused by the noise, wondering if it might be a firecracker or something along those lines. Then Nakamori stumbled back, clutching his side, followed by a security guard throwing a punch at one of the officers and the two guards making a break for it, the one with his gun brandished.

That was when the screaming started. Guests began running every which way, and Ran’s view of the police officers was obstructed. For a moment she glimpsed one of them on his radio, though she had no idea what was being said.

“The bathrooms. We have to tell people to move into the bathrooms,” Shinichi said, placing a hand on Ran’s shoulder. “They’re out of the way, and they contain no art. It’s the safest place for people to hide.”

Ran nodded. She wasn’t sure how she’d get people to listen to her directions, but she was going to do her best.

Especially when she heard more gunfire.

-b-

Aoko jumped at the first crack of gunfire. The second one a few seconds later surprised her less, but scared her more. That one was followed by radios crackling to life. The one source was the pair of security guards who had been set up near the window of the main hall. The other being the two police officers in amongst the dancers. The guards had both produced their sidearms first, pointing them into the crowd trying to find the police.

“Nobody move!” the shorter of the pair shouted. “There’s two police officers in amongst you lot. Their radios should still be crackling. Push ‘em forward and we’ll let the rest of you go.”

Aoko found herself frozen. She wasn’t in the main crowd, and could probably make a break for it if she wanted, but... she couldn’t just leave everyone here. Only, what could she do to help?

Before she had an answer, she felt someone rush past her, and saw Sera dashing ahead, keeping low to hide behind the table with the punch on it. Then the fanged girl launched herself out from behind the table, still staying low to give a leg sweep to the taller guard. As he fell, she spun herself around and thrust an open palmed strike into the chin of the shorter guard. The man stumbled for a second, Sera grabbed the arm he held outstretched with the pistol, and threw him over her shoulder onto his partner (still sprawled on the ground from the leg sweep). A stomp to the gut of the man on top winded the pair of them, and the police officers rushed forward a moment later, handcuffing both guards.

All Aoko could manage to do was stare in amazement. Sera, glistening just a touch from sweat and hair even messier from all that movement, was, at least for the moment, the most beautiful human being Aoko had ever seen.

Unfortunately, the sound of more gun fire reminded her there was still a crisis at hand. She’d have to admire the tomboyish detective later.

-b-

Heiji had pressed Kaito into a corner, shielding him as he made sure no guards were too close by. Kaito admitted it was reasonably chivalrous, but also wasn’t a very easy position to improvise from.

“The gems,” Kaito said, trying to maintain the seductive voice he’d decided on for this disguise. “They’re after the gems. If we can hide those, we might be able to buy enough time for a proper police force to show up and arrest these guys. And maybe make them waste effort on chasing us, instead of taking hostages.”

“They’ve probably already got people over there,” Heiji hissed. “I’m not going to let you get yourself shot over some fancy rocks.”

“They’re works of art,” Kaito countered, wiggling out from behind Heiji. “And I don’t like seeing the bad guys win. Don’t worry about me so much though. Keep yourself safe.”

With that, he dashed down the hallway, glad he’d decided against heels for this disguise. The tight short skirt already made movement awkward enough. And the open back didn’t help the shiver than ran down his spine every time he heard the crack of gunfire.

Peaking around the last corner, Kaito confirmed there were four guards in the room with the prized gems. The men were arguing about why the police were here and how the whole scheme had gone sideways. Kaito slipped back into hiding and ruffled through the purse he’d brought. There wasn’t much to go with. Security had been too thorough for him to bring his card gun and his paraglider, and he’d thought the latter would be more useful with the height of the location. He had a couple of smoke bombs, but they’d dissipate before he could pick the locks on the glass display cases holding the gems.

Eyes panning around for anything to help his situation, Kaito spotted a fire extinguisher and got an idea. He could do something so very unlike Kid’s usual style that he might still be able to plausibly keep his disguise and walk out of here.

Dashing across the entrance to the room, relying on the argument keeping the guards from paying him too much attention, Kaito grabbed the extinguisher and removed the safety tab. He lobbed a couple of smoke bombs into the room, hoping to provide himself some cover, and, while the guards started yelling, slipped in, keeping low, until he was close enough to spray one of them in the face with the unpleasant mixture of freezing chemicals the extinguisher held. As the man stumbled back, Kaito danced between the remaining men, confused by their assailant seeming to be an angelically dressed young woman, rather than famed dapper thief Kaitou Kid.

While the men were doubled over coughing, Kaito mouthed a silent apology to his father, before smashing the display cases open with the extinguisher. He shoved the gems away, and was preparing to make a break for it, when he found a pistol in his face.

