It’s cramped and dark – only the slightest hint of light shining through the gaps of the floorboards, just centimetres above him. Conan can feel someone breathing shallowly against the top of his head; their body against his side; something damp, soaking through his clothes; can smell a horrible smell that he immediately recognises as a rotting corpse.
And he’s tied up – rope binding his wrists and ankles.
There’s a sharp stabbing pain just above his brow, where he’d hit his head before…before he’d blacked out. He must have blacked out.
He’d been with Hakuba before, and then they’d been attacked.
“Hakuba?” Conan whispers.
The body beside him twitches and then says quietly “Yes, it’s me.”.
“Are you injured?” Conan asks, because Hakuba isn’t breathing normally, and he has a worrying suspicion that the damp something he can feel is blood.
“He stabbed me. It’s been…I can’t reach my pocket watch like this…I was counting when I woke up…I keep losing count…”
It starts – as most things start – at a KID heist.
“Good morning Nakamori-keibu!” KID chirps from atop the glass case that had just a second ago housed the Golden Opal. He’s way too smug as he holds the gemstone teasingly up to the light, and Conan is tempted to kick a football at him then and there.
The gem he’s holding isn’t even the real one anyway. It glints strangely in the light – a cheap replica. The real Golden Opal is still inside the glass case – Conan cranes his neck – hidden by KID’s reflection.
The trick is so lazy that Conan gets second-hand embarrassment when it immediately manages to fool the entire Kaitou KID taskforce.
“Don’t say good morning when it’s night-time Kaitou KID!” Nakamori-keibu roars. He makes a dive for KID but only ends up toppling over the now abandoned case (and come on, it’s obviously not empty! KID isn’t even obscuring the view anymore). KID is swinging from the chandelier, grappling hook wrapped around it.
He pulls something from his jacket pocket and throws it to the ground.
Conan slaps his hands over his nose and mouth as soon as he sees the object leave the thief’s hand, but the taskforce doesn’t have the same foresight. They collapse against each other in a thick cloud of pink smoke, asleep within seconds.
“Hehehe,” KID giggles as he jumps down to the ground and steps over the sleeping bodies, “you’re right, Keibu – it is night-time. And it’s time you went to bed! Really, this is way too eas-“
KID lets out a strangled, terrified scream as he’s dragged to the ground by a hand around his ankle. Hakuba Saguru rises above KID, trusty pocket watch in one hand and the canister that KID had just thrown in his other, the opening sealed by his firm grip.
“The time is 23:14:05:02,” He says. Conan hears the click of his pocket watch as he closes the case – pockets it – and then Hakuba lifts the canister “don’t you think it’s time you went to bed, KID?”
He has a handkerchief to his face before the canister has even left his fingers. With a loud ping sound, the canister hits the floor and then rolls sluggishly away. The last dregs of KID’s sleeping gas seep out. It isn’t enough to incapacitate Conan – sat in the vents on the other side of the room – but he’s sure it must be at the very least dizzying near the case.
Hakuba must have quick reflexes, he reflects, to be able to grab the canister before it let out all of it’s gas.
“Oh, of course you would!” KID hisses as he scrambles back onto his feet, pressing a gloved hand against his mouth.
And – oh! He’s heading for the vents.
“Hello Kaitou KID-san!” Conan chirps, as soon as KID wrenches the cover off of the vent. He grins at the horrified face KID makes and presses the button on his watch to release the tranquiliser.
KID darts away quickly but Conan doesn’t give him time to think. He has a tracking device and he’s going to use it. Conan tackles KID and clambers over him, kicking and scratching at every available surface. This is fun – this is very fun. He finds himself grinning.
“Get off me you little demon!” KID yelps, grappling Conan’s hands away from his face. Conan’s foot ‘slips’ and just happens to connect with KID’s crotch with the full force of a kick. KID makes a pained noise.
“Hold him still, Edogawa-kun!”
KID wriggles violently underneath him. Conan just about manages to slide his tracking device into KID’s pocket before he’s thrown off.
Just like always, KID jumps off of the roof at the end of the night, an arrogant blob of white against the star-spattered sky. Police sirens blare in the distance.
