“It’s okay, Shin-chan,” Yukiko said, placating. “You take after your father in this. I love him, but that man wouldn’t know romance if it staged a locked room murder in front of his eyes.”
Shinichi wrinkled his nose at the analogy, but quickly shook it off. “I do, too, know romance. And so does Dad.” He crossed his arms. “I mean, he must have done something right, seeing as you married him and all.”
Yukiko smirked; Shinichi quickly backpedaled, raising his hands in defense.
“Whatever you’re thinking about telling me,” he said, “Don’t.”
“Spoilsport.” She laughed and ruffled his hair. He waved her hands off. “Look, all I’m saying is the reason Ran doesn’t want to keep trying is because you didn’t romance her well enough.”
Shinichi narrowed his eyes. “I was like her baby brother for a year, Mom. You don’t think that had something to do with it?”
She waved a hand, rolling her eyes. “You’re both just making excuses.”
Shinichi recrossed his arms. “You’re on. I’m not ready to date again yet, so what else will work?”
Yukiko raised her eyebrows. “What do you mean?”
“I’m going to prove to you that I understand romance, but I don’t want to date right now. What else will work?”
Yukiko’s confused frown slowly morphed into a smirk and then a terrible grin. “You write on occasion, don’t you?”
Shinichi blushed, but nodded. No use in denying something she obviously knew about.
“If you can get a romance novel published—to good reviews—I will acknowledge you as a romantic.”
Shinichi nodded and stuck out his hand. “Deal.”
Yukiko shook her son’s hand with a smug smile. “Do tell me when you’ve given up. I promise not to tease you for your entire life.”
“You’re going to eat your words, Mother.” Shinichi showed his teeth in a grin.
And so, Shinichi began writing his first romance novel.
“Ran!” Sonoko shrieked, slamming something on the table they were eating at. Shinichi winced, poking at his ear. “Have you seen this yet?”
Ran considered the book under Sonoko’s hands and gasped. “Yes,” she breathed. “Oh my God, I’ve already read it twice.”
“Right?” Sonoko melted into her seat, gazing lovingly at the novel in question. “It was just amazing. The build was exactly right, and the spark was just,” she sighed. “Perfect.”
Shinichi glanced down at the book in question. Thief of My Heart by Fujimine Rika. He schooled his features into careful blankness. “What, some trashy romance?”
Ran and Sonoko both flinched, pressing offended hands to their chests, as if reaching for pearls they weren’t wearing. “How could you?” they both cried at once.
“Fujimine-sensei is a genius,” Ran insisted.
Sonoko sneered. “Not that a detective freak like you could ever understand a maiden’s heart. Unlike Fujimine-sensei.” They both sighed.
“She’s just brilliant.” Ran touched her cheek. “Did you know this is her first novel?”
“Yes! I could hardly believe it!” Sonoko held the book to her chest, shaking her head. “To think, the world was missing out on this talent for so long…”
Shinichi couldn’t help it; he laughed.
They both frowned at him. “What’s so funny, nerd?” Sonoko asked, narrowing her eyes.
“Sorry, it’s just,” he shook his head, “you call me a nerd for liking mysteries, but you’re doing exactly what I do, aren’t you? Gushing over a book you both enjoyed? Besides, I don’t know, I thought the descriptions of the moon were a little over the top. Not to mention the way she constantly mentions Itsuki’s eyes.”
For a long moment, there was only silence.
Ran broke first. “You… Shinichi, did you read this book?”
He shrugged. “My mom forced it on me.”
“Forced—” Sonoko bit out, standing abruptly. “How dare you!”
Ran shushed her, pushing her back into her seat. “I think she must be in love,” Ran said, changing the subject. “Otherwise, there’s no way she could describe the feeling so well.”
Shinichi waved her off. “My dad writes from the perspective of murderers, and as far as I know he’s never tried to kill anyone.”
“As far as you know,” Sonoko muttered. Shinichi kicked her under the table.
“No, but Shinichi, it was so real,” Ran sighed, ignoring them. “The way Hisui-chan longs for her love to return her feelings, the hopelessness and the optimism, and the way she never notices that Itsuki is falling for her, too…”
Sonoko sighed, leaning her cheek against her hand. “I wish I could have a romance like hers…”
“What about Makoto?” Shinichi asked.
Sonoko shook her head. “This is different. I love him, but he’s hardly a romantic, Shinichi. He does his best, but he doesn’t really understand the appeal, I don’t think.”
Ran sighed. “Saguru is the same. It seems like all detectives are detectives after all.”
Shinichi shook his head. “You’re both being ridiculous, you do know that, right?”