“Nasty little trick, miss. But you’re just going to get yourself killed if you try anything else,” the guard said.

His eyes were red and watering from the chemical spray, but apparently he was more determined that his still coughing allies. Well, that or Kaito hadn’t managed as direct a hit as he’d hoped.

“You had a party full of people wanting to catch Kaitou Kid. I’m sure you can’t be too surprised that someone tried to play hero?” Kaito offered, giving a nervous smile. “But, I see I’ve lost. I’ll give the gems back, just, please stop pointing that gun in my face?”

The man thought it over a moment, before shrugging. “I’d prefer to avoid any murders in this mess of a heist. Cops always get so persistent with those... so, sounds like a fair trade.”

The man moved to block the entrance, but did lower his pistol. Clearly he decided superior size and strength was enough for him to control the situation. Kaito grimaced as he moved to hand the purse over. Just as the man reached out to grab it, there was an almost sickly thwacking sound. The man’s eyes glazed a bit, and he fell over unconscious, revealing Hattori Heiji behind him, with a now bent aluminum cane in his hand, held like a kendo shinai. Despite the inelegant weapon, he looked like the most noble hero Kaito had ever seen. The young thief decided to chalk it up to a bias innate in having just had your life saved.

“You’re crazy, y’know that?” Heiji said, before grabbing Kaito’s hand and pulling him back into the hallway.

“I’ve always had a hazy definition of self-preservation,” Kaito replied as he followed Heiji down the hallway, away from the trio of recovering guards.

“So, what’s your escape plan?” Heiji asked. “You’ve gotta have one?”

For a moment the way the question was phrased made Kaito wonder if his cover was blown. But, Heiji was still helping? Surely the Detective of the West wouldn’t knowingly assist Kaitou Kid?

“Oi, Carbonneaux-han,” Heiji hissed, pulling Kaito around a corner.

Kaito let out a tiny sigh of relief. So Heiji just had trust in his supposed date. Things weren’t... okay, things were completely messed up, with a gunfight still cracking through the gallery from time to time. But Kaito still had a chance to get out of this, and hope no one was seriously injured.

“Do you think we could shimmy into the vents? Kid seems to do that a lot?” Kaito offered, not sure how much climbing he could actually do in this dress. (That was why he’d slipped into the vents and crawled over to the women’s washroom before changing into it.)

“You didn’t have a plan, did you?” Heiji asked, a grimace on his face.

“Not really? I’ve been going off pure improv for a while now,” Kaito replied, completely honest.

Heiji let out a defeated sigh, before placing a hand on Kaito’s shoulder. “You’re a disaster, y’know that?”

“At least I’m cute?” Kaito replied, hoping to lighten the situation a little.

“M-maybe,” Heiji muttered, his cheeks turning red before he peeked around the corner. “Looks like company’s coming though.”

Heiji shifted back into a Kendo stance, preparing the cane (which Kaito only now began to wonder about the origins of), when there was a crashing sound from the main entrance. Moments later a wave of what seems like it had to be half the police in Tokyo swarmed into the hallway, most with firearms drawn.

Heiji and Kaito both blinked in shock.

“I heard Inspector Nakamori had men on standby in the building, but I didn’t think it’d be that many,” Heiji muttered.

Kaito could only nod, his relief from knowing the police weren’t nearly as likely as these thieves to shoot him warring with his instinct to panic when so completely surrounded by police at a heist. He just watched as a small swarm of officers rushed past, shouting ‘freeze’ at the men who’d been pursuing Kaito and Heiji, still unsure how he felt.

“Are you two okay?” an paramedic asked, walking up to them.

“Y-yeah, we’re fine,” Heiji replied. “A little shaken, but fine.”

“I, uh, I grabbed the jewels to keep the robbers from getting them. Should I give those to you?” Kaito asked.

“Oh. Umm, they should probably go to someone higher up,” the paramedic replied. “I’m not even a police officer. Hm, Inspector Nakamori’s not able to take them right now, but—”

“He isn’t? He’s okay, right?” Kaito asked, heart not caring if he was showing too much concern.

He couldn’t lose Uncle Ginzo... and he had no idea what he’d do for Aoko if it was his fault that her father...

“He’s stable. Probably has a cracked rib at worst, since the bullet grazed him. They had to sedate him though, because he insisted on trying to yell orders at people and was at risk of making it worse,” the paramedic replied, actually laughing a little at the end.

Kaito let out a sigh of relief.

“Hmm, I think Inspector Takahashi should be nearby? I’ll take you to him,” the paramedic continued.

