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Chapter 2 Main Chapters Chapter 4



The Serpentine Sculpture Robbery Case: Part III

The policemen began to come to, and looked around at the crowd that had gathered around the scene of the crime.

Lady Une joined the crowd, yawning profusely. She looked tired.

Conan heard someone running down the corridor. Within moments, Draco Malfoy appeared in a deep rage. He asked loudly, "Is it true?" and imperiously strode toward the front of the crowd.

The recovering police officers cringed. Ran frowned at Malfoy and asked, "Please, keep your voice down. They've been hurt."

Malfoy gazed into the lounge and muttered darkly, "It is true." He turned to Ran. "Who's in charge here?" he demanded.

"Inspector Megure's in charge of the investigation," Conan told him. Malfoy nodded curtly and swept inside the room. Conan followed him.

Cyborg entered the lounge from the double doors on the opposite side. He exclaimed in English, "Oh, no!" A few moments later, his translation computer rendered this into Japanese.

Kogoro Mori, who was standing next to Inspector Megure, looked at him and said irritably, "You know, we could've used your help tonight. Some crimefighter you are."

Inspector Megure huffed, "Mori, you've been telling me some weird tale about invisible thieves and winged thieves and I don't know what, but they ran right past you and you didn't do a thing. Mr. Cyborg, please excuse Mori."

Cyborg waved a mechanical hand. He used his translation computer to respond, "No, it's OK. Man, I was sure that letter was a diversion, so I was patrolling the other end of the resort." Cyborg swung his head quickly, taking in the scene. "This looks like the sort of crime we see back in Jump City."

Conan looked around. On the one hand, it seemed like a perfectly normal crime scene; there were officers taking pictures and gathering evidence, and the old man and Inspector Megure were thinking up a storm. On the other hand, Cyborg had a point; the invisible thieves and their electrical attacks were the sort of powers posessed by villains that Cyborg and his friends fought.

After half an hour (despite Malfoy's interfering attempts to be haughtily helpful,) some odd results had come to light. The hotel manager reported that at the time of the theft, he was in the maintenance rooms trying to find the source of the blackout. It turned out to be sophisticated electrical sabotage: only as much damage as was necessary to black out part of the resort.

The officers at the far double doors to the room reported that they had a brief glimpse of a tall, dark-haired young man with what appeared to be black wings. He held a feather in front of their faces, chanted, and then they simply fell asleep. Examination of the doors proved their locks were swiftly picked.

The other two officers, those stationed by the double doors near the hallway Kogoro, Ran, and Conan had used that evening, had a different tale. They reported that they had seen and heard nothing until they were assaulted by an electrical zap. Their door had been severely burned by electricity and then forced open.

"Two completely different M.O.'s," Inspector Megure commented, confused.

One of the officers brought in a fax. Inspector Megure looked at it quickly and shook his head. "Mori, look at this picture."

Kogoro looked at it, then pointed forcefully and said, "Yeah, that's the guy I saw!"

Ran came forward, looked quickly at the picture, and immediately said, "That's definitely him!"

"Who?" Conan asked, running towards them, "the guy with the wings?" He gesticulated towards the paper, held out of his reach, and said excitedly, "Let me see!"

"This is a criminal dossier! It's not for little kids!" Kogoro growled.

Conan frowned. Ran kindly angled the paper so he could see, and Conan said, "Yeah, that's definitely him. Wow, it looks like he's really flying on those wings in that picture! Just like tonight."

"See, this proves I was right! He is flying on those contraptions! Maybe he's got a rocket hidden in that costume!" Kogoro nodded.

Conan thought to himself, "We would've heard a rocket, old man."

"Flying?" Malfoy asked. He ceased brooding on the sculpture's empty dais and strode over.

"You don't believe me?" Kogoro was insulted.

"Lots of normal people fly," Malfoy told him through his thick toffee palate. "I've done it loads of times."

"We're not talking about airplanes," Inspector Megure told him. "Before tonight I wouldn't have believed it, but apparently the police department that faxed it to me has loads of documentation showing this Phantom Dark," he gestured to the picture, "can fly on those wings."

"Wait! I've got it!" Kogoro said, snapping his fingers as a triumphant expression stole across his face. He looked at the crowd of onlookers, which had dwindled only slightly. "The thief is none other than mild-mannered Niwa Daisuke!" Kogoro exclaimed, pointing at Daisuke.

"Huh?" Daisuke asked, startled.

