“I found something.” The low voice crackled down the line.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know, but it looks interesting. I’ll bring it straight there.”
Two eyes opened wide as a pain shot through Tomari Shinnosuke’s body, and full of panic, he looked back and forth, still able to hear crashing and sparks and the sound of his own screams echoing in his ear.
Red. He was surrounded by red. He lifted his hands to his face as he felt like he had done hundreds of time before. They were their normal colour, but still he could see red, somewhere.
His car interior was red. He didn’t know why this suddenly came into his mind, but the moment he did, the fast-paced beating of his heart in his chest began to calm.
He was in his car. He was in his car, he was twitching slightly, there was a weird ringing in his ears and a burning smell he didn’t even want to think about the source of. He reached down and pulled off one black polished shoe, and then his sock, which had a mysterious hole on the bottom. Exit point.
“Tomori-san. Where are you?”
A familiar voice spoke to him through his receiver, and Shinnosuke let out a loud frustrated sigh. Then he realised. She had done this to him.
“What the hell was that?”
“I made a few adjustments, that’s all.”
“Is that what you call trying to kill me?”
“Stop being so dramatic, I carefully calculated the wattage to make sure it wasn’t lethal.”
“How reassuring. And what about my ability to have kids? Did you calculate that?”
“Yes. I calculated that it’d do the world a favour if you didn’t reproduce.”
“O-Oi...” Shinnosuke responded somewhat pathetically, because in a way he knew she was right. He couldn’t see himself as a good father either.
“Anyway, now that I have your attention, you need to get down to the station now. We have an emergency.”
Shinnosuke sat back down fully in his seat, and winced as pain shot through him again. “If I stand up, it hurts. If I sit down, it hurts. How am I meant to get there?”
“Crawl.” And with that, Kiriko was gone.
“Wait! What’s the emergency?” he shouted into the receiver, but the crackling on the line told him that it was useless.
Shinnosuke shifted uncomfortably in a half-sitting, half-standing position as he glared at the communication device as if Kiriko herself was standing in front of him. He pulled out his legs from the space in front of him and spread himself out across both seats, his head uncomfortably pressed against the window. At least the pain in his backside had gone (the physical pain, at least. He wasn’t sure he could ever be rid of the uniform wearing pain in the backside who never smiled).
“Drive me to the station,” he ordered the car, as he pulled off his jacket and attempted to use it as a makeshift pillow.
“That was very rude, Tomari-san.”
Shinnosuke groaned, and placed the folded jacket over his face. “Drive me to the station, asshole.”
“You know, I have access to the elec-”
The car roared into life, and before Shinnosuke had time to react or even think about how he could possibly fasten his seatbelt in this kind of position, the car was speeding out of the parking lot and out into the streets, and he was gripping hold of the seats so tightly his knuckles were turning white.
“So, what’s the emergency?” Shinnosuke asked when he finally walked through the doors of the bustling station, still not quite able to stop his body twitching or stop himself walking a little like an old man.
“Someone stole the team cookie jar from the kitchen.”
Shinnosuke twitched, this time not from the electric shock. “... what?”
The chief twirled round in his seat and stood up, dragging a large whiteboard from the corner of the room and setting it right in front of Shinnosuke’s eyes. In large hand-written letters at the top of the board were the words “Cookie Monster”. Underneath, were photographs of each member of the department crudely taped on.
“Did you take this while I was sleeping?” Shinnosuke commented on the extremely unflattering photograph of himself, and then realised that this was not the main issue here. “‘Cookie Monster’? Who named it that? Was it you, Rinna?” And was that even the main issue? “Wait a moment. Where exactly is the emergency?”
“There’s a thief in our midst~! What could be more of an emergency than that?”
“Well. There’s the heaviness -”
“Yes, that. There are weird monsters hanging around and crazy guys riding around on motorcycles, and you’re worried about cookies?”
“If we can’t solve a crime within our own department then how are we meant to deal with all of that craziness? Tomori-san, today is your lucky day, so I’m putting you in charge of the case,” the chief told him firmly, eyes on his phone.
“But it’s my afternoon off…” Shinnosuke began to argue, but suddenly his collar was grabbed from behind so tightly that he could barely breathe.
