Chapter 1: Getting Started
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
In all of Conan's travels, both as this younger self and as Shinichi, he's never been on this side of America for long. It's nice, warmer than New York had been; even though it had been summer then, it felt like February. It's summer now, but Ran made him wear a jacket anyway, though that's less because it's cold and more because she worries like that. The concern makes him smile, soft and secretly to himself.
He doesn't understand why Sonoko decided that they should travel here, to this smallish California town. With all her bragging about summer homes in onsen-riddled mountains back in Japan and beach-surrounded villas in Europe, Santa Barbara seems like such an odd choice. But then, she claimed, she wanted her first trip to America to be with Ran.
Which still doesn't explain why none of her family came along. Though, to be fair, Sonoko's family has always been a foreign thing to Conan. Still, surely anyone must be a better traveling companion than Mouri Kogoro? As the man in question giggles to himself and enjoys more of the minibar, Conan sighs. Somebody must be a better traveling companion than him.
Conan sits out on the porch of the beachfront Sonoko had rented for the week, watching the people on the beach. This isn't a very popular tourist spot, from what he could look up before the trip, but the beach is crowded. Ran and Sonoko run around in hardly anything, and he's distracted for a moment by the sight.
Ran, not Sonoko. That would be weird.
He watches as they splash each other, laughing as they stand in waist-deep water. They look happy, and he's glad. It's not often that he, Kogoro, and Ran can successfully get away from home without running into a case, but this idea of Sonoko's seems to be perfect. They're foreigners, surrounded by people that speak a language
none most of them can't speak fluently. No one here knows of Mouri Kogoro, great detective (though, back then, no one had known Kudou Shinichi either). There's no reason or way they can possibly get involved in a case.
Then the happy shouting turns into the kind of terrified screaming Conan is so unfortunately used to. Kogoro jumps up from where he's sitting on the bed, pulls on his pants and fixes his hair, and he hardly looks drunk as he jumps out the door and follows Conan to the beach.
Conan should have known better than to jinx things. Once he thought they were free, a case would come upon them the only way possible - as witnesses, and therefore possible suspects.
The fact that there are four high-pitched screams echoing across the beach instead of two will occur to him later. Right now, he's just hoping he can finish this up and still have time left to enjoy their vacation.
Chapter 2: The Facts Were These:
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
What happened, as it turned out, was this:
Sonoko had been playing around, splashing Ran and generally enjoying herself, when she suddenly tripped over something half-buried in the shallows, knocking it loose. Not knowing what it was, Sonoko and Ran paused, and watched in slowly growing horror as a human arm rose to the surface and started to bob in the waves.
They only started to scream when they realized it wasn't attached to a body.
The two of them are wrapped up in some towels Kogoro brought from the beachfront, shivering.
Conan knows that it's not because of a strong breeze, but that's common sense.
What isn't common sense that he knows is that the two Americans with surprisingly high-pitched screams who had been the next to spot the arm aren't as ordinary as they appear.
After he got over his freak out, the darker skinned of the two pulled out his phone and called the police. A normal enough response, but the tone with which he speaks to the officer who picks up is too casual. He's used to working with the police.
The other man, holding a smoothie in one hand, is even stranger. While his friend calls the police, he keeps passerby away from the beach. It's almost fascinating to watch, a scruffy-looking man using casual persuasion to redirect mildly curious eyes - all of it a very talented facade. Conan doesn't know the American police system very well, but the efficient way the odd man diverts civilian attention is nearly identical to the way he's seen officers manage crime scenes in Japan.
The only thing Conan doesn't know just yet is what they really are. Plainclothes officers? That initial reaction doesn't seem appropriate for a police officer, but it could be faked. Why bother, though, if they planned to immediately inform uniformed officers? Maybe private detectives? The reaction still doesn't make sense, but the police familiarity does. Why get the police involved on a private case, though...?
As a red car, siren wailing, approaches the beach, Conan has a feeling he'll be getting an answer soon.