"This Phantom Dark comes from your hometown," Kogoro elucidated, "you told us that yourself earlier. But he's never been known to steal from outside his country, or even your hometown. Today, when you arrive, the hotel gets a letter warning them of the impending theft, which is the precise M.O. that Dark uses. This evening, Phantom Dark barreled out of this room and flew away from the hotel. You are Phantom Dark. You flew to a safe distance, then took off your fake wings, mask, eye-changing contents, and wig, then ran back to the hotel, where you pretended to be a concerned spectator!"

"That's crazy! You can't be serious!" Daisuke protested, holding out his open palms.

"Mori, you've gotta be kidding me," Inspector Megure said in disbelief. "Where would he get ahold of wings that can fly? Besides, this dossier says that Phantom Dark is about a foot taller than Niwa! How could he fake that?"

"Uh," Kogoro fumbled, "stilts in his boots!"

"But Phantom Dark's boots are narrow," Conan pointed out, gesturing to the picture. "In order not to reveal his true feet and give away the trick, he would've had to hide his feet in the narrow parts of the boots. Niwa's feet are too big for that. Besides, Niwa's arms are shorter than Phantom Dark's too. If he were wearing stilts to fake being someone taller, we would've noticed that his arms were disproportionate to his size."

Kogoro glared at Conan, while Daisuke, relieved, put a hand behind his head and agreed, "Just like he said." Inspector Megure nodded too.

Conan noted that Malfoy was thoughtfully stroking his chin. Had this discussion triggered some idea about disguises in Malfoy's head?

"Very acute reasoning, Conan," Suichi Minamino commented. Cyborg agreed, "Yeah, he's pretty good."

"Oh, I just like to imitate Mori!" Conan laughed nervously. Kogoro was only somewhat appeased.

Inspector Megure decided, "All right. Let's get the second team working on the hotel perimeter where Kogoro saw Phantom Dark fly away from. The first team will join us when they're finished collecting evidence here."

Conan noticed the manager standing nearby, and walked over to him. Now would be a good time to use his childlike guise to his advantage. He needed to know if the statue was insured, and hopefully the manager would relax his guard around a child and show his true character and feelings. "Gee, Mr. Manager," Conan said sympathetically, "that's too bad that the Serpentine Sculpture was valuable. I bet it was worth a lot."

"Indeed," the manager agreed disconsolately, "we had insured it for a great sum. But no amount of money could ever replace the guests' attraction to that sculpture. It was the proof that we are a high-class establishment. This is a bitter blow to our pride, and disparages the work we do to take care of our guests and this resort."

Conan nodded. The manager sounded sincere, and he was making sense. Still, if he were embezzling from the resort, a large insurance payment would be a juicy target. He was also one of the few people who would know how to sabotage the resort lighting system. There wasn't anyone who could verify the manager's alibi, for he explained that he had been alone during the entire time of the theft.

He left those thoughts behind and followed Kogoro and the others outside. The police cleared away most of the spectators, but Suichi Minamino followed them out to the hot springs where Kogoro and Conan had lost track of the thieves. Minamino lingered there while the manager unlocked a gate so Inspector Megure and his team could look for clues outside.

Before proceeding out the gate himself, Conan looked suspiciously at Minamino. Conan was convinced that the splashed water and leaves in the hot springs they were leaving meant something. He had assumed there was no further evidence to be found. But if that was the case, why was Minamino standing there? Minamino looked at him with a mysterious smile, as though he guessed what he were thinking. Unnerved, Conan hurried out the gate. He didn't want to appear too curious, or the thief, whoever he or she was, might try to cover up any remaining evidence.

The area outside was dark, but the full moon cast a bright light. Earlier in the day, Conan had seen that the area was heavily wooded, and also contained many rocky outcroppings. This part of the resort had a stretch of open grass waving and glinting gently in the moonlight. Rocks poked out of the field like baby teeth erupting from the gums.

"Mori-kun! What do you make of this?" Inspector Megure called Kogoro over to a patch of mud near the fence, where the ground became rockier and the grass sparser. Kogoro looked down, shining the flashlight beam, and noted, "A huge dog print!" The inspector nodded and speculated, "That's big enough to practially be a wolf." Ran peered over her father's shoulder a moment and blinked, saying, "Is that even real? Look how deep it is! That's almost a pony."

