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From the Far-Off Mountain

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An hour spent shouting at the police until they finally took her concerns seriously. The trip up to the house would be at least two hours, even if the police traveled as fast as they could. Another two hours back, plus any time spent investigating on the scene and keeping witnesses there...

No matter how Heimi did the math, she should have heard from Kazuki ages ago. She'd long since paced a circle into the carpet of her room, and the movement wasn't doing anything to calm her down at this point. But she kept pacing, because there wasn't anything else she could do.

She hated this.

Times like this, she almost understood why Oton forbade her from doing detective work - but these were also the times she almost hated him for doing it. At least if she was the one investigating, she'd be the only one put in danger. Innocent, stupid, non-detective morons wouldn't be caught up in her cases, or face the consequences of her mistakes. But instead...

Her cellphone rang. Heimi snatched it up with shaking hands, let it ring a few times as she calmed herself down. When she answered, her voice was flat, neutral. Not what you'd call calm, though.

"Hey," Kazuki said, and the knot of guilt in Heimi's stomach fell apart; he sounded fine. "Sorry I had to leave you back there - "

"Yeah, thanks for that, asshole!" she chimed in sweetly.

"Don't shout at me! It's not my fault all the tires were slashed!" Heimi snorted, but it was a fair point. After a moment, Kazuki said, "I'm fine, if you were wondering."

"Yeah, I was wondering if I'd have to fine a replacement front man," she lied lightly. "Thanks for surviving, I'd hate to have to break in somebody new."

"Jerk," Kazuki sighed fondly. "Anyway, you want the good news or bad news first?"

Heimi frowned. "There's bad news?"

"...good news first, then. We were totally right about that kid. He's Kudou, though I can't tell you how on the phone."

Heimi jumped up and down and punched the air; she knew it, she knew it! Although she couldn't resist asking: "I'm sorry, what's this 'we' you're talking about?"

"...what?" Heimi laughed when Kazuki put it together and sputtered. "Oh, you - yes, we. I may not be a smart-ass like you, but I filled in half the blanks for you, didn't I?" He made a wet noise that sounded like he was sticking out his tongue.

Heimi returned the favor cheekily. "What about the bad news, then?"

"Ah... the bad news? Well... when I made Kudou, he kind of... made... us."

Heimi tried to breathe. A raspy, horrible noise came out of her instead, and she shrieked, "What? Kazuki, he can't know, if Oton finds out, I'm - "

"Hey, didn't I just say not to shout at me?" he whined, a slight distant echo telling Heimi he'd pulled the phone away from his ear. Typical Kazuki. "It's not like he made you, he hasn't even met you! Moron." Heimi sighed, starting to breathe easier. "But," Kazuki continued, "he figured out I'm a front. Guess the way I acted without you to guide me was a pretty big clue."

"We always knew you weren't the world's greatest actor," Heimi snapped, but there was really no bite to it. "I'll just... keep my distance, same as ever. It'll be fine." She wished that hadn't sounded so uncertain.

"Yeah," Kazuki said reassuringly. "It's not like he can rat on me, anyway, not when his secret's definitely the bigger of the two."

"Right." Heimi pinched the bridge of her nose, rubbing it until the tension faded properly. "Right, so I'll... see you at the airport?"

"Good idea. A bus goes through that town every few hours. I'll be waiting for you there." Kazuki chuckled. "You'd never guess how Kudou got like this."

Heimi smiled, already making up a list of possibilities. "We'll see about that."