“At least we managed to keep his hands off of the jewel.” Hakuba sighs, hands in his pockets. The wind is strong up on the roof and it catches against his clothes. He looks disappointed and very annoyed, as everyone does when they lose to KID – and Hakuba’s lost to KID more than most. Hakuba’s been going against him since before Conan found himself as a seven-year-old. Conan feels sorry for him.
He wasn’t going to tell Hakuba about the tracking device, but he’s sure that the other detective can keep a secret. They get along, after all, and there’s no way a fan of Holmes could be a bad person.
Conan looks up at Hakuba, a smile quirking at his lips, “That’s not all.” he says.
“Oh?” Hakuba says, interested.
Conan brings a hand up to his glasses and switches on the tracking mode. Sure enough, there is a blinking red dot, getting further and further away.
The tracker brings them to an old-looking house – two stories tall. The corrugated iron is more orange rust than not and the piping that runs up the side of the building looks like it needed a new coat of paint twenty years ago. Despite this, it looks like every other house on the block – if only a little worse off.
“He’s in here then?” Hakuba asks when Conan stops in front of the house.
“He should be,” Conan says, “but it’s entirely possible that he found the tracker and has led us on a wild goose chase.”
Maybe this is one of KID’s safehouses – if KID even has safehouses – but Conan somewhat doubts it. The house just isn’t the kind of place that he would associate with the thief. It’s too ordinary.
They walk up to the front door, Conan lighting the path with his wristwatch.
Hakuba, being the taller of the two, moves to open door. He stops short of it though.
“Edogawa-kun…” Hakuba says. He’s looking down at Conan – staring right into his eyes, even – with an odd look, like he’s trying to make sense of him. Conan looks up at the other detective questioningly, head cocked to the side.
Hakuba opens his mouth, closes it. His face scrunches up. In the end, he looks down with a perplexed smile and says “You astound me. A tracking device is something I never would have thought to use.”
It’s obviously not what he was going to say.
But the compliment is sincere, and Conan feels his face flush.
“Oh.” He says awkwardly, “Thanks.”
Hakuba looks speculative – assessing. That’s dangerous. Conan thinks quickly.
“Ah!” he yells, voice pitched probably a bit too high. It makes Hakuba jump.
“Ah?” he asks, eyes wide.
“Ah!” Conan confirms. His smile is so wide it hurts. He looks to the side for something, anything – that tree! He points at it “There was a tree like that in Kamen Yaiba!”
“Mhmm! It’s only the best show ever! Have you not watched it Hakuba-niichan?”
Hakuba squints his eyes at him. He looks at a loss for words.
“I’m not stupid, Edogawa-kun.” He says finally.
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.
“Whaaatt?! Hakuba-niichan, are you saying you think only stupid people watch Kamen Yaiba?”
“No.” Hakuba bends at the waist so that they’re eye level, hands shoved into his pockets “I’m saying that I see right through you – the truth will always come to light. You may be a child, but you certainly don’t act like one.” There’s a frustrated note to his voice.
“Ah,” Conan says blankly, taken aback. He blinks, swallows, opens his mouth “right…the truth will always come to light…what truth is that? Exactly?”
“I’m not quite sure yet.”
“Oh…alright. Sorry…for treating you like an idiot…”
“That’s quite alright.” Hakuba says with a huff. He unbends and turns back to the door without even offering his own apology. Not that Conan’s sure what he wants an apology for, but something about Hakuba’s arrogant attitude rubs him to wrong way.
So, this is how Hattori felt.
Hakuba pulls on the door handle but it doesn’t budge – the door’s locked.
“Let me get that.” Conan says, throwing caution to the wind, and nudges Hakuba out of the way.
Is there even a reason to be cautious around Hakuba anymore? He obviously knows that something about Conan is wrong, even if he doesn’t understand it.
Conan feels his face twitch at the thought. No, of course he can’t be truthful with Hakuba.
“It’s all yours.” Hakuba says. And apparently, he can’t read the mood, because he goes on to say “Though, I have to say – first a tracking device, and now lock-picking? Are you sure you aren’t a budding criminal, Edogawa-kun?”
It’s affectionate; it’s teasing. Conan has to say that the only instant he’s found himself not liking Hakuba was just a second ago, when he called him out on his bullshit. And he’s somewhat glad for that, now that he thinks about it, because he enjoys talking to the other detective as an equal.