A short distance away, Conan played his flashlight around the ground. It would be easy to miss a vital clue in the dark, but he had little recourse. Suddenly he saw something. There was something dark blowing over a light-colored rock in the breeze, through the beam of his flashlight. He caught it on instinct. Steadying his flashlight beam on it, he saw that it was a dark feather.

"But what kind of bird is it?" Shinichi thought to himself. "Is it an owl? Or- is this even any kind of real bird at all?" A thought flashed across his mind. "Could this be a feather from Phantom Dark's wing? But how would I prove it? And does finding this feather here mean that his wings are real, or that they're fake, with feathers hastily pasted on? At least this confirms Kogoro's account that Dark went this way- and if Dark drops these all the time, we may have a way to track him."

Inspector Megure stood up. "I think that's all we'll find out here. There's no trace of the sculpture and no evidence that it left the resort. Under the circumstances, we'll have to search every room in the resort," he announced.

Though most of the guests were cooperative, the room-by-room search plodded along, as there were only so many officers. Kogoro had decided to aid them, and he tolerated Ran and Conan's presence, "As long as you stay out of my way," he told Conan crabbily.

The three had just finished their search of one room and were about to go on to the next. Conan noticed that there seemed to be a water trail on the carpet leading to the next door. They saw a woman step out of the room they planned to search next, the door the water trail led to. The woman suddenly shrank back behind the door frame and clutched it with a delicate hand, only leaving half of her body in view. She was comely and pale, clad in a yukata, but the eyes were most drawn to her face, as she was wearing a thick veil, color-coordinated with the yukata. Lovely orange hair fell down her back to just below her shoulders.

"Sorry to disturb you, miss," Kogoro said, hurrying forward, not wanting to miss a chance to impress a beautiful woman, "but if you'd allow us to search your room, we'd greatly appreciate it."

His relatively polite and genial demeanor only seemed to make the woman more uncomfortable. Now that Kogoro was standing at the door, she went inside and seemed to cringe back. Kogoro stopped, not sure what was provoking this reaction. He bowed and introduced himself melodramatically, "Please, miss, have no fear. I am the great detective Mori Kogoro!" He waited for her reaction, and it was to shrink further back, as though she'd been hit in the stomach.

Nevertheless, after a moment, she answered, "My name is Amber Autumn."

Conan noted with interest that she had no accent, yet she had probably placed her family name last during that introduction. Cyborg had a translation computer, and when Malfoy spoke Japanese, it was accented. He wondered how Autumn had learned Japanese.

A few more moments passed, and when Ms. Autumn saw that Kogoro was not going away, she reluctantly allowed, "Very well. What has happened? There's been a great deal of disturbance tonight."

"A famous sculpture's been stolen. We're just searching the rooms as a precaution; shouldn't take too long," Kogoro told her as he entered. Ms. Autumn melted into a corner opposite him.

Ran slowly came forward, feeling that a gentler touch might reassure the woman. "Good evening, ma'am. I'm Mori Ran," she bowed and introduced herself.

Kogoro methodically searched the room while Ran and Ms. Autumn talked. Conan kept one eye on his personal observations of the room, and the other eye on the ladies' conversation. He noticed that there was a trail of water in the room to the sink. There was an electric hairdryer laying nearby and still plugged in to an outlet, and a great multiplicity of used towels hung up to dry, along with a second yukata.

Ran inquired, "May I ask what you do for a living, Ms. Autumn?"

"I," Ms. Autumn paused and continued sadly, "was a model."

"I thought that might be the case," Ran said excitedly, "you're very beautiful."

"No, no, I'm hideous!" Ms. Autumn wailed, putting a hand to her cheek, as though afraid that her thick veil might not adequately block the view of her face.

Ran paused. Was Ms. Autumn fishing for compliments? She gave her the benefit of the doubt and went on, "No, really, I'm serious. I hope you don't think I'm nosy, but my dream is to be a model. What is it like?"

"It was the only life I ever loved," Ms. Autumn recalled wistfully. Her next statements were filled with rising anger and sorrow, "Then I had my accident! The one that disfigured me, and ruined me!" She clenched her veil at her cheek until her knuckles turned white.

Kogoro turned around, and said tentatively, "Thank you for your time, Ms. Autumn. We're all done here."

"Please excuse me," Ms. Autumn said more calmly. "Have a good evening."

They filed out after wishing her the same.

Hers was the last room in that hall. As they returned to the scene of the crime, Kogoro wondered aloud, "What was her problem? Looked fine to me."