Chapter 3: Nice Cop, Mean Cop?
Spoken Japanese. Spoken English. Japanese words should only be found in suffixes and titles.
Keiji - police detective
Keibu - police inspector
These don't work well with American police roles (keiji is also an officer, depending on your translation), but will be how Conan thinks of the detectives he runs into.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There are two detectives; the man is taller, older, pretty clearly a by-the-books kind of guy. Conan hates to think it, because he likes to think the best of the police, but his first impression of the man is that he's very mad at... well, everything. Though, given how he talks to the two strange men from before, Conan could be wrong; he might just be mad at them. The other detective is young, a pretty woman. In almost direct contrast with her partner, she's very cheerful and bright. The classic American good cop, bad cop routine? Conan isn't sure. No proper detective, male or female, is quite so gullible as the woman appears at first glance. It's more likely that she intentionally plays the good cop when her partner's in a bad mood.
And boy, does Conan hope he's in a bad mood. He snaps at his partner as they get out of the car, snaps at the smoothie-holding man (who smiles and encourages the anger, oddly enough), and snaps at the late-arriving police officers. If this isn't a bad mood, Conan feels sorry for his partner.
She talks to the two men, more rationally than her partner had, then approaches Conan when the dark-skinned man points her their way. She pulls out her badge, shows it to the four of them.
"My name is Juliet O'Hara. I'm a detective with the SBPD," she says. Then, hesitantly, "Do any of you speak English?"
Kogoro blinks at the badge, reading the 'Santa Barbara Police Department' emblazoned on the metal, and looks at Ran. "A police officer?"
Ran nods. "I think so. she said she's a detective." She frowns. "My English grades haven't been very good since Jodie-sensei left. I don't know how well I can talk to her. Sonoko?"
Sonoko shakes her head. "Mine have always been worse than yours, Ran. I could probably find an interpreter for us, if we need one."
"Why would we need one? All you did was find that arm..." Kogoro winces as he says it, because Ran and Sonoko look queasy remembering it.
Conan pipes up, the convenient voice of reason as always. "Because Sonoko-neechan and Ran-neechan found the arm, they're witnesses to a crime. O'Hara-keiji and her partner came really quickly; I bet this is a repeat crime."
"A repeat crime? Wait, you aren't saying they suspect Ran and me...?" Sonoko asks warily.
Conan nods. "If it's an ongoing case, they're likely to suspect anyone who gets involved. The only reason we've never been suspects in Japan is because the police know Ojisan. They don't suspect private detectives..." As Ran and Sonoko puzzle over that, Conan comes to a conclusion. Those two over there (one still exchanging words with the detective, the other making noticeably more polite conversation with an officer blocking off the scene) hadn't gotten more than a minute's interrogation, which makes it all the more likely that they're in the same line of work as Kogoro.
But O'Hara-keiji is starting to look impatient as they talk amongst themselves, so it's time to step forward. "I can speak English pretty well, Ran-neechan! I still know a lot from when my family lived in America." Not waiting for her to encourage him, Conan clears his throat to draw the detective's attention. "Detective O'Hara? My name is Conan Edogawa. I can speak English."
She seems surprised by his lack of accent, which he can hardly blame her for; living in California, her only exposure to Japanese people is likely through the rich sort of tourist that only knows the English they were taught in school, and only enough to hold short conversations without using a phrasebook. She recovers and leans down. "I can see that! What about your friends here? Do they speak English too?"
...and she's going to treat him like he's six, isn't she. Conan's been spoiled by the police back in Tokyo, who mostly don't give him any special treatment. Conan hides his disappointment easily, and gestures as he makes his introductions. "Uncle Kogoro here can't speak any English. Ran and Sonoko know a bit, but not very much. I used to live in America, though, so I know more."
