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Chapter 1 Main Chapters Chapter 3



The Serpentine Sculpture Robbery Case: Part II

Minamino said, "I certainly hope no one's threatened to steal the Serpentine Sculpture," as though he and the others had not just heard the hotel manager's too-loud whisper to Ran only moments ago.

The manager looked at him, startled, but felt reluctantly compelled to answer. "Eh, I'm afraid that's the case."

Everyone made the appropriate noises of shock and dismay.

"We'd better find Dad," Ran decided. "Let's check the hotel bar first."

"Of course, miss," the manager nodded, and led the way for her and Conan. He seemed slightly dismayed that Daisuke and Minamino were following, but made no comment. Ran and Conan were unsure why they were following as well, but the expressions of their companions indicated that it was simply normal curiosity.

They reached the hotel bar, which was relatively empty at the moment. This mattered little to Ran's father, Mori. He had found a drinking buddy, a man younger than him, but clearly an adult. He was tall, handsome fellow, with short brown hair and brown eyes.

"Ran?" Mori asked. "What are you doing here? Is it 8 already?" His voice hadn't yet slurred- that was a good sign, although he had trouble checking his watch.

"Then you must be Mr. Mori's daughter, whom I've heard so much about," the drinking buddy said in a grand voice. He got up from the bar stool, bowed deeply, and as he did so, kissed Ran's hand. "I'm charmed already. My name is Sohma Shigure," he introduced himself, also placing his last name first.

"Uh, and my name is Mori Ran," Ran introduced herself back in the same fashion, slightly startled by his behavior. She wasn't sure whether he was sober or not, but he appeared fully in control of himself. That being the case, she felt rather flattered.

Conan gawked openly at Shigure's audacity.

"Mr. Sohma, the same Sohma Shigure who wrote 'A Pack Of Tame Dogs In Love'?" Minamino inquired.

"Yes, yes I am!" Shigure replied with delight. "I take it you've read some of my works?"

"He's a novelist," Mori interjected.

Minamino nodded and said, "I've read the book I mentioned. Your style is very unique."

"That's wonderful to hear!" Shigure almost sang in his delight. "Oh, I do hope you will read some more of them."

"I had noticed you left open the possibility of a sequel," Minamino recalled. "Have you created one yet?"

Shigure shrugged, and with a mischievous look in his eyes, "Actually, I came out here to dodge my editor: the deadline for the sequel is tomorrow."

"You what?" Conan sputtered.

"Don't worry," Shigure reassured them all. "The manuscript's done, and I hid it in various places around the house. It's sort of like a scavenger hunt. My editor loves these sort of games."


Meanwhile at Shigure's house

Shigure's editor, tears streaming down her face, reads the next item on the scavenger hunt, moaning, "Shigure, next time will you please, please just email it to me?" She wanders about the house trying to decipher the next clue, crying, "Why? Why? Why?"


Shigure waved his hand casually, "She'll be all right. We each have our own games we play with each other."

After an awkward moment, the hotel manager decided to explain to Kogoro the problem they faced. The manager produced the letter for Kogoro to examine.

"Did you get any other letters?" Kogoro asked, though he was having trouble focusing.

"No, sir, this is the first," the manager explained.

"Hm," Kogoro grunted.

The letter was spread out so everyone could see it, though the manager was still visibly antsy about allowing Minamino, Daisuke, and Shigure, to view it. The letter read, "I will steal the Serpentine Sculpture at 9:30 PM on the 21st," which was that evening, and was signed "Phantom Dark."

"Phantom Dark," Kogoro rolled the name around on his tongue. "Dunno that I've ever heard of him."

"He's a legendary thief from my country," Daisuke explained. "Weird. He doesn't usually venture too far from my hometown."

"From your country?" Kogoro looked at him, a vague suspicion awakening.

"Yeah. I know it sounds crazy, but he's supposed to have been alive for 400 years," Daisuke said. "Sometimes he disappears for decades at a time. He's been active in the past few months though. Still, he's never stolen anything this far out, at least as far as I've heard."

Kogoro made a dull affirmative noise, clearly showing that he had understood Daisuke, but had lost belief and therefore also lost interest in the tale.

"Maybe it's a copycat crime," Shigure speculated.

"I haven't gotten a chance to see the sculpture yet myself," Kogoro told the manager. "Please take us there so we can inspect it and the security." The manager nodded rapidly several times, clearly glad that the famous detective was finally taking some action. He was so excited by this prospect that he almost didn't notice that Shigure quickly settled his tab and joined them.

They proceeded to one of the hotel's central rooms. It was a large lounge, with many comfortable chairs. Some of the chairs were set around polished coffee tables. All the chairs were oriented towards the room's center. In the center of the room was the Serpentine Statue, a magnificent work of art. It was a representation of a giant snake climbing up a tree stump, all done in white marble, about a meter and a half tall by a meter wide. The snake was resting part of its neck on a low branch, extending its head and its tongue inquisitively towards their group. The eyes were excellently cut emeralds, which helped to give an illusion of life to the sculpture. Upon closer observation, it became clear that the entire sculpture had been meticulously textured; the stump was carved to resemble a wood grain, and the snake was covered in tiny carvings that perfectly resembled scales. This was clearly an artwork which had been given time, care, and attention by its artist, and the result was an almost perfect mimicry of life.

