i. the valley of fear, part i
He wakes to the smell of cigarettes, the air tingling of a Marlboro scent.
There’s matted blood atop his scalp; his ribs are perhaps bruised, but none are broken. More, more: what else can he notice? A metal chair, rusted with blood, and nickel Smith and Wesson handcuffs in a room that reeks of oil, decomposition, and rats.
There are two other people in the room: one smoking in front of him, watching him; the other pacing behind him. It’s a heavy, hard pace, favoring the left leg as the flimsy wooden boards beneath him quiver; he’s smoking as well—Vodka?
Shinichi’s surprised it took them this long, with Vermouth’s traitorous behavior, his involvement with the FBI, Kir, and Bourbon, and his appearances as “Holmes’s apprentice” or “Sleeping Kogoro’s assistant”. But it was time: time to fix his mistakes, to bring down the damn syndicate, to end this sick torture. Slowly, he opens his eyes, feeling once again the cage of a six-year-old—
“Good morning, Detective,” a familiar voice says, cigarette in between his teeth. Chills run up and down his spine. Gin. “You should be thankful to us. We made sure you returned to your original state before we began.”
Of course: how can they torture a six-year-old’s body without encountering difficulties in keeping him alive?
He swallows down the shudder at the thought of his transition from Conan to Shinichi. Who gave him these clothes? His watch, bowtie, and shoes are all gone.
“An antidote?” he asks.
“A permanent one.” Vodka walks around him, smoking a Winston (a lighter, airy smell). “Unlike the ones Sherry made for you.”
“Where is she, Meitantei ? As a token of your gratitude, it’s only polite to give us information in return.” Gin would make a brilliant detective. Had he not been a murderer, Shinichi would have thought of Gin as one.
“I’m afraid I don’t know any Sherry, Gin,” he spits out, gritting his teeth. “My bad.”
Gin smiles. A strobe of green light illuminates the wrinkles in his face, the crinkling of his eyes. He doesn’t know if he’ll survive this, but Shinichi knows that if he does, he will never forget the feeling of falling down a well of fifty thousand feet, into a pit of darkness and fear.
Gin reaches into his coat and pulls out a red bowtie and a cell phone. “Very clever. I wonder who made these for you, or if you made them yourself. I doubt you had the resources to, so someone obviously knows that Edogawa Conan and Kudo Shinichi are the same person.”
Shinichi bites his tongue, letting the pain steady his thoughts. “It’s clear you’re unaware of my capabilities. Don’t you think that someone who could survive your poison, evade your notice, and, all the while, work to bring you people down would be capable of making those gadgets?”
He scoffs, but not too harshly. His mother was an actress, after all. “I’m insulted. I made those for myself.”
“I’m insulted, as well, Detective. I thought we could operate on the same level of respect,” Gin replies, twirling the bowtie in his fingers. “Since that day in the alley when we first met, you’ve survived, sabotaged our operations, and gathered information regarding our organization from Sherry and your own investigations.
“But don’t you think I would do my own research on the great Kudo Shinichi? I know everything I need to know about you. I know where you lived, who your neighbors were.”
He must have a concussion, because one moment Gin is leaning into his face, and the next, he is behind him, wrenching his head backwards by his hair.
“I know you live next to a crazy old man who thinks of himself as an inventor. Professor Agasa, I believe?”
Shinichi’s nails bite into his palms. Gin is no fool. He already knows there is a possibility that Shinichi has shared the information about the organization to everyone around him. He’s only looking for confirmation, so he can avoid killing all of the people around him.
Killing, while he derives pleasure from it, brings Gin attention, which he despises. He lets go and Shinichi’s head falls back into place.
“No answer? Well, there is something you should say, but not to us.” The cold dial of the bowtie presses against his mouth. “As you know, we hate to attract attention. A missing elementary school boy is something we cannot have on our hands.”
Conan’s cell phone slams against his ear and the silencer on Vodka’s pistol taps against his temple. “Say goodbye,” Gin orders. Shinichi swallows hard as he feels blood begin to drip from his palms.
“Conan-kun?” It’s Ran. The blood on his hands drips faster.
There is an odd, short silence on the other end as Ran softly gasps. It is the smallest reaction that only he would notice. But the few seconds of silence is long enough for him to beg the universe for her to say something else. The pistol shakes as Vodka considers the level of their exposure.
“Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you all day.”
“I know, I’m sorry. I’m with my parents in America now. They picked me up before I could call you or my other friends.” Too long. Vodka pushes the gun into his temple and his mouth snaps shut.