“Thanks,” Kaito replied, finally feeling a sense of ease. Even if he was carrying a stolen jewel and surrounded by police.

Heiji walked with him, filing past various panicked guests explaining everything they saw to police. It didn’t take long to reach the point where the Inspector was, the man trying to assess the information with an attitude that might have been impressive calm or may have been exhaustion. He was usually in Ginzo’s shadow that Kaito didn’t know the man very well.

“Inspector Takahashi, sir,” the paramedic said, getting the man’s attention. “This guest has something for you.”

“Oh?” the inspector asked.

“I was trying to ruin the thieves’ plans, so, I-uh, I kind of grabbed the jewels and ran off with them,” Kaito replied, trying his best to sound out of his element. Or, more precisely, out of her element, with his feminine disguise and all that. “I figured I should return them as soon as possible though?”

“That was very reckless, miss,” the inspector replied. “I admire your bravery, but, please, leave these sorts of things to the professionals in future. Put your own safety first.”

“I tried tellin’ her,” Heiji said with a shrug. “She tried taking on armed men with a fire extinguisher.”

“Okay, okay. I was running on adrenaline more than anything... but, well, here’s the jewels,” Kaito said, producing three gems from his purse and handing them over.

“That brat,” Heiji said as he leaned forward, making Kaito jump slightly.

“W-what?” Kaito asked, watching as Heiji grabbed the fake Fiery Topaz from the inspector and feeling his heart drop.

“Kid. The cheeky thief, he’d already replaced this with a fake. It’s got his little doodle right there on the bottom,” Heiji said, turning the statuette around to show everyone. “He was probably planning to make it look like he stole the jewel without ever going near it. Obnoxious magician.”

Kaito used every ounce of willpower he had, not to book it right then and there. “I... I didn’t have time to check it when I was grabbing them. I had no idea.”

“It does look like a pretty good fake,” the inspector said. “It fooled me too, and you had armed thieves around to keep you scared. That has to mean Kid is around somewhere though.”

“He might have escaped off the patio,” Heiji offered.

“Hmm... I’ll have men check if anyone’s seen him,” the inspector said. “Could I get some names off you two?”

“Catie Carbonneaux,” Kaito said.

“Hattori Heiji,” the Osakan added, removing his masquerade mask and giving a smile.

“Hattori-san? Excellent. My men are a bit too busy to interview you right now, but if you want to come in tomorrow and explain what you two were up to, that would be very appreciated,” the inspector said.

“Yeah, I can do that. I’ll swing by in the afternoon,” Heiji replied with a warm smile. “Gonna go get Carbonneaux-han here a little fresh air right now, though.”

“The weather’s not half bad. Enjoy the night you two,” the inspector said.

Kaito felt his cheeks go a little hot, though he was sure he wasn’t blushing as much as Heiji while the Osakan blurted ‘thank you’ and began to drag Kaito off. It was only a couple floors up to the roof, but Kaito spent the whole time confused why Heiji was taking him up there. Stepping out, Kaito walked along behind Heiji for a moment, until the young detective spun around, pushing Kaito against the wall by the shoulders.

“You’re gonna return it, right?”

“Pardon?” Kaito asked.

“The real Fiery Topaz,” Heiji replied. “You always return them, so it seemed like a safe bet, but... but I’m panickin’ a little now.”

“Hattori-san, are-are you claiming I’m Kaito Kid? You saw my face get checked for a mask earlier. And everyone knows Kaito Kid is a guy, so I can’t—” Kaito began, when he found his cheek being pinched by Heiji. Forcefully. “Ow, did you have to pull so hard?”

“So that is your real face,” Heiji said, his eyes studying Kaito so deeply the young thief felt frozen in the moment. “Course, it’s never actually been proven if you’re a guy, everyone’s just assumed it.”

Before Kaito could manage a reply, Heiji’s eyes lit up. “I think I just figured out a way to find out.”

Then, suddenly, Heiji’s lips were on Kaito’s and he couldn’t deny that was where his heart had been hoping Heiji’s intensity was going. He’d had more than a couple dreams about kissing the well tanned lad after the Fairy’s Lip heist, dreams he’d eventually realised were pleasant. Some part of him wished this moment would last for an eternity, but it broke far too soon. Opening his eyes again, he saw Heiji looking at him with a rather confused expression. That was when Kaito realised Heiji was holding his masquerade mask. The sneak had used the kiss to distract him!

“You do really look like Kudo, but... I honestly can’t tell if you’re a guy or a girl,” Heiji muttered.