As marvelous as the sculpture was, the group found themselves distracted from it for a moment by another guest, sitting in a chair some ways away. The manager noticed this guest too, and seemed irritated, but unwilling to do anything.

This guest was not wearing a yukata, which was odd when one considered that every other guest at the hotel, even Cyborg, the American, had donned this traditional Japanese robe for their stay. Instead, this guest was clad in black leather pants, black leather boots, and a black leather jacket. The jacket had enormous rips that exposed his shoulders, though the rest of his jacket was perfect, and faintly reflected the light. He wore his jacket open to reveal a gray T-shirt and a huge scar shaped like an X just below his neck. The man's white hair was close-cropped, although in back he had pulled it into a short ponytail. He wore a small, circular gold earring in his left ear. The room was set up so all the furniture faced the sculpture, but he had turned his chair away from it, crossed his arms, and was staring at the ceiling.

The manager began to speak, and everyone except the leather-clad guest turned their attention to him. "This is the Serpentine Sculpture. As you can see, it is a masterpiece, the best work of a local artist known as the 'Stone Lifegiver' for his ability to create in stone artwork as good as life. The eyes are finely cut emeralds. This piece was comissioned by," he frowned, and stubbornly attempted to pronounce the name, "Sara-er, Salhazal, er, excuse me, Sarhazal Srytheleen, please, pardon me-"

"Salazar Slytherin," a man with an upper-class English accent said clearly from behind them. "That's the name you mean to say, right?" he asked loftily. The platinum-haired man who had earlier made a fuss at the check-in about owls now strode into the room behind them. He was fixated on the sculpture, and evidently appreciated it quite a bit. Conan noted that he had changed into a yukata, and his hands were somewhat pruney.

Kogoro turned to him and asked, "Who are you?"

The young man appeared slightly annoyed, both because he had to turn his attention away from the sculpture, and at being addressed in such a manner. "My name is Draco Malfoy," he drawled, introducing himself with his family name last, as per English custom. He put out his hand as he mentioned somewhat coldly, "I don't believe we've met."

Kogoro shook his hand and introduced himself, and the others all introduced themselves in turn. Draco nodded politely and shook hands, but returned to his examination of the sculpture as soon as he could.

The manager continued, "Yes, the young man is correct about the man who comissioned the statue. He didn't stay very long, though- in fact he left again before the statue was even completed, though he had already left instructions that it be given to a local feudal lord. It was eventually sold to this establishment."

He went on to describe the security, "As you can see, we've placed the statue centrally so our guests can enjoy it, and also to aid in security. This room is nearly in the center of the resort, and there are no windows in this room to facilitate outside entrance. There is a weight alarm on the statue's dais, as well as several lasers which act as motion detectors. The glass case around the sculpture is also alarmed. During the nighttime hours, we lock the two doors to this room, and the doors are also alarmed. Our security staff makes rounds of the whole resort."

Kogoro nodded, "Yeah, and it's a pretty big sculpture too, so it must be heavy. You've done a good job protecting it. It'd take luck and lots of money under the table before someone could steal it. But why did the thief give advance warning? The whole operation will be practically impossible now that we know to be worried about the sculpture even more."

Everyone present had to agree with this conclusion.

Inspector Megure entered the room with two other police officers to take charge of the case. The manager, Kogoro, and Ran went over to talk to him. Shigure went back to his room, while Draco Malfoy, Suichi Minamino, and Daisuke Niwa stayed to admire the sculpture. Conan walked to where the leather-clad guest was sitting.

"Hey, mister," Conan asked in a childlike manner, "have you not been in the hot springs yet?"

"I have," the man said in a deep voice, and was silent. He wasn't really looking at Conan.

"Don't those holes in your jacket make you cold?" Conan asked, pointing to the man's exposed shoulders.

"Not really," the man told him in a vaguely irritated rumble. "I like these clothes." He was silent again. Conan frowned. Evidently making conversation with this fellow would be a challenge.

"My name's Conan," he said with enthusiasm, deciding for the direct approach. "What's yours?"

"Tsume," he returned, and continued looking at nothing.

Conan felt frustrated, but it appeared there was no mystery here. The man was simply too confident to want to dress like everyone else, or speak much to anyone else. He walked over to Inspector Megure and the others.

"We'll leave two officers at each of the two doors," Inspector Megure was saying to the hotel manager. "I've asked some of my international counterparts for more info on this 'Phantom Dark', and the faxes should come in a few hours. In the meantime, I think business at the hotel can continue as usual. Probably the thief will be scared off by the extra security."

"If the whole thing isn't a sick joke," Kogoro agreed.

It seemed overelaborate for a joke to Conan, but he had to agree that the advanced warning had put the thief in a bad spot. Unless it was all part of some plan, and Conan couldn't figure out how alerting everyone could possibly further a plan. It was more likely arrogance. In any event, without further evidence, there was nothing more to do.