“I don’t want to hear that from you,” Sonoko huffed. “When you start dating again, then we can talk.”
Shinichi rolled his eyes, but dropped it. No use fighting with them. There was no way reality could live up to their fantasies. Not unless Sonoko had gotten her wish to get swept away by Kaitou Kid.
He glanced back at the cover of the novel. He’d made the right choice, he decided. The full moon behind the mysterious masked gentleman was definitely the best cover design. He’d have to send flowers to the designer. And probably also his editor.
His mother laughed when he told her. “Okay, okay. I stand corrected.” Her eyes were sparkling. Somehow, despite winning the bet, Shinichi felt like he’d lost. “Are you going to keep going?”
“Are you going to write another one? I mean, you’re clearly good at it.”
Shinichi hesitated. “I’d really rather write mysteries, but it was pretty easy.”
“Well, I’ll keep an eye out for more from my ‘daughter,’ shall I?” She winked, still clearly more than pleased with herself.
Shinichi wasn’t sure what he was missing, but he knew there must be something.
Hakuba sighed, slumping a little in the seat across from him. “Did Ran make you read that romance novel she’s been gushing about?”
Shinichi smiled, nodding. “You, too, huh?”
He sighed again. “At least it was well written and well researched, but it’s not exactly my type of fiction,” he complained. “It was interesting; I thought I recognized heist details at a few points.”
“I noticed that,” Shinichi said, pleased. “I wonder if the author has first hand heist experience.”
“Do you think she used a pseudonym?”
“I had considered it,” Shinichi agreed. “Although I don’t know how the name was chosen,” he lied. “Unfortunately, the heists she used were widely broadcast.”
“There is that,” Hakuba said, tapping his lip with one finger. “But she uses such detailed information for the police procedure behind the scenes, I find it hard to believe she was only an audience member…”
Shinichi almost wished he could tell him the truth.
“Of course, the way she writes about the thief means she couldn’t possibly be a member of the taskforce.” He shook his head. “Making a thief like Kaitou Kid the romantic hero…”
Almost. Shinichi laughed, and listened to Hakuba complain. He wondered if there would be another heist soon. It had been some time since Shinichi had been able to see Kaitou Kid. He almost missed him.
“Speaking of, I’m not supposed to tell anyone,” Hakuba said, leaning closer and lowering his voice, “but we’ve recently received a heist notice. This one seems… different than usual.”
“Different?” Shinichi grinned. “How so?”
Almost. Shinichi pulled out his notebook, looking over the notice with eager eyes.
Shinichi sat down heavily, his head hanging. Good bye, Great Detective. It’s been fun. He pressed his hands to his face. It was bound to happen eventually, he knew, but for it to be so soon… And without notice.
He squeezed his eyes shut, surprised to find tears welling up and spilling out. He tried to fight them back, but the more he fought, the more tears fell. Instead, he let them run their course, shoulders shaking with silent sobs.
After everything they’d been through, after all they’d said and done, it was over. Just like that. The most exciting part of his life, the most fun he ever had anymore, done and dusted. No, see you around, or until we meet again.
Good bye, Great Detective.
Shinichi stood, scrubbing the tears away. On his way upstairs, he grabbed a water bottle from the fridge. He downed it as he walked, taking long gulps, ignoring the drops that escaped him. He tossed the bottle onto his bed before ducking into his bathroom to wash his face.
Feeling better, despite the sorrow still burrowed beneath his ribs, he sat at his desk, opening his laptop with something like determination.
His editor wanted another book? Fine.
Hanako panted for breath, standing inside the mechanism for the clocktower. She’d run the entire way, but still, it looked like her thief was about to leave. “Please, wait!” she cried.
The man turned, his expression melancholy. “I’m sorry, Detective, but my time in the spotlight is coming to an end.”
Hanako closed the distance between them, but it seemed like nothing could bridge the distance between their hearts. “What are you talking about? I haven’t caught you yet.”
Mirage smiled, but it was nothing like his usual grins, bright and unabashed. “Oh, but you have.” He took a step into her space, cupping her cheek with a bare hand. “You’ve caught my heart, Detective.”
Tears pricked at her eyes. She wished she could be happy, but his confession sounded like a goodbye. “Why do I get the feeling we’ll never see each other again?”
Mirage bent his head and pressed their lips together. Hanako’s tears fell, even as she returned the kiss. When he pulled away, he pressed something into her hand. “Good bye, Detective. I’ll never forget you.”
Mirage disappeared in a flash of light.
Hanako looked down, surprised to find the night’s target in her hand, wrapped in one of his gloves. She held it to her chest, unable to stop her tears. Her chest hurt like she’d been stabbed, and she couldn’t stop the sobs from shaking her frame.