“You had the whole morning off,” Kiriko told him bluntly. Keeping her strong grip on his collar with one hand, she pulled him close and whispered into his ear. “Meet me down in the secret base. Five minutes.” Then the grip on his collar loosened.
Shinnosuke sighed loudly, and stretched his arms above his head, letting out a loud and exaggerated yawn. “Okay, I’m going to take a quick nap to get my brain working, and then we’ll get right on with cracking this case.”
“There might be some weird things happening around here for a while.”
“Do I even want to know?”
“We need to make a few change, adjustments, etc. etc. We need you to keep the department busy so they don’t suspect anything,” Kiriko explained, and it took Shinnosuke a moment but he finally realised what was going on.
“... So where are the cookies?” he asked.
“You’re the detective.”
Shinnosuke sighed loudly and flopped down on one of the chairs in the room. “You really want to make me work for this, don’t you?” he asked, twitching a little as his still slightly electrified body touched the metal arm of the chair.
“Think of it this way,” Kiriko pondered as she passed him a small device to get rid of the remaining static in his body. “If you solve this case, then you’ll be a hero. Did you know those cookies came from Disneyland? Not just any old cookies.”
“Mickey Mouse can have them,” Shinnosuke muttered under his breath, but Kiriko only glared. “Okay, okay, I’m going. Seriously, even when you’re sending me off on a wild cookie chase you don’t smile.”
"Were you expecting me to?"
"I guess not," Shinnosuke sighed, before her two hands on his back began to push him towards the door.
"Did anyone see you?" the man asked as the other handed over a sealed plastic bag containing the item he was so interested in.
He shook his head.
"Good." He examined the bag, and then it's contents. "Do you have any information on this?"
"There was some kind of animal on the box. But they don't look like animals."
The man shook the bag. "It's possible that they're sleeping. I'll investigate from here, thank you."
“Okay.” Shinnosuke stood in front of the whiteboard, which was now displaying a large map of the police department building. He was trying to work up as much enthusiasm as he could despite knowing that technically if Kiriko had stolen the cookies to keep everyone busy, then really she was the criminal and he could have her arrested. Unfortunately, if he did he would never hear the end of it.
“I need someone to dust the cupboard for fingerprints, someone to check out the parking lot, and someone to head up to the security office and check the CCTV. Don’t volunteer all at once.”
“CCTV!” Rinna claimed.
“Fingerprints.” yelled Otta.
“... But I don’t want to go outside,” Saijo complained, an indignant look on his face.
“You’re a researcher! Go research!”
“You’re a detective. Go detect!”
Shinnosuke sat down in a chair and rolled it across to his desk, spreading out his legs and putting his arms behind his head. “Let me know when you’ve finished arguing over it. I need some more sleep.”
“What is it?” the man asked, sitting down and peering at the item held by the other with a pair of tweezers.
“I don’t know yet,” the other man replied, carefully pulling away a section from the item in the tweezers and dropping it into a small bottle.
The man stood up again. “Let me know as soon as you find anything out.”
In Shinnosuke's dream, he was trying to run. He didn't know what he was running from or why, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't move. Sometimes he had dreams where his feet felt like they were rooted to the ground, but this wasn't the case this time. His legs were flailing desperately but something was stopping his arms from following along. He flailed back and forth, his heart racing as he tried to run from the unknown enemy. Then, there was a crash.
He opened his eyes, and quickly realised he still couldn't move his arms far. "Am I still dreaming?" he slurred, blinking to try and wake himself up for real.
"Tomori Shinnosuke, I am arresting you for cookie theft. You don't have to say anything but... uh... well, you know all that. Do you have any questions?"
Handcuffs. That was why he couldn't move. Otta was staring down at him in his chair, where he had fallen asleep minutes, hours, or weeks it seemed, earlier. "What the hell?"
“I knew something weird was going on when the chief said it was your lucky day. Must be a lucky day, getting a whole box of cookies to yourself.”
“And then getting arrested for it? Very lucky,” Shinnosuke retorted, leaning back in the chair behind the interview desk. “I’m in charge of this case. I can’t be the criminal.”