O'Hara-keiji starts to take notes as she asks more questions. Kogoro is his uncle? No, but we live together and I feel like his nephew. And Ran and Sonoko are? Kogoro is Ran's father, Sonoko is Ran's friend. Why are you in town? Sonoko rented a beachfront for our vacation. How long have you been here? We got here yesterday. We'll be here for the whole week. And on and on.
Kogoro, Ran, and Sonoko are left staring, somewhat bewildered, as Conan answers smoothly. He doesn't think they've ever seen him speak English before; his last opportunity was in Osaka, and he'd been decidedly out of character when berating his idol.
As they finish up, O'Hara-keiji's partner walks up, still in a bitter mood. With a short "excuse us," he pulls O'Hara-keiji off to the side and holds a hushed conversation with her. He wants to know why O'Hara is interviewing a kindergartner instead of his father. If they don't speak English, she should get an interpreter to translate their statements. He doesn't care if no one on staff speaks Japanese, they can call somebody in. Get them to the station, wait for the interpreter to arrive. With that order, he storms off, ignoring the upset look on his partner's face.
Conan winces sympathetically; even if this isn't the detective's normal mood, O'Hara-keiji has seen it frequently enough that her expression is less mad and more resigned. This is an opportunity to figure out how this police department works, though, and if he wants to solve this case with time left for their vacation, he'd better take advantage of it. In a loud voice, Conan comments, "That man wasn't very nice."
O'Hara-keiji muffles a giggle at the blunt opinion coming from a small boy, and says, in a conspiratorial tone, "No, I suppose he wasn't. That's Head Detective Lassiter. He's in charge of this case, and right now he's got a few reasons to not be very nice. The chief of the department is really on his case, making sure he gets this one solved fast."
"Really?" Conan cocks his head to one side in a way he knows Ran thinks is adorable. "What's so special about this case?"
O'Hara-keiji doesn't say anything for a moment, but her eyes soften, and the corner of her mouth twitches up. She's a good cop; she knows she shouldn't tell a possible suspect anything about the case, even a grade schooler, but Conan is just cute enough to make her unable to resist. He hopes.
"...well, this isn't the first severed limb that's been found recently. It's actually the third one."
Success! Conan makes a surprised sound and leans forward, asking, "From the same person?"
"We can't be sure. We only started finding them yesterday, and the lab work hasn't gotten back yet. Even if it's just one person rather than several, this is one of the more gruesome cases the department's had in some time. It's gotten a lot of media attention, mostly bad press for the department."
Lassiter-keibu's behavior is starting to make sense now. "Is that why the police chief is mad at Detective Lassiter? And why he's mad at you?"
O'Hara-keiji muffles a giggle again. "Maybe. Conan, could you do me a big favor?" When he nods, she continues, "I can't really take all your friends' statements with you as the translator, you know. We'll have a Japanese interpreter at the police station soon, but I need you to come with me to wait for him there. Could you tell your friends that for me while I get us a car?"
Conan obligingly explains the situation to Kogoro; Ran and Sonoko understand English well enough, especially when it's being spoken slowly and with the kind of small words adults use towards children. Really, if it wasn't for that, Conan would like O'Hara-keiji a lot. She's quite likable as it is: pretty, nice, and willing to put up with difficult people to get the job done.
He edits his opinion as he watches her order an officer to give up his car for her use. The officer opens his mouth to complain, but the look O'Hara-keiji gives him is enough to make him shut up and hand over the keys without any protest.
So, she's pretty, nice, and willing to put up with difficult superiors.
Chapter 4: Coming and Going
Spoken Japanese. Spoken English. The only Japanese you should come across is in suffixes and titles, and only in Japanese or Conan's thoughts.
Keibu - Police inspector
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They end up waiting for an interpreter to take their statements for the rest of the day--the woman they found was in Los Angeles, finishing up with an unrelated case when the Santa Barbara police contacted her. Her name is Sato Naoko, a sad looking woman who speaks Japanese flawlessly, but has a British accent to her English. Not the same as Hakuba's accent, but it's close, similar. A different part of the country, but not so far that the accents differ as much as Kanto and Kansai accents do.