Conan grins as he fishes around in his pocket for the hair grip Ran had dropped earlier in the day.
“As if you don’t know how to pick a lock – you can’t be that strait-laced.”
“Well, no, but you mustn’t tell KID. I have a reputation to uphold.”
Conan pulls the hair grip from his pocket and sets to work on the door.
The lock gives a click and when they push the door open, they’re flooded with a cloud of dust that has them both coughing. There’s also an awful smell – like rot and mould and old crime scenes.
“Someone hasn’t been in in a while.” Hakuba comments. He absent-mindedly retrieves his pocket watch from his coat pocket and checks the time.
“Yeah.” Conan agrees. The pocket watch closes with a sharp click.
“Where’s the tracking device then?”
Conan leads Hakuba up the rickety, splintering stairs, following the red dot on his glasses. Inside the house it’s pitch-black and when Hakuba nearly trips over the first step he takes out his phone and turns on the torch. Pausing on the top step, Conan observes that the smell isn’t as bad on the second floor.
The landing that the stairs lead up to is small and there are only two doors – one on the left, one on the right. The red dot blinking away on Conan’s glasses indicates that the tracker is to the right.
He steps up onto the landing and makes his way to the door.
“Edogawa-kun?” Hakuba says suddenly. The light from his phone glances off of Conan’s face as he turns around to quirk an eyebrow at him, “Don’t you think it’s strange that there are no decorations here? I didn’t see any furniture downstairs either.”
“Houses get abandoned all the time.” Conan says.
Hakuba raises an eyebrow.
“This is central Tokyo.” He says flatly.
“You would not believe the number of abandoned houses the kids manage to find on a weekly basis.” Conan snorts, “I don’t think it really matters where you go – there’s always going to be an abandoned house.”
“Still,” says Hakuba, “Most abandoned houses aren’t so close to city centres.” He pauses for a second. “The kids? You say that as if you aren’t yourself a child.”
Conan feels his breath catch in his throat.
“Ah! Well- I mean- my friends!” he fumbles.
Hakuba gives a light chuckle, looking thoroughly amused, “I don’t expect I’ll ever understand you Edogawa-kun. I suppose my friends act a bit like children as well. Although, they don’t have the excuse of being actual children like yours.” His brow furrows for a second. “Ah- friends. Perhaps that’s not the correct way to refer to them – I don’t spend a lot of time with them.”
Hakuba doesn’t look at all put off by his words, merely speculative, so Conan gets up onto his tiptoes and turns the door handle. He has to admit that he doesn’t know a lot about the other detective.
The room beyond is almost as empty as the rest of the house. The only thing setting it apart is the white pile of material lying discarded on the floor, directly below a hole in the roof. As soon as Hakuba catches sight of it he strides past him.
There’s a pinched expression on his face as he crouches down and picks it up.
“I can’t I believe I fell for this.” Hakuba mutters.
“What is it?” Conan asks. Whatever it is, Hakuba had recognised it without even shining a light over it. Conan wanders over and peers over Hakuba’s shoulder.
He’s holding one of KID’s inflatable dummies, only this one is deflated. It must have snagged against something on the way in.
“He noticed the tracker then.” Conan sighs.
“It would seem so.”
“What a shame.”
It’s with an air of annoyed defeat that they leave the room. Hakuba leads the way downstairs, his pace quicker in his frustration. He has the deflated Kaitou KID dummy folded over his arm.
It’s when he steps off of the bottom step that Conan almost trips. Something small skitters past his feet.
“Huh?” he says.
Hakuba turns around, half-way to the door. “Edogawa-kun?” he asks.
“There’s something here.” Conan says. He points his wristwatch across the floor, just about manages to see the form of a rat before it’s scurried out of the room “A rat.”
“A rat?” says Hakuba. He tilts his head “Are you sure? This house is completely abandoned – there wouldn’t be a food source here.”
“I’m certain.” Conan says. He walks along the wooden floorboards, hears Hakuba hesitate for a second and then follow him.
Now that they’re both quiet, concentrating on their surroundings, Conan realises that he can hear something from below – a quiet, wet, squirming sound. He shines his wristwatch down at the floor.
“Do you hear that?” he says.
“Yes.” Hakuba nods. He gets down on his knees, places the deflated dummy next to him and then his phone over one of the gaps between the planks of wood. He presses his face right up against the floor. Conan squats down next to him.