Otta reached underneath the table, and pulled out a large clear plastic bag. “Do you recognise this?” The bag contained a metal container with Mickey Mouse’s face printed on one side, which at one point had contained the team’s cookies.
“It’s the cookie jar, we’ve all seen it sitting in that cupboard. Does anyone actually even eat them?”
“Saijo said he ate one and it gave him diarrhoea… since then no one has really felt like trying one.”
“And you don’t see how this makes this already ridiculous case even more ridiculous?”
“Do you know where we found this container?”
“In your car.”
Shinnosuke widened his eyes in surprise. He didn't think Kiriko was that stupid. “Well I didn’t put it there.”
“That’s what they all say. We have CCTV footage of you taking the jar from the cupboard and putting it in your car."
“But I really didn’t.” He had a feeling he knew who had, though. "Let me see this CCTV footage."
"It's definitely him," the man spoke, eyes on the screen.
"I don't know," the other man, replied, looking over his shoulder. "They look a little short."
"Human cameras do weird things. It's him. He knows all about this." As the video went blank, he met the other's eyes through his reflection on the screen. "Go and find him. Maybe he can tell us what they are."
"There is no way I am that short," Shinnosuke spoke out as the screen Saijo had bought in went black. The grainy video seemed to show a shorter version of himself going into the break room cupboard, and taking the cookie jar, and then another video showing the shorter version of himself heading out of the entrance and to his car, dumping the jar on the back seat. Shinnosuke knew that shorter version of himself could only be Kiriko wearing one of his suits along with a hooded jacket, and he wondered why she had been so determined to set him up so badly.
"The camera makes you look shorter," Saijo responded immediately.
"Don't cameras make you look fatter?" Shinnosuke asked, not entirely convinced.
"No. No they don't," Saijo was quick to reply.
"How do you know it was me? You can't see the person's face."
"They're wearing your suit."
"That doesn't necessarily mean it's me."
"So you're saying that someone put on your suit, and took the cookies to your car, and were able to get into your car without any problems?"
Shinnosuke sighed. "That's exactly what I'm saying. As the head of this investigation, I suggest you check the jar for fingerprints.”
Otta was silent for a moment as he stared at the plastic bag containing the container thoughtfully. “That’s exactly what I was just about to do.” Otta stood up quickly, bag clutched in one hand as he turned to look back at Shinnosuke one more time before walking to the interview room door. “Guards, take Tomori-san back to his cell.”
“Did you find out anything about yet?”
“I don’t know what they are. But they’re delicious.”
“Please get some more.”
The line went dead.
“... Delicious?” the man murmured to himself, and reached into his pocket, pulling out one he had kept back for himself. He took a bite.
“Kiriko, you need to tell them the truth! They’re really being tough on me out there,” Shinnosuke complained, leaning forwards and pressing his nose pathetically against the glass partition between them.
“Good,” Kiriko responded, her face cold and serious as always. “You probably deserve it. Besides, I'm really busy. Like I said, we're making some -"
“But I didn’t do anything! I’ve been awake for hours and they’re not feeding me and I think I might die, Kiriko.”
“It’s been one hour. Besides, when I put that cookie jar in your car it was full of cookies. So, where exactly did they go? Are you sure you didn’t eat them? It seems like something you’d do.”
“I know it does, but I really didn’t,” Shinnosuke replied, and when he looked at Kiriko, his expression was unusually serious. He was proud of his job as a detective, despite his many flaws, and he didn’t want her (or anyone else) to genuinely think he was a criminal, no matter how ridiculous the case was.
Kiriko stared back for a moment, and then she nodded. “Then you need to find out who did.”
“How can I do that from behind bars?”
“I trust you, Detective Tomori,” Kiriko replied, and then stood up without another word and left him alone in the room.
"Well, aren't you going to try one?"
The man being spoken to looked up, and then gave a suspicious look at the item the other was holding out to him."I'm not interested."
"They taste really good."
"The only taste I'm interested in," the man replied, standing up and pushing the hand extended towards him out of the way, "is the taste of revenge."
Giving in, the other took a bite of what he was holding. "I know. But they're still delicious."