He tries to identify it more accurately based off of faint memories of Sherlock Holmes movies while Sato-san translates Lassiter-keibu's more and more frustrated questions for a more and more annoyed Kogoro.
"I'm not going to ask you again," Lassiter-keibu says menacingly.
"The detective does not wish to repeat himself," Sato-san translates.
"Then he should quit talking," Kogoro mutters, resting his head tiredly in the palm of his hand.
"Mr Mouri does not want you to have to," she translates again. Conan has a feeling her delicacy in translation is just making both Kogoro and the detective madder. The polite phrasing certainly doesn't match up with their body language, or their tone of voice.
Lassiter-keibu slams a hand down on the table, frustration showing loud and clear across his face. "I - "
Static crackles across the communications system that links the observation room to the interrogation room. "Calm down, Lassie," a male voice says somewhat teasingly. "You'll give yourself a hernia."
Another male voice says, "You can't get a hernia from stress, Shawn."
"Are you sure? Because my dad - "
"Not now, Spencer!" Lassiter-keibu shouts at the mirror. He turns around, freezes, then turns back to the mirror. "I locked that door, how the hell did you get in there?"
"Lassie, haven't you ever read the Bible? When one door closes, a window opens."
"That's not in the - " he cuts himself off and sighs, picking up the in-house phone hanging on the wall. "I'm calling McNab down here to escort you out of the building, Spencer, and you'd better not interrupt my investigation again."
"Or what? You'll threaten me from inside a locked room?" Shawn Spencer, as his name appears to be, laughs. "I think you need to kick it up a notch, Lassie, your threats are getting pretty tame."
With a muffled growl, Lassiter-keibu slams the phone down, muttering, "Take care of this myself." He smiles insincerely to Sato-san and Kogoro, says, "Excuse me," and unlocks the door, running out.
A moment later, the man who'd been holding a smoothie at the crime scene walks into the room and locks the door behind him. "Evening, gentleman, lady. Aaaaand... child?" He stares at Conan for a long minute, then looks up at the translator, of all people. "Why exactly is the kid in here too?"
So this is Shawn Spencer.
Conan can't tell if he hates him or not. He's got the annoying-like-Hattori thing going for him, but he's also treating Conan like he's not just a six-year-old, but a mentally deficient six-year-old.
"Because Ran and Sonoko went back to the beach house with Detective O'Hara," Conan chirps, watching this odd detective carefully. "I'm not supposed to be left by myself."
"Well, isn't that... great?" Spencer fakes a smile. Conan stares back, unimpressed.
"Why are you here, mister? I thought Detective Lassiter was supposed to ask Uncle Kogoro questions. Or try to," he adds with childlike tactlessness. "He didn't really seem to ask anything. Just shouted a lot."
Spencer fails to hide laughter behind a cough, finally saying, "He was, but now I'm here. And I'm going to talk to... Uncle Kogoro... for awhile. And you..."
Spencer blinks. "What, like the Barbarian? I can't tell if your parents are really, really weird or really cool." He shakes his head, adding, "No, getting off track. You, Conan, are going to spend some time with my friend Mr. G. Östbuster." A rapid knocking at the locked door starts up, and Spencer smiles. "And here he is now!"
The black man from the crime scene is at the door, mad. He says something quickly in a low voice, which Spencer responds to, which leads to a whisper-argument that culminates in the two men slapping each other on the arm like toddlers having hissy fits, before Öst - whatever his name actually is - finally gives in with a huffed, "Not a babysitter, Shawn!" He turns to Conan with a more sincere smile than Spencer had.
"Hi, Conan. Why don't you come with me while Shawn and your uncle talk...through our lovely translator, of course." He smiles politely to Sato-san, who automatically defers the compliment.