"There was something unusual there," Ran commented. "Maybe the accident affected someone she loved. Or maybe she regrets giving up modeling."

"Why do you suppose she was wearing a veil?" Conan asked Ran.

"She seems very sensitive about her face," Ran considered, "maybe she doesn't want people staring at it. She acted like that was where she was injured."

"If she doesn't want people staring at her face," Kogoro mumbled, "wearing an opaque veil is hardly a wise course of action."

They returned to the lounge, where they found Inspector Megure confronting Tsume, the rebellious leather-clad fellow.

"So, where have you been this evening?" the inspector asked severely.

"Outside," Tsume offered, his posture entirely relaxed and casual, while the inspector was growing angrier by the moment.

"Nothing else you'd like to tell us?" the inspector tried again. Tsume was silent, the vague upturn in his lips indicating that he considered the grilling a joke. It was incongruous seeing Inspector Megure trying to intimidate a man head and shoulders taller than himself, but the inspector had authority in his bearing and his boldness prevented him from looking foolish.

"There are witnesses placing you near the exit used by the thief at the time of the crime," Inspector Megure said dangerously. "You were seen outside the fence near the hot springs."

Tsume snorted in amusement. "Your men found nothing in my room, and none of the witnesses who chased the theif claimed to see me. I never even liked the sculpture anyway."

"Don't get cocky," the inspector snapped. Conan was surprised. Inspector Megure was passionate, but he almost never lost his temper on the job. Inspector Megure finally revealed the source of his ire, "I got a full dossier on you, Tsume. You may think you've escaped justice since Freeze City was destroyed, and we have no jurisdiction to prosecute you for your robberies and murders there. But you won't escape justice forever."

"I never thought I would," Tsume said calmly, turning his back on the inspector and leaving the room.

Inspector Megure balled his fists but said nothing.

Conan's mind was buzzing. So Tsume had been a thief in another country, and this evening was in a position to receive the statue from the thief. But how had it been handed off? Kogoro had been only a few steps behind the person who stole the statue from the lounge. There couldn't have been time to heave the statue over the fence to Tsume, and the gate in the fence was locked. Even if Tsume had somehow received the statue, where could he have hidden it? Besides, earlier Tsume had evidenced a total lack of interest in the sculpture. Why help someone to steal it?

A thought came to him, and Conan pursued Tsume down the hallway. Tagging along behind him, he asked in his best childlike manner, "Mr. Tsume, were you jogging? I like jogging too!"

"What?" Tsume asked without turning around or slackening his quick pace.

"Mr. Mori and Ran-neichan like to jog too," Conan went on. "I go with them. It's really fun when you're in a group. I bet you were meeting someone out there to run with."

"I'm not like you people. So I run alone now," Tsume told him shortly.

"No one came out of their room to join you when they saw you were having such fun?" Conan asked in surprise.

"No," Tsume said shortly, and increased his pace even more.

Conan fell back and slowly returned to the lounge. Tsume would've been in a position to notice anyone leaving their rooms and going outside, or anyone from the bath reentering their rooms from the outside. Even if the culprits really were invisible, he probably would've noticed a door or window opening without anyone apparently doing it. So that suggested that they had snuck back through the hallways- it would've taken longer, but it was the only explanation. Unless Tsume was lying.

The other officers entered the lounge. The sweep of the guests' rooms had turned up empty.

Shigure Sohma looked into the lounge from the hallway. "My, my. Perhaps I should try writing a detective story next."

Noticing him, Kogoro walked over. "Ah, Mr. Sohma. So sorry to have to ask this, but can you help us? Did you see or notice anything unusual at the time of the theft?"

"No, unfortunately," Shigure told him. "I was on the phone with my editor most of the evening, right until the blackout. I was so busy that I didn't really notice much else, except that Mr. Minamino talked to me through my door before the robbery." Kogoro thanked him and returned to Inspector Megure's side. Shigure continued down the hall, away from the lounge.

Walking into the hall, Conan tried to observe things about the crime scene he hadn't observed before. He looked at the doors from the hall but saw nothing new. He saw Lady Une shaking her head and yawning a little ways down the hall.

"It's been a rough night, hasn't it, ma'am?" Conan said sympathetically.