Kaito’s eye twitched. He’d just happily given up his first kiss in an admission (as much to himself as to the world) that he had a proper crush on both a guy and a detective, and... and the jerk was just using it as a distraction. At least Kaito’s androgynous features, combined with the well styled wig and carefully applied makeup he wore, meant Heiji hadn’t won too much with that trick.

“Thanks for stealing my first kiss just to take my mask off,” Kaito hissed, eyes narrow. “And here I thought you had at least an ounce of romantic sense.”

“Your first—s-sorry, I didn’t... wait,” Heiji stammered. “That was my first kiss too! I got so excited about thinkin’ it’d distract you I didn’t even stop to realise...”

Kaito could help it as a laugh escaped his lips. “Well, I guess we’re even then. But, I’m really going to have to give you some lessons on romance if we’re going to work out as an item.”

Heiji blinked, looking delightfully confused. Kaito couldn’t help grinning at the tanned lad’s fluster. He was so much fun to tease.

“An item? You mean you—” Heiji stammered, before Kaito placed a finger on his lips to shush him.

“You’ll find out soon enough, Hei-chan,” Kaito said, with a wink. “I’ve always found leaving a little mystery is fun.”

With that, Kaito slipped past Heiji to head for the ledge. The wind was calm and perfect for paragliding.

“Can you at least tell me if you’re really a girl or a guy?” Heiji asked.

“What did I just say about mystery?” Kaito asked, before hopping off the roof.

-Epilogue-

Ginzo woke up in a hospital bed, not for the first time in his career as a police officer. His side hurt a bit, but he was fairly certain the numbing of painkillers was keeping it bearable.

“Ah, you’re awake,” a voice that Ginzo couldn’t quite place.

Turning, he’d at first assumed it would be a nurse, only to find it was one of the two people occupying the chairs beside his bed: that Sera girl, still dressed in the overly fancy princely outfit from the night before. Passed out on her shoulder was Aoko, also still in her dress from the night before. They’d both removed their masks at least.

“Aoko, time to wake up,” Sera said, nudging the brunette lightly.

Aoko blinked herself awake for a moment, before her eyes landed on Ginzo and she lit up.

“Dad! You’re awake!”

“I am. Are you okay?” Ginzo asked, thinking that she didn’t seem to have any bandages on her.

“Mhm. Aoko kept with Sera-kun all evening, she protected me,” Aoko replied. “She took out a couple of those yakuza thugs in the security all on her own too! Also, it’s so annoying that I was told I shouldn’t hug you right now...”

Ginzo couldn’t help smiling and laughing, hearing that his daughter had made it unscathed. And seeing her pout in her adorable way.

He turned to Sera, wanting to check on her as well. “And what about you? I hope protecting my daughter didn’t prove too dangerous?”

“I’m fine,” the girl said with a fanged grin.

“Good to hear,” Ginzo said, noticing a blush on Aoko’s face as she sat back down.

There was a silent exchange of eye contact between the pair, which led to Aoko blushing even more.

“I take it I’ll be trusting her to your protection in future too, then?” Ginzo asked.

“Uh, yeah,” Sera replied, surprise evident in her voice. “We were trying to figure out how to break it to you. Didn’t think you’d figure it out so fast.”

“I didn’t get my rank by accident,” Ginzo said. “I’m glad to hear it though.”

“Wait, really? B-but you’d always chase off any pretty well any boys around me, at least apart from Kaito?” Aoko asked, her eyes wide. “I didn’t think you wanted me dating yet?”

Ginzo found himself chuckling again, this time making his side a little sorer. “I did that because I knew you liked girls since you were in first grade and you insisted you were going to marry your teacher. I’d always worried you wouldn’t admit it to yourself though, wanting to fit in. So I tried to keep the boys away before you made a mistake you’d regret.”

Aoko was nearly as red as a stop sign at this point, which Sera seemed to be loving. Ginzo briefly wondered how much friendly teasing the pair were going to have, when the door clicked open. A very tired looking Kaito walked in, a small bouquet of spring flowers in his arms and a weak smile on his face.

“Sorry I’m late. I didn’t check my messages until I woke up this morning,” Kaito said, though Ginzo felt like the lad was lying. Normally Kaito could say the sky was plaid with perfect conviction, so Ginzo had to wonder what was going on, and if his injury was really bothering Kaito so much.

That line of thought was quickly interrupted by Sera speaking up.

“Kudo? What are you doing here?”

-b-

And here Kaito’d thought that flirting with Heiji was risking his cover. Only to find himself face to face with Sera Masumi as he’d come to visit uncle Ginzo. He was about to be suspect #1 for Kaitou Kid once again...

“Who’s Kudo?” he asked, so very glad he’d ensured such a thorough fake alibi last night. Maybe it would hold up?