How could she possibly move on?
“I love you,” she told the empty room. “I love you, you damn thief.” But she knew he was already long gone.
After about a month of near complete isolation, Stolen Love was ready for publication. Despite his best efforts, his editor had talked him into a happy ending, instead of leaving it where he initially planned on stopping. At least Hanako could have what she wanted.
Ran and Sonoko were both apparently moved to tears, but he couldn’t quite feel happy about it. Even though he’d agreed to publish it, he still felt a little raw. He’d written the book fresh off feelings of rejection from his own thief. Even if the feelings weren’t romantic, they still stung.
Sometimes, he caught himself gazing at the moon, his heart aching with a sense of loss.
Hakuba was staring at his phone when they next met up for lunch, his brows furrowed in befuddlement. Shinichi sat across from him, waving a little to get his attention.
“Ah, sorry, Kudou,” Hakuba said, shaking his head. “I was just surprised by a text message from a friend. Apparently, her roommate has been sobbing on the couch on and off for the past hour, babbling about something or another. And she’s just told me, he was reading a Fujimine book.”
“He?” Shinichi asked. “That’s a surprise. And here I thought her only audience was women.” Somehow, he hadn’t really expected men to enjoy his novels, but he supposed that was unfair. The author—he was a guy, too, after all.
Hakuba shrugged. His expression said that whoever he was, the guy did things like this often. “Kuroba lives to defy expectations, it seems. That and…” Thinking better of whatever he was about to say, Hakuba shook it off. “Never mind. I just can’t figure out what he could possibly be crying about. Fujimine’s last book was nothing to cry over.”
“Ran said she cried over the goodbye scene. Maybe that part?” Shinichi tossed out. Kuroba… The name sounded familiar, for some reason. Regardless, he was obviously reading his second book, not his first.
Hakuba shrugged expansively. “If so, he’s probably been crying on and off since he hit that scene. But never mind about him. How have things been with you? I haven’t seen you at all for, what, six weeks?”
“Ah, yeah, sorry. I got a little… tied up. It’s complicated.”
“Did Ran tell you about her progress with her parents?” he asked, gracefully sidestepping Shinichi’s reluctance to divulge.
Shinichi smiled, more than a little grateful. “She alluded to it, but I’ve learned to take what Ran says about them with a grain of salt.”
“That’s probably fair. She is ever the optimist when it comes to them.” His smile was warm and patient. “They’ve agreed to have a family dinner, just the three of them.”
“Ran didn’t try to rope you into it?” he asked, curious.
“She did, but I persuaded her that the first dinner should be family only. I’ve met both her parents, of course, but I don’t think that I should be there for this one.” He shrugged, but Shinichi could tell he was relieved.
“Avoiding the warzone, huh?”
“I am many things,” Hakuba said delicately, “but a fool is not one of them.”
Shinichi smirked. “So when she asks next time?”
“I’ll say yes, of course.”
They both laughed, the conversation drifting into a brief silence. They both sipped their drinks, enjoying the peace.
“What are your parents like, Kudou?” Hakuba asked abruptly. Shinichi’s eyes snapped back to his. “Sorry, I was thinking about Ran’s parents and one thought led to another…” His smile was apologetic, almost a wince.
“You just surprised me. Uh, my dad is a novelist, and my mother used to be an actress.” Shinichi scratched his cheek. “I’m not convinced she’s not going to try to get back into movies, actually, but she’s been traveling with my dad, so…” He shrugged.
“Fujimine Yukiko, yes?” Hakuba asked. His eyes seemed more intent than usual, like he was in the middle of an interrogation.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“And your father’s a novelist… Have you ever tried your hand at writing, Kudou?”
Shinichi felt a chill. “What are you getting at, Hakuba?” He narrowed his eyes. “I feel like you’re accusing me of something.”
“Not accusing,” he insisted. “Only asking. It’s just that… Your mother’s maiden name is Fujimine. Your father is a novelist. You have a strong working knowledge of police procedure, especially the unique procedures used for heists.” Hakuba steepled his fingers together. “Did you feel personally victimized by Kid’s retirement?”
Shinichi balked. “Excuse me?”
“Are you in love with Kaitou Kid?”
“What kind of question is that?” Shinichi asked too quickly. Hakuba didn’t dignify it with a response, choosing instead to wait for him to admit defeat. He grimaced and deflated. Sighed. “Okay, maybe I developed some feelings, but it’s hardly enough to call ‘love.’”
Hakuba’s eyes narrowed, disbelieving. “Kudou Shinichi. I have read your novels. Do not lie to me. Not when I’m trying to help you.”