"So, something occurred to me while you were gone," Shinnosuke told Otta the next time they were in the interview room together. Shinnosuke had taken off his shoes; if this was anything like last time, he might be here a while. "The CCTV footage showed someone who you believe to be me taking the jar and putting it in my car. But that cookie jar was full when it was in the cupboard, and you didn't see me empty it, so I have a question for you. What happened to the jar after it was put in my car? There must be footage of that too."
"Anyone would think you were a detective, not a criminal," Otta muttered, and Shinnosuke gave him a disbelieving look.
"Maybe I'll clean up my ways and join the police force," he replied dryly, and then looked at Otta seriously. "Well, what happened?"
Otta couldn't meet Shinnosuke's harsh gaze. "We... don't know. Something happened to the tapes. You put the jar in at 10.02. Shortly after that, at 10.23, the quality of the footage becomes so bad that we can't see anything at all. Then, at 10.29, it goes back to normal and the jar seems to have moved a couple of inches. I suggested to the chief that the CCTV system needed upgrading a while ago, but he said something about budgets."
“I see," Shinnosuke replied, and his gaze had turned a little out of focus, as scenarios were working through his mind. "Did you find any fingerprints on the jar?” he asked after a moment. Since he had never touched that cookie jar, he imagined this was the best way of proving his innocence and possibly revealing the real suspect.
“We did,” Otta replied, seeming a little distracted.
Shinnosuke stared at him intensely. “And?”
“We found something.”
Otta was silent for a moment as if considering something in his head, and then let out a sigh and pulled out a folder from the bag down by his side. “Technically you are still heading this investigation after all.”
He took a single sheet of paper from the folder, and slid it across the desk. “After deducting the fingerprints of Saijo, who we knew had eaten one of the cookies, and Rinna, who bought them originally, we found one final set of fingerprints on the rim of the jar. But they’re a little…”
Otta trailed off, and Shinnosuke looked down at the paper, which showed partial fingerprints from a hand. He held the paper close to his face, turned it upside down, sideways, and then placed it back on the table. “Those aren’t human.”
The other man nodded. “Exactly. Then what are they?”
Shinnosuke studied the picture once more, and as a possibility came to his mind, his eyes widened. “Otta, was there a gravity surge today?”
“You know I don’t believe in that stuff.”
Shinnosuke sighed. “Did anyone else report that they felt one today?”
“Saijo was spurting some rubbish earlier about something happening while he was eating breakfast…”
“That’s it! Otta, you didn’t find my fingerprints on that jar so that means you can let me go right?” Shinnosuke stood up.
“Not so fast. The jar was still found in your car.”
Otta turned to the door to call the guards to take him back to his cell, and as he did, Shinnosuke dashed around the table to catch him up. He was beginning to work out what might be going on, and as head of this investigation, he wasn’t going to let it go without a fight.
He reached out to grab at Otta’s shoulder, and found it was easier than he had expected. Otta was by no means the youngest member of their department, but Shinnosuke knew he wasn’t the kind to be easily snuck up on from behind. Otta’s face was caught in a grimace as he tried desperately to reach forward and grip the handle of the door. Something was stopping him.
Without hesitation, Shinnosuke pushed Otta aside, watching for a moment as he tumbled over in slow motion, and then opened the door and dashed out into the corridor. “I’m sorry, Otta,” he spoke to himself. “But you’ll thank me when I can solve this case.”
Shinnosuke stepped out into the corridor, his heart beating fast, knowing his engine was beginning to start again, but as he moved to race down the corridor, something moved in front of him and tripped him to the ground. A handcuff was swiftly snapped around his wrist, the other end was attached to a water pipe running up the side of the room, and the guard gave him a glare.
"You're not going anywhere," the guard told him roughly, and then looked down at his belt as a message came through his receiver. "But apparently I am. We have to check everyone is okay after the heaviness, you stay here."
"... Not like I can go anywhere," Shinnosuke retorted, sliding down the wall until he was sitting on the ground, as the guard headed off down the corridor. His heart was still pumping. "Typical Kiriko. Expects me to save everyone else, abandons me when I'm handcuffed to a pipe."