Kogoro, Ran, and Conan all retired to their room. As they did so, they overheard Shigure talking to the manager, saying, "So, the lord to whom the statue was given, he was a Sohma as well?"

"Yes," the manager replied, feeling much more comfortable talking about one of the resort's attractions with a guest than about any threats to the resort, "apparently Lord Sohma gave hospitality to Mr. Syrthereen-"

"Slytherin," Malfoy corrected him absently as he moved to get another view of the statue, slightly away from Daisuke and Minamino.

The manager went on "-who had comissioned the statue, so the gentleman gave it to Lord Sohma as a parting gift. The records indicate that they got along very well."

"What a fascinating coincidence, having my family name," Shigure murmured thoughtfully.

It was 8:45 PM.


At 9:29 PM, the lights in the Mori family's room went out.

"Great, and I thought this was a high-class establishment," Kogoro complained as he fumbled around in the dark. "Haven't these people got a backup system?" He moved towards the window, where the full moon had risen and provided some illumination.

"What time is it?" Conan asked urgently. Ran and Kogoro gasped. As one, the threesome rushed into the hall and ran towards the Serpentine Sculpture's display room. The hall and every room they passed was pitch black.

Their eyes were slowly becoming acclimated to the dark. As they ran down one of the two halls leading to the Serpentine Sculpture's display room, they could barely make out the crumpled forms of two of the officers. They lay at the far end of the hall. There was a sound of quick, light footsteps running towards them, and just behind that several pairs of heavy footsteps, but they could see nothing producing these sounds. A moment later, a huge dark shape flew down the hall towards them as well, calling, "You don't know what you're doing!" There was a sudden flare as several arcs of electricity enveloped the large dark shape, which cried out in pain and collapsed to the ground. In the brief light of the electricity, they were able to see a tall, athletic young man, with long dark hair, flying on huge black, feathered wings, before falling to the ground in pain. The arcs disappeared, and the hall returned to darkness.

The threesome stopped in shock, and a burst of electricity enveloped them as well, but for a briefer time. Conan thought he heard several sets of footsteps going past him, though his sight didn't indicate anyone doing so. He sat up slowly, in time to see the dark shape, which he presumed was the winged young man, flying away from them, and turning into another hall.

Conan tried to get to his feet, but sat down quickly again- the electric attack had left him feeling slightly nauseous. He heard Ran and Kogoro picking themselves up around him, and could see their forms stirring in the dark. From behind him, back towards where he thought the rapid footsteps had gone, he heard a woman scream.

Kogoro hauled himself to his feet and ran towards the scream while Conan helped Ran to stand up. The lights came on a few moments later. Conan and Ran turned to see Inspector Megure and another officer hunched over the fallen officers near the display room. The manager ran towards the sculpture room, and paused as he saw the inspector.

The inspector and the other officer exchanged a few hurried words while Conan ran after Kogoro. Conan came out to a large open-air bath, one of several at the hot springs. The area was bordered by the resort building's walls and a tall, sturdy, bamboo fence. The mist coiled slowly in the cold air. Kogoro was standing near one of the baths, cursing softly, shaking his fist at the sky, before looking over the ground for clues.

"The thieves got away?" Conan asked, looking at the area, which was empty except for them.

"Yeah, but I'd say without the statue," Kogoro said angrily. "It sounded like there was a whole gang of them, but they couldn't scale the fence so fast with a statue that huge. And I saw the winged guy flying away empty-handed, so he didn't take it. What sort of freak was he? Must be some kind of costume."

Conan asked, "Did you hear that lady scream?"

"I did, but it was before I got here. Maybe she was startled when she saw the robbers." Kogoro paced angrily, trying to find clues on the ground in the dark. Conan did the same, but more methodically. He noticed that there were large amounts of water around the bath, and he found some small leaves adhering to the small puddles. He picked one up and put it in his pocket, then went back to rejoin Ran.

He found that a crowd had begun to gather around the display room. Ran was standing outside it, bathing the forehead of one fallen officer while another policeman did the same for his fallen comrade. "Are they going to be OK?" Conan asked Ran anxiously.

"Yeah," Ran agreed, "they were just stunned. Like we were, but harder. They should be fine in a few minutes."

Conan saw that the double door had a huge burn mark near the center where the lock had been, and was hanging open. Looking inside, he could see that the Serpentine Sculpture was gone. Inspector Megure and the manager were looking at it. The manager was dumbfounded and horrified, and the inspector was puzzled and livid.

"9:30 PM exactly, just as the letter warned," Minamino, one of the onlookers, murmured.

Daisuke ran up to join the crowd, exclaiming, "Oh, my! Will they be all right?" Ran assured him that the policemen were going to be all right.

Conan frowned. The Serpentine Sculpture had been stolen right from under their noses, he'd just seen a man flying with huge dark wings, and someone had attacked several people with electricity in a manner that shouldn't be possible.

He adjusted his glasses. No matter how bizarre the case, he was sure that one truth would prevail.


Glossary:

Yukata: A kimono associated with resorts and summertime



Chapter 1 Main Chapters Chapter 3