“Can you see anything?” He asks.
Hakuba looks up, disgust evident on his face.
“Maggots,” he says, “There must be dead rats down there.”
“Hah.” Conan snorts, “That explains the old crime scene smell.”
“And the food source,” says Hakuba, nose wrinkling, “I wouldn’t put it past rats to eat their family members.”
Conan nods. He moves to stand back up and then-
A ringing goes off – the default ringtone of a phone. It’s coming from beneath the floorboards. He sees Hakuba stiffen out of the corner of his eye. Conan stiffens himself, feels an icy feeling in his chest. They both sit there until the ringing cuts off.
“That doesn’t sound like maggots.” Conan says.
“Agreed,” Hakuba says. He grabs his phone off of the floor, “we should call the police.”
Conan mumbles an agreement. Across the room he sees a crowbar, propped up against the wall. It’s the only thing he’s seen in the empty house.
Conan stands and walks over to it. He picks it up.
“What are you doing Edogawa-kun?” Hakuba asks warily, phone held to his ear.
“Might as well save the police a job.” Conan says. He hooks the end into one of the gaps between the floorboards.
“Maybe don’t do that.” Hakuba advises. His voice is pitched a bit too high and he crosses the room quickly to take the crowbar from Conan.
“Huh?” Conan says, dumbfounded.
“You’re a child Edogawa-kun.” Hakuba says pointedly.
“Oh, fuck, I forgot.”
It just kind of slips out. Conan freezes, lips pursed.
“Oh fudge, I mean.”
“I honestly don’t know how to treat you,” Hakuba declares “my brain says to treat you as a child because you are one, but then you go and say things like that – as if they’re second nature – and it makes me all the more dubious of what you are. Please don’t try to hide your obvious intelligence in front of me – it just makes you look pathetic.”
Before Conan can ask what Hakuba means by ‘dubious of what you are’ (and also tell him off for calling him pathetic, because he’s not pathetic) the other detective turns his attention back to his phone.
“Ah, good evening Nakamori-keibu. This is Hakuba. Edogawa-kun and I seem to have stumbled upon a crime scene…” he pauses, listening, and then lets out a long sigh “I’m not talking about the heist, Nakamori-keibu – I’m talking about a murder.”
It starts at the Detective Koshien. Or rather, it starts at the Sunset Mansion, but he doesn’t truly understand what it is until the Detective Koshien, when Edogawa Conan tells him that his deduction is wrong.
‘It’ is a niggling feeling, that something is not quite right.
And that ‘something’ is Edogawa Conan.
A boy who displays intelligence well beyond his age; a boy who talks in a chirpy tone one second and then a serious one the next; a boy who doesn’t get scared at the sight of a dead body.
A boy who seemingly didn’t exist before December the previous year.
Yes, he has a birth certificate – but that’s about it.
There’s no record of any schooling prior to Teitan Elementary, nothing about him in newspapers. He wasn’t registered at birth. No friends or proof of his parents’ identities. No passport – so how on Earth did a boy who apparently grew up in America get all the way to Japan?
Saguru would think he was under witness protection if the cover-up wasn’t so sloppy.
When Edogawa had tackled KID and kicked him in the crotch earlier that very evening, Saguru hadn’t been surprised. He’d spotted Mouri Ran and her friend leaving the museum at 20:54:32:02 minus a child and had drawn conclusions.
What had surprised him was Edogawa revealing his use of a tracking device. It was a pretty careless move for someone who was so obviously hiding under a fake identity.
The tracking device; the lock-picking; the way he talks about his friends; ‘Oh, fuck, I forgot.’ – nothing Edogawa does is childlike at all, even when he’s pretending to be childlike. Edogawa Conan is on the opposite end of a scale to a 4Kids anime dub, but Hakuba has no idea what that end of the scale can be described as.
“Oi, oi. How many bodies are they bringing out…” Conan’s surprised muttering brings him out of his thoughts. It is in fact a lot of bodies.
His hand moves in his pocket, tracing the casing of his pocket watch. It’s a comforting feeling. Saguru takes it from his pocket and opens it. The time reads 01:11:45:08.
He just knows that Kuroba is going to be insufferable during class today.