"Don't you ever get bored of being so dramatic?" a voice spoke, and footsteps tapped down the corridor as Shinnosuke's partner appeared, eyes narrowed in concern. "You never just come quietly, do you?" She knelt down beside him and examined the handcuff, giving it a small tug. "Well, looks like we're going to have to cut off your hand."
Shinnosuke's eyes widened. He hoped she was joking, but with Kiriko you could never be quite sure. She wasn't smiling. But then again, did she ever?
Before he had to find out though, there was a familiar sound from nearby. A car accelerated, and then slowed down, tires screeching to a halt at his feet.
"Flare!" Shinnosuke called out to the small car, which responded with a beep of it's horn. The car accelerated once again, and began to drive in fast circles, round and round and round until it became so hot that a flame formed all around it. It moved away from it's circle, launching itself into the air and landing smoothly on the water pipe Shinnosuke's handcuff was attached to.
Patiently, the little car sat, surrounded by flames, as the water pipe began to slowly melt away underneath it.
Then, Shinnosuke was suddenly free, and very wet. Flame, sizzling a little but otherwise completely unscathed, gave a triumphant honk of its horn. "Thanks, buddy," he told the car gratefully, and then turned his attention to his partner. "I solved the case," he told her confidently.
"I knew you could do it, detective," Kiriko told him, and there was an almost proud look to her face; when Shinnosuke looked closer, he could have sworn she was smiling. He squinted a little.
"I'm not smiling," Kiriko reassured him, and here face returned to it's natural frowning state. Shinnosuke gave her a sceptical look.
"Sure you weren't."
Before Kiriko had chance to argue, there was a voice from nearby, and as the belt slid its way around Shinnosuke's waist, he looked down and placed one hand on top of it.
"Are you ready?" the belt spoke, the glowing face on its front looking determined.
"Never been more ready. Let's go and clear my name," Shinnosuke replied.
With great purpose, he began to head down the corridor, and almost crashed right into Otta who was coming back the other way.
While Shinnosuke was still trying to hide the belt underneath his suit jacket, Kiriko grabbed one of Otta's arms while simultaneously taking her handcuffs out, and before he had time to argue, the detective was attached to the wall much like Shinnosuke had been earlier. "Don't you lay a hand on him, he's innocent," Kiriko growled so viciously that even Shinnosuke took a couple of steps back.
Calming down just as quickly as she had become fired up, she turned to Shinnosuke and gave a nod. "Okay, let's go."
They could hear Otta's shouts all the way through the building, as they made their way towards the building's main entrance.
"There are no more. I checked. The car is empty."
"What do you mean, there are no more? You checked? Since when is that good enough? Go fight for it."
"Do we really want to start another fight over-"
In the parking lot, Shinnosuke headed straight to his car.
In the distance, Shinnosuke heard the sound of a motorcycle approaching.
“... Chase.” He reached down, putting his hand on the belt around his waist, ready for another fight if it were to come to that.
Climbing down from his motorcycle, Chase made his way across the parking lot in his usual cool and calm way, holding out a plastic bag that now only contained a few crumbs and a solitary chocolate chip.
“We need more.”
“This is all about a few cookies?”
“We need more,” Chase repeated.
“Well I don’t have any more. You ate them all. Do you have any idea how much trouble I got into because of you?” To Shinnosuke right now Chase wasn’t their biggest enemy, he was an annoyance who had led to him getting arrested for a crime he hadn’t committed.
"They gave Saijo diarrhoea," Shinnosuke shrugged.
"Give me some more," Chase insisted.
"I. don't. have. any. more. cookies. How many times do I have to tell you that? Don't you have some taking over the world to do?"
Chase's eyes narrowed, and for a moment, he just stared into Shinnosuke's eyes. "I was sent to get some, and I'm not going away without."
"Better start paying rent then."
Despite himself, the man who had previously refused couldn't help but wonder what this item was that was giving the other two such excitement.
He carefully opened the door to the room, and slid inside. The item was on the table still, abandoned while the one who had been testing them had headed out somewhere. He reached out and took it between his fingers, turning it over, sideways, upside down, putting it close to his face, sniffing it and then giving it a cautious lick.
After that, it was gone in a flash. "They were right," he decided reluctantly. He quickly left the room, closing the door behind him. No one would ever know.
