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A Professional Consultation

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His phone was in his hand before he’d even sat up from the bed. He answered, putting it to his ear. “Hakuba speaking, how may I help you?” His words come out in clear, crisp English, despite the weariness bogging him down. He didn’t check the caller ID before answering, simply picked up the phone. Belatedly, it occurred to him that, considering the odd hour, it might be a caller from Japan.

“Ahh, Detective Hakuba,” came an unexpectedly familiar voice. This English was accented just lightly with Japanese, almost indiscernible. Saguru caught himself smiling. “I was wondering—do you do consultations over the phone for potential clients?”

Kaito was calling him.

Some strange feeling was wrapping itself around him, warming him. Phone calls from Kaito, while not commonplace, were not a strange phenomenon anymore—something he never would have believed a year ago—but it still managed to be a bright patch in his day if he got to hear Kaito’s voice while he was traveling.

He swung his legs out of bed and rested his elbows against his knees as he leaned his head into the phone. “Certainly I do—although if I take your case after the consultation there can be an up front cost, depending on the situation.” He spoke around his smile, although he was not terribly successful at keeping it out of his voice.

Kaito was a little better an actor than he. “Ah—well, I guess I should check. How much do you usually charge?”

Saguru almost snorted, but managed just barely to keep himself in check, tone professional. “Oh, well, for you? A date to Creperie de Madeleine would be in order, I believe.”

“Ehh, I guess that’s understandable.” Kaito feigned something begrudging. He heard something clicking in the background, then a soft ‘pop’ sound. He wondered what that was about.

“I’m glad to hear it’s amenable,” and then he traded English for Japanese and broke the act: “Now, to what do I owe the pleasure of hearing your voice at five fifty-two in the morning?”

“—Oh, well! It is actually a case,” Kaito said then, breaking character. “I dunno if you’ll be able to help me out here, but it would sure be useful if you could.”

All at once, Saguru grew alert. “Oh, is that so? Well—why don’t you take me through it?” What manner of case would this be? Kaito didn’t sound terribly concerned and Saguru wasn’t catching any of his usual tells that could indicate strain or duress, so he imagined this didn’t connect to Kaitou KID.

“Okay, so sometimes I help Jii-chan at the Blue Parrot. And I noticed some weird behavior from a group of regular patrons—these four people who work at an investment firm in the business district. One member of the group, Usuda Chikafumi, is definitely some sort of superior—a supervisor or department head, and the other three who come with him work under him, going by the way they all interact. Anyway, Usuda is a complete asshole of a boss, and it’s pretty clear the employees feel like they have to act as doormats. He’s kind of an idiot, too, as far as I can tell. I don’t like him either, he’s a dick to the staff, but I can’t really help but wonder if something’s going to happen.”

Saguru waited a beat before cutting in to ask, “And why do you think that?”

“Well, okay, so specifically the past two days: I noticed a weird popping noise two to three different times each day while I was at the Blue Parrot. It sounded like—” and here he mimicked a popping sound; Saguru could only assume he’d done so near-perfectly, considering his vocal skill. Saguru might have likened the noise to a champagne bottle popping open. “And! Every time I heard it, it came with the smell of yuzu. Weird enough on its own, because nobody was popping open any yuzu-flavored wine or some other drink with a cork at the time. And the only patrons consistently present whenever that happened were those four. Isn’t it strange?”

Saguru mulled it over. While an odd occurrence, and interesting that it only happened when these four relatively normal people were present, he was admittedly having a difficult time conceptualizing any concern. “It does sound strange,” he conceded. “What, exactly, is the concern?”

“Well, I think I know the cause of the sound and the smell, but I can’t make sense of why it would be happening, unless they—or some single member of the group—is practicing something. I found a film canister, and a stray piece of bath bomb. The bath bomb smelled exactly like the scent I kept catching earlier, and—well, hold on.” There was a shuffling sound, and the dulled noise of Kaito propping the phone against something, presumably at the desk in his bedroom, maybe on the counter top in the kitchen. Some noises of movement, and a soft clicking noise. “So, I found the same bath bomb or a similar one at a department store, and I have a film canister. If I put some water in the film canister, and put a piece of bath bomb in with it and then seal it shut, I can put it lid-side down, and it turns into a tiny rocket, once enough pressure builds...” He trailed off, and Saguru heard him do something with his phone. “Just listen. And watch.” Saguru drew back, turned on the speaker function on his phone, and studied the screen. Sure enough, Kaito had his phone propped on the kitchen counter against something Saguru couldn’t see. He was looking at an upside-down film canister. They both waited.