"I'm not supposed to go with strangers, Mr. Östbuster," Conan protests as he's gently pushed out of the room. Inwardly, he's pleased. If he can get away from this guy, maybe into the observation room, he can get an idea of how smart Spencer is. If he's not too sharp, Conan might be able to control the investigation completely. If he's smart... oh man, that would be a pain. Like Hattori that first case, with a language barrier to complicate matters.
Either way, no sense in going into this blind.
As Spencer shows them out with a conspiratorial smile to his companion, Conan hears Kogoro mutter to the translator, "Are all Americans this weird?"
She replies quietly, "Just the ones I've met here." Then, on second thought, adds, "And that one in Wales."
Chapter 5: The Bathroom Scandal
The only Japanese you should come across is in suffixes and titles, and only in Japanese or Conan's thoughts.
Keiji - Police officer
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Mr. Östbuster?" Conan says with all the childish anxiety and frustration he can manage. "I have to go."
The dark-skinned man frowns. "Conan, we can't leave the building. Your friend's dad is still here."
"No," Conan whines, dragging out the vowels like an expert. He really hopes this guy gets a clue; if he has to do the potty dance this guy might just get an accidental knock-out dart to the neck. "I have to go."
"G-oh." A pained look crosses the man's face. Presumably he gets it, but wishes he didn't. "I see. Well, the bathroom is down the hall here, let me show you." It's not far away from the interrogation room, and Conan is quickly developing a plan of action. It hinges on one thing he isn't sure of, though: does this man have any idea of what's appropriate in Japanese culture? Hopefully not.
Conan pushes the door open, and the man moves to follow him. He looks uncertain, and Conan takes advantage. A horrified expression on his face, he whispers, "You want go in the bathroom with me?" like it's the most disgusting thing he could imagine.
Taking two giant steps backwards, the man shakes his head repeatedly, either saying, "No, no, of course not," or "I am so sorry, I didn't mean to - " The door swings shut between them, hiding Conan's wide grin from any audience.
But this is no time to gloat. Moving quickly, he ducks inside one of the stalls and waits. Soon enough, the door opens, and he catches a pleased voice saying, "Hi Gus!" to their mutual friend out in the hall. Conan peeks out of the stall to see a tall man with dark hair smiling at the mirror and washing his hands. Aiming quickly, and thanking his instincts that he'd brought extra darts along from the beach house, he knocks the man out. He slumps over the sink, still grinning.
Conan jumps up and shut off the water easily enough, but moving the police officer is another thing entirely. He's a very tall man, and not all that skinny. Still, after a few minutes of struggle, and without anyone else coming in, Conan manages to get him into the stall and seated.
Now the hard part. Adjusting his bow tie's frequency, Conan tests out a few pitches before he gets one that sounds about right. He has to work at speaking with the man's upbeat tone, but thinks it sounds convincing when he calls out, "Hey, Gus? Could you come in here?"
Gus (whose last name is hopefully not actually Östbuster, or Conan will feel really guilty about presuming it was a pseudonym) opens the door and looks inside. "Did you need something, Buzz?" he asks uncertainly.
"Uh, yeah," Conan replies in Buzz's (good lord, what kind of name is that?) voice. "Could you come in the stall? I need some help."
"Alright..." Gus opens the stall door and looks inside. He frowns at the sight of Buzz-keiji, slumped over on the seat. "Buzz? Hey, Buzz?" He shakes the officer's shoulder a bit. "You okay, man?"
Conan, who had been waiting in the next stall over, takes advantage of Gus's moment of confusion to fire his dart again. It hits, and Gus has only a moment to slur incoherently before he falls on top of Buzz, out cold.
Even though Gus is shorter, he proves more difficult to move. After struggling with him, and knowing that he doesn't have much time before they wake up, he just leaves Gus sitting on Buzz's lap, locking the door before he sneaks out underneath the gap in the stall door.
The entire process takes him about five minutes, which is too long for Conan's tastes. Spencer might have already finished with Kogoro, and he'll have no opportunity to observe him before he starts investigating for himself. He quickly makes his way to the observation room, hoping he hasn't missed his chance.