"Yes, and I doubt I'll be able to get to sleep again. It's been disturbed so many times this evening," Lady Une sighed. "I thought that Minamino was an ordinary, normal kid. But then I saw something earlier. There were these odd noises coming from the bath near here. It was quiet, but I sleep lightly and my room is nearby, so I went to see what was happening. I saw Minamino scrabbling around in the dirt near the decorative foliage. Then he was pacing around, as though he were measuring the area. For some reason it reminded me of someone planting a minefield. I told the manager, and went back to sleep after that. Until the robbery woke me." She yawned and walked away.

Scratching his head, Conan thought that over. A minefield? But the more he thought, the more it made sense. That particular bath was one of the closest exits to the lounge. Minamino might've been setting up a trap. It was unclear whether Minamino was the thief and set it to catch his pursuers, or whether Minamino was a vigilante and the trap was to catch the thief announced in the letter. Minamino had been scrabbling around in foliage. For some reason it had reminded Lady Une of a minefield. Why did foliage seem to stir some memory in his own mind? Ah, he had it now.

Conan recalled the leaves that he had collected from the water splashed out of the hot springs where the thieves had run to. He walked into the lounge, pulled the leaves out of his pocket, and held them up to the ceiling, using the overhead lights to get a view of the leaves' internal structure.

"What do you have there?" Minamino asked. Conan jumped; he hadn't heard Minamino come to his side.

"This? Oh, they're some neat leaves I found," Conan explained. He scrutinized the face of his companion. Minamino appeared to know the leaves very well.

Conan inquired, "Can you tell me what sort of plant this is, mister?"

"It's a local variety of vine," Minamino said knowledgeably. "Ordinarily a harmless weed. Under the right conditions, however, it can grow to be a hazardous plant, tangling anything that opposes it."

"I always thought that plants stayed still all the time," Conan said in surprise.

"They're simply slow in their movements, turning to face the sun over weeks and such," Minamino explained. "Simply because their usual motion is slow, however, does not mean that they cannot move quickly."

Conan stared at him. What did that mean? How quickly was quickly, anyway?

Daisuke entered the room, and said in a friendly manner, "Hey, Minamino, I've been looking all over for you!"

"Indeed? I've been about the resort, I suppose," Minamino said easily.

Daisuke nodded in a genial manner, but his eyes flashed impatience for a moment. He continued, "Yeah, I heard you were here in the lounge until they locked it early because of the warning letter."

Minamino nodded.

"You didn't wait alone, did you, buddy?" Daisuke asked. The question seemed friendly, but Daisuke's eyes were oddly cold. Conan had noticed a sort of openness and genuineness in Daisuke's manner before. But now he was holding himself in reserve, and Conan heard an undertone of arrogance in the questions. He wondered what had caused the change.

Minamino seemed to have sensed the change too. He faced Daisuke squarely, with his hands in his pockets. His shoulders appeared relaxed, but that only made them seem more tense somehow. Nevertheless, Minamino's voice was light as he replied, "No, I didn't, as a matter of fact. Ms. Autumn was with me."

"I see," Daisuke replied, and laughed shortly. He nodded and said, "Well, Minamino, do take care, won't you? Until later, then."

He departed as abruptly as he had arrived. Minamino stared after him a moment, then looked at the dais where the Serpentine Statue had been.

Conan looked at the two double doors and noted the duplication of effort; thieves had broken into both doors using very different methods. It almost suggested that there were at least two sets of thieves, and their intentions had collided.

That would explain a lot; why Phantom Dark had been chasing seemingly invisible people out of the lounge. And the splashes of water in the hot springs could be evidence of a struggle. It all suggested that one of the sets of thieves had found it necessary to hide the sculpture before the other thieves could steal it from them. Conan put a hand to his chin. If only he could figure out where the thieves had temporarily hidden the statue, they might be able to recover some crucial evidence.

"Hey, Dad," Ran asked Kogoro, "do you have our locker key? I just remembered I left my purse in there before we took our bath."

Conan gasped. Unless he had missed his guess, he now knew the location of the Serpentine Sculpture!

Now he just had to convince everyone to recover it before the thieves moved it out of the resort.


Glossary:

-neichan: Japanese informal suffix for an older sister, or someone considered as such. For example, when Conan says "Ran-neichan" he is referring to her as his older sister, even though they both know they have no blood relation. It's a form of respect, even though the suffix is informal.

M.O.: Modus Operandi, the way in which a person works. In law enforcement, the method which a criminal uses can often identify a criminal across several cases.

Toffee palate: British expression for an upper class English accent

Yukata: A kimono associated with resorts and summertime



Chapter 2 Main Chapters Chapter 4