He pressed his hands to his face, groaning. It would figure that Hakuba would be able to figure him out. “I know it probably means I’m a bad detective, but he’s just… It’s not my fault. He’s charming and kind, and I know he had a good reason even if he never told me.” Shinichi dug his knuckles into his eyes until he saw spots. “I miss him more than I ever thought I would. I’m such an idiot.”
“There is no accounting for taste,” Hakuba agreed, diplomatic. “But this is something I can help with. Do you trust me?”
“Uh, yes?” Shinichi asked. “You don’t think I’m a disgrace to detectives everywhere?”
Hakuba shrugged, magnanimous. “I’m not really in a position to judge for a number of reasons that I’m not currently at liberty to discuss.”
Shinichi decided it would be better not to ask. “Thanks, Hakuba. It’s… actually kind of a weight off, you knowing. You’re really okay with all of this? My being a romance novelist, and uh, in love with Kaitou Kid?”
Hakuba waved a hand, unconcerned. “It’s convenient, honestly. Like I said, this at least, I can help with. And for whatever it’s worth, the mystery elements of your novels are entertaining for me. If you decide to drop the romance, I certainly wouldn’t complain, but Ran likes your novels as they are.”
Shinichi smiled. Hakuba really was a great guy. He was lucky to be his friend.
Hakuba was dead to him.
“When I said I trusted you,” Shinichi hissed, “I did not mean this.”
Hakuba rolled his eyes. “Don’t be such a baby. You’re definitely going to thank me for this. Have I ever steered you wrong?”
“No-o,” he ground out, digging his foot into the ground. “But I still don’t like this. I’m not interested in dating, and I’m even less interested in a blind date with some guy you know.”
“He’s hardly ‘some guy,’” Hakuba muttered, eyes on his phone. “He’s one of my best friends. Just trust me and stop complaining. You’re going to have fun. Now promise me you’re not going to run away.”
“I can’t make that promise.”
“Do not stand him up, Kudou Shinichi. Promise me that.”
Shinichi sighed. “Okay, fine, but as soon as he gets here, I’m leaving.”
Hakuba snorted. “You won’t.” He stuck his phone in his pocket, patting his shoulder. “He’ll be here in a few. Have fun.”
“I won’t,” Shinichi muttered.
He tapped his foot. He checked his watch. And then, he caught sight of a young man approaching. Likely same age, same height, messy brown hair. When he met the guy’s eyes, the other guy froze, one foot still in the air.
Hesitant now, he closed the distance between them. “Are you Hakuba’s friend?”
“I am,” Shinichi agreed. “Kudou Shinichi. I guess I’m your date.”
The guy was cute, now that he was close enough to get a good look. He had a strong jaw, but a boyish face. His hair made him look like he’d just rolled out of bed, and his sleeves were rolled up, showing off his strong arms. Hakuba might be straight, but at least he had good taste. And his friends were as handsome as he was.
“Uh, right. Kuroba Kaito. It’s a pleasure.” But Kuroba seemed distracted.
“Did you get strong armed into this too?”
“Kind of,” Kuroba agreed. “Or, well. I agreed to the blind date, but I didn’t know—” He cut himself off and flushed. “Do you… I mean, we’re already out, so we might as well get dinner? As friends?”
Something about his voice was familiar. “I don’t mind it being a date. You’re pretty cute.”
Kuroba’s cheeks flooded with color, his eyes wide. “Oh, uh, good? Great.”
Shinichi gestured to the restaurant, valiantly ignoring the awkward silence. He considered Kuroba as they were led to their seats and as they sat down. The name still sounded familiar to him. And not just because he was one of Hakuba’s friends.
“Is there any reason I’d remember your name?” Shinichi asked. Kuroba dropped his menu.
“N-No? I mean, maybe, I guess, but I’ve never been in the news.”
That was a lie. Shinichi ignored it. “A family member then?” That sounded right, actually. “You share the name of a… magician, right?”
Kuroba startled badly. “How on earth did you know that?”
Shinichi smiled and tried not to roll his eyes. “I am a detective, but I’ve actually been to one of your father’s shows. I think he and my mother were friends. I was just a kid, but he seemed like a wonderful man.”
Kuroba relaxed a little, finally smiling. “He was. I’m aiming to be a magician better than even he was. It’ll probably take me a long time, but I want to surpass him.”
“Do you have any shows coming up?”
“A few,” Kuroba admitted. “Did you actually want to come to one?”
Shinichi nodded. “Yeah. I enjoyed your father’s show when I was a kid. And, well, I can’t say I dislike magic shows. I consider myself a fan of Kaitou Kid’s after all.”
Kuroba knocked his drink over, jumping