It was like the most ridiculous stand off ever. Both Shinnosuke and Chase had given up talking because clearly they were getting nowhere and neither of them really knew what to do. Would it be childish to transform and battle over something as insignificant as cookies? Or was it a golden opportunity? One of Shinnosuke's hands was on his belt. Kiriko had shift cars ready and waiting to battle.
"Shinnosuke. Do it," she told him.
Chase went into defensive mode. Shinnosuke's hand shifted a little. Kiriko readied herself to toss him one of the shift cars.
There was a loud groan. Shinnosuke transformed into Drive. Chase, recognising the groaning voice, was still in his human form.
"... Eh?" Drive looked a little lost. Maybe Chase didn't want to battle after all. "What are you doing?"
The groan came again.
Chase spun round, in the direction of the voice. "Heart?"
Navigating the barriers that stopped unauthorised access to the building by climbing over them, Heart made his way slowly over to the group. Drive was immediately even more on edge, but everyone could see that Heart wasn't his usual angry revengeful self.
"You poisoned me," Heart spat, although his voice was without its usual force.
Drive sighed, and a moment later, he let himself transform back into Tomori Shinnosuke. "I poisoned you?"
Heart was clutching his stomach. "Those things. They poisoned me."
Chase was by Heart's side in a moment, staring at him. "You said you didn't want to eat any."
"Well I did, and now I'm dying," he growled.
"We can't be defeated that easily, not by something like that. Surely."
Shinnosuke was leaning against a lamppost at the side of the parking lot, watching the pair with tired eyes. "I told you they gave Saijo diarrhoea, but no one ever listens to me. You're not dying, go home and find a bathroom and leave us in peace."
"Tomori-" Kiriko looked on worriedly, her hands still gripping the shift cars.
"No." He refused to be interrupted. "Today, I've had the worst day ever. I've been electrocuted, arrested, interrogated, almost burned to death and all because you guys wanted a few cookies. Well now you're sick and quite frankly, you deserve it. I hope you vomit out your internal organs and die a horrible death."
"Tomori-san, I demand that you stop this right now."
Shinnosuke's angry energy left him. His engine was stopping. "I'm going back to bed and starting today from the beginning," he huffed, and headed over his car to take a long nap.
"Heart? Are you okay?"
The bathroom door was locked. Chase and Brain stood outside, looking at the door in worry.
"Go away and leave me to die in peace."
"Drive threw some small white things out of the window at us. He said they might help."
"I'm not eating anything you give me ever again."
Shinnosuke woke up suddenly, still in his car. In his sleep, he had sensed someone was nearby, and when he yawned loudly and looked at the passenger seat, he found he was right. Kiriko was sitting there as if she belonged there, like she had been watching him sleep. Shinnosuke jumped. "Sometimes, you're a little creepy, you know that?"
"I got you a present," she told him. Even when she was talking about presents, she didn't smile, he noticed. From under the seat, she produced a plastic bag, and pushed it into his arms.
Shinnosuke peeked inside, and let out a sigh. "They gave Saijo diarrhoea," he said as he pulled out a brand new jar of the same cookies that had caused so much trouble before. "Besides, I never want to see another box of these in my life."
Kiriko reached over and took the jar back from him, then thrusted it into his face. "Tomori-san, take this inside. Be that hero I know you are."
Shinnosuke thought he detected a hint of a smile on her face. But he had learned not to say anything about that.
"How did the adjustments go, anyway?"
"Adjustments?" Kiriko asked innocently. The smile grew wider, more noticeable.
Shinnosuke caught on quickly. "Ahhhhh you have got to be kidding me. I should have known. And stop smiling, it's not funny."
Kiriko's face grew serious. "I wasn't smiling. I was sick of all the other guys whining about you being lazy and useless so I thought I'd do something to help.
"Thanks," Shinnosuke said flatly, and snatched back the jar of cookies. He pulled off the lid, and reached inside, ripping open the plastic bag and grabbing a handful of cookies, stuffing them into his mouth.
"I'm taking a few days off sick," he decided.
Kiriko let out a sigh, and climbed out of the car without a word.