Word Count: 1400
Disclaimer: Aoyama created Shin'ichi and Shiho. I'm a mere slave to their banter.
Friends: Kudou Shin'ichi/Edogawa Conan and Miyano Shiho/Haibara Ai
Notes: 30 Friends: #28 – golden thread
Student, 2nd Year, Teitan High School
Consulting Detective, Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department
This last entry, under Secondary Occupation, made Miyano Shiho frown at the picture on her laboratory terminal’s glowing screen. She had returned from the detective’s house with the investigation teams an hour ago, but as twilight waned into deep, black night, she began to dread her current task. There was something about Kudou’s cocky grin that disarmed her. Gin and Vodka had—regardless of her wishes—given him APTX 4869. He should be dead.
Right now, she was the only one certain he was alive.
For one thing, during the initial search, his refrigerator had been unwashed, but bare, with all the appearances of having been cleaned out. The trash was gone, too. When they asked her about it, she shrugged and said, “Probably lived on takeout dinners.”
The vast house was tidy, but needed a good scrubbing. Shiho was unnerved by the clear snapshot of Kudou’s life that developed by rifling through his home: Top student (As on most tests) and soccer player (several trophies and dirty, damaged balls in various rooms) with an eccentric love of mystery novels (stacks of Sherlock Holmes) and a friend who looked more like a girlfriend (many smiling, close pictures of the pair). Police were impressed enough to take a high schooler’s advice (computer and hard copy case files) because of his successful deductions (newspaper clippings). All this evidence of a promising future was covered by a fine layer of dust, like a neglected museum exhibit.
And yet, in today’s second search, as the teams wended their way upstairs, past room after unswept room, and returned to the boy’s bedroom, Shiho made sure she was the first to inspect his wardrobe. If this had gone untouched, she could write him off as dead and forget him. As soon as she opened the drawer to double-check his childhood clothes, however, she slid it closed, swallowed her panic with a yawn, and parked herself in front of the wardrobe like a bored guard. Based on all her current research, she understood too well why it was empty.
“Are you staying?”
Shiho jumped and spun in her chair to face one of her assistants, Hayashida Ryu, who appeared in the darkened doorway across the room. She spoke to Hayashida, like any of her colleagues, as rarely as possible. Dim security lights shone behind him. “What?”
“If you’re staying, you’ll have to lock up,” Hayashida said, rolling a kink in his shoulder. He pulled on his long, tan overcoat and glanced at her with tired eyes.
“Yes,” she said. She turned her back to him and pretended to type.
“Alright, then,” he said. As he turned to leave, he muttered to himself, “Bitch.”
Shiho ignored it. Hayashida was handsome, in his late 20s, and one of the many coworkers who did not appreciate being bossed around by an antisocial, half-Japanese, teenage girl. It was better this way, anyhow. Friendships and relationships of any kind got people like her into needless trouble, no matter what her sister, Akemi, had to say about their merits.
No, silly, said a nagging voice inside that sounded too much like Akemi. You’re worried it will get them into trouble.
“Maybe,” Shiho said aloud, thinking her code name had something to do with it. If sweet sherry masked its potency, she was determined to be as dry a Sherry as possible. But no amount of dryness or bitterness could change the fact that Kudou Shin’ichi’s life hung by a single thread placed squarely in her hands.
Just then, her desk phone rang. Shiho knew only one person who would think to call her at this late hour. “Moshi moshi.”
“Hey, little sis,” said Akemi, her voice deep and warm, as always.
“What do you want?” Shiho said, glaring at the receiver.
“Oh, how cold,” Akemi teased. A soft laugh sounded on the other line. “Nope, sorry, you’re not getting off that easy. How are you?”
“…Fine. You?” Shiho replied, kicking herself for taking too long. That answer would open a can of worms.
“Better than you, sounds like,” Akemi said. Shiho could hear a faint car horn in the background which, combined with the wind and general static, suggested her sister was calling from a pay phone. “Care to talk about it?”
Shiho sighed, battling the urge to do just that. Her line was still attached to the research facility; whether she smelled the presence of a fellow organization member or not, there was no way of knowing who could be listening in. “Sorry, I—I can’t.”
“I understand,” Akemi said, sighing with her. A comfortable pause lingered for a brief moment. “Wish I could help.”
Shiho leaned back in her mesh chair, crossed her legs, and gazed at the image of Kudou Shin’ichi on her monitor. Frowning again, she murmured, “Big sister, do you believe in fate?”
“Fate?” Akemi, she was sure, knew better than to ask what brought on such questions. Instead, her sister fell silent for some time and let several cars pass before saying, “It depends on what you mean by that. If you’re talking about something being doomed to happen, then I’d say no. I believe you carve out your own fate.”
Shiho quirked a smile. “Is there another meaning?”
“No matter what we do, our actions affect everyone around us, whether or not we realize it. The girl I just bought coffee from got a smile with my change. I’d like to think it did her some good,” said Akemi. Clicks sounded on her end as if she were drumming her fingers on the thick cord. “She could’ve just been tired after a long day, or she could’ve been contemplating suicide. I’ll probably never know.”
“You think too much,” Shiho said. Numabuchi Ki’ichiro’s face flashed in her memory, giving her insides a twist. Murderer or not, she wondered for a fleeting moment how the fear of her experiments had affected his life and where he was now.
“No, you think too much,” Akemi said, though her teasing was gentler this time. “Simply put, we’re all connected. Let’s just work hard.”
“Right,” Shiho said, though her restlessness was stronger now.
“Ah, that reminds me!” Akemi said, her voice muffled. Shiho surmised she was digging in her purse for extra coins. “It’s been too long since we’ve met for lunch. Meet me next week or the week after next at the latest. I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer.”
“First you tell me to work hard, then you tell me not to work,” Shiho said, dryly, though a wider smile spread on her face against her will. “Which is it?”
“Both, little sis. We’ll talk soon.”
In other words, Shiho thought, we need to talk soon. She took a mental note of this. “Be care—take care of yourself, big sister.”
“I always do,” chirped Akemi. “You do the same, you hear me? Ja ne.”
“Ja ne.” Shiho hung up and quieted her racing heartbeat as she moved her cursor for the hundredth time to the radio buttons beneath Kudou Shin’ichi’s profile. Only three options presented themselves: Living, Deceased, and Unknown. For Kudou’s safety, wherever he was hiding, his status could not remain unknown forever. The choice was irrevocable. It would be tagged with her ID. If he were discovered alive, they would both die.
But I knew from the start what I wanted to do, didn’t I?
Before she could change her mind, she selected Deceased and saved it.
Shiho attached the list of evidence the team had compiled to support its findings of an abandoned home and school absenteeism, all the while thinking that as much as she hated it, her sister was right. No matter her choice, her life was bound with that of Kudou Shin’ichi. He crossed the organization’s path and suffered the effects of her apotoxin; her neck was now on the line because she could not bring herself to kill him on purpose, not for her own safety, not anymore.
As she finished her work and, at last, shut down her computer, Shiho breathed a sigh and thought, This was pointless. If anything, they’ll put us both to an agonizing death.
Removing her lab coat and reaching for her handbag, she smiled a little. But if big sister has her way, maybe this will do us some good.