“Oh. I see.” Ran lets out a shaky breath. He can’t seem to breathe at all. “I’ll miss you so much.”
There’s a quiver in her voice that he knows intimately from all the years he’s known her. He knows before Ran does when she’s about to cry from the tone and cadence of her voice. “I’ll miss you, too.”
There’s a sharp crack as Gin drops the phone and crushes it under his heel. For almost no reason other than how angry Vodka must be to be bested by a teenager, the large man whips his pistol against Shinichi's head, and the world spins dangerously.
That may be the last time he ever speaks to Ran.
“Now, boy, listen to us,” Vodka says. “It will be much easier for you if you tell us where Sherry is and who else knows about us. We don’t want to do this to a kid, trust me.”
“You were willing to poison me, but torturing me will take it too far? How disappointing,” Shinichi sneers back. He immediately regrets it when the pistol crashes into his cheek again.
“I assure you that I will be looking forward to our time together,” says Gin, unsurprisingly. “You wouldn’t want me to pay a visit to the old professor, would you?”
“Killing an old man will bring too much attention to you, especially since elementary school kids are nosy. Killing all of the elementary school kids will cause an uproar. Killing anyone at the detective agency? Now, that’s a death warrant. I doubt Anokata would want senseless murder that places the spotlight on men in black who are harbingers of death.” The corners of his lips lift up. He allows himself this one victory before he allows himself to be beaten.
“No: you wouldn’t kill anyone around me yet because you can’t . You need information from me first before you carry out hits. You need to know exactly what I know, who I’ve shared the information with, and Sherry. And you won’t be able to get it out of me.”
Shinichi cranes his neck upward to meet Gin’s eyes. After all this time, he still has not met another person with such a cold, calculating stare. “In the end, you’ll lose. You’ll realize you’re nothing but pawns in Anokata’s hands, and everything you’ve done will mean nothing.”
He is surprised when Vodka, not Gin, wraps his hands around Shinichi’s neck and squeezes; his body jerks as the effort to breathe becomes increasingly difficult. Shinichi’s hands, slick with blood, scramble at the back of the chair.
“Kid, you have no idea how much we can do to you. We’ve been in charge for decades. Do you think you could take us down?” He can’t see anything. There is only Vodka’s voice, echoing in the darkness.
“That’s enough, Vodka.” The pressure around his throat is gone and Shinichi is left wheezing, head thrown back against the metal frame of the chair. He blinks the darkness away to reveal Gin, a hint of glee in his dead stare.
Gin leans in and Shinichi flinches. His breath smells like smoke and, fittingly, gin. “By the end of your life, you’ll realize that it would have been a mercy if I were to make you beg for your life to end. What I can do is far worse than any of the murders you’ve solved, and I know them all.”
He steps away. There is nothing Shinichi can say, and Gin is satisfied with the lack of response. He nods to Vodka. “Begin.”
Vodka takes off his jacket, readying himself for a day of work. Ominously, he swings a pair of handcuffs chained to the ceiling. Shinichi can feel the metal chair against his skin, the handcuffs chafing his wrists, and the smoke from the cigarettes against his face more vividly than before. This moment, the feeling of air rushing into his face as he jumps off the cliff and into the waterfall: he knows he will never forget it, if he survives this nightmare.
Gin starts to leave, his long silver hair trailing wisps of smoke behind him, but the beast looks back at Shinichi. “And remember, Detective. There’ll be no rescue for you and no mistake this time. There are only monsters here.”
~ interlude: the walls have ears ~
“Any news, Bourbon?”
“Nothing to report.”
“Show me the recording.”
“Do you not trust me when I say there is nothing to report?”
“Are you questioning your superior right now?”
“... Of course not, Gin.”
“Kazuha-chan? It’s Ran.”
“Ran-chan! How are you doing? I’m with Heiji right now.”
“It’s Conan-kun. He’s close with Heiji, right?”
“You already know—”
“He didn’t have time to tell all of his friends, so I thought you both should know. He said he’s in America with his parents right now.”
[Commotion erupts on the other end of the line. Bourbon and Gin listen as two people struggle over the phone, arguing in screams and yells. Bourbon winces and rubs his ear. Gin says nothing.]
“Ran-san. Is it true? The little shrimp’s gone?”
[A moment of silence. Gin’s eyebrows furrow and Bourbon’s pencil stops tapping against the table for a millisecond.]
“Well, it’s just in time! We were going to come visit you, anyway. We’ll see you soon. Don’t be too sad!”
[The recording stops. Bourbon looks at Gin, who is similarly unimpressed. Bourbon raises an eyebrow.]
“You see? Nothing to report.”