Eventually, the film canister behaved exactly as Kaito had predicted, shooting quickly out of frame. Sure enough, the same noise that Kaito had mimicked earlier sounded.

“So, somebody is going to great lengths for some elaborate trick. What if someone’s just hoping to prank their boss?” Although Kaito couldn’t see him, Saguru was cocking a brow in subdued amusement, tone a little sardonic. It was difficult not to find the situation a little ironic; after all, Kaito himself was one who would certainly go to great lengths to practice a trick to the point of perfection, if only to prank someone—whether he liked that someone or not.

Kaito was unperturbed, too focused on the situation he was presenting to Saguru to be bothered by his teasing. “That’s the thing, though… I don’t understand what the point of the trick is, or why it’s so elaborate. I know that the canister flies up with enough force that it could definitely hit the ceiling of the bar, if it’s made to travel in a straight line. From the perspective of a prank, I know ways I might use something like that, but it would need to get at least a little more elaborate if they wanted it to explode with confetti or something else. It could just be for a joke or something, but if that’s the case, they’re going to a whole lot of trouble just to ensure the trick is going to work. There’s something really off about this, but I don’t have enough to go on.”

Regardless of Saguru’s own impressions, he of course considered the scenario seriously. Kaito was asking him for help, and Saguru would never be dismissive of that. Anyway, there was something satisfying about getting to work out a problem side by side with Kaito. He stood from the bed, and began to pace his hotel room, trying to envision different scenarios in his mind. “…Well, there are a few different angles to look at: whether the speed or force with which the canister moves matters, for one. It could be that whoever is using this trick just wants to make use of the sound. However, it could also be that something is meant to happen to the canister, after the chemical reaction. There may be a particular point where it’s ideally meant to land, or—well, you said it could reach the ceiling of the bar, maybe they want it to get stuck to the ceiling,” Saguru mused.

The two of them went back and forth. Their hypotheses ranged from pranks, to attempts of theft or humiliation or manufactured blackmail, even murder. They pursued numerous avenues in their speculation, but in the end, that was all it could be: speculation. Eventually, Saguru concluded, “Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be able to solve this one without watching the party in question.” He scowled, feeling a little vexed. “Neither of us have a complete picture, so I’m not going to be able to arrive at anything definitive without more information.” Especially since they didn’t even know what the trick was intended to be used for.

A long-suffering sigh resounded over the line. “Mm, well, I figured that might be the case. Man, I’m going to have to actually hire a detective, aren’t I?”

Saguru felt himself frowning. He felt strangely troubled that he couldn’t help more with this one, and even more so that Kaito might have to turn to somebody else. Not that it should have been any problem for him. “I’ll be back on the tenth, if it makes any difference,” he said.

“It’s okay, Saguru. I want to address this as soon as possible, so…”

“Well, I could compile some recommendations for you, in that case,” Saguru started, but Kaito cut him off with a soft ah-ah-ah.

Nah, don’t worry about it. I’ll just call on good old Sleeping Kogoro!

“Detective Mouri is expensive, Kaito,” Saguru advised dubiously. And nevermind that, Saguru still couldn’t help but see the man as a bit of a hack. He sincerely doubted in his skill—although, at the same time, the detective had a bizarrely remarkable track record.

“I’ll figure it out!” Kaito said, effectively waving him off. “I’ll just call him and ask him to come by, and we’ll see what he figures out.”

“I just think that you’d save yourself a lot of trouble and money just using your own skills, at that rate,” Saguru said dryly.

“Look, it’s just—I just want to try to get this settled before it turns into something that involves the police. If it’s on that way, anyway. I’d rather keep law enforcement out of Jii-chan’s bar. Bad for business.”

Nevermind the plethora of evidence they could discover if they touched something they shouldn’t, Saguru thought, although he didn’t chime in on the matter. Telephone calls could be monitored.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t figure more out,” Saguru murmured, genuine in his apology. He did, however, try not to be too troubled by the fact he couldn’t figure out whatever the trick was for. He knew it was simply impossible without more information, but not arriving to a conclusion still burned like a failure.

“No more of that,” Kaito said decisively. “I’ll get to the bottom of this and keep you posted. Time to call the detective agency!”

“I’ll leave you to it,” Saguru murmured.

“Bye, love you!” Said so remarkably easily, it blew Saguru away. He didn’t comment on it.

“Bye, love,” he said instead. On the other end of the line: click. Saguru looked down at his phone, exasperated and fond, and decided now was as good a time as any to get ready for his day. He hoped Kaito would get to the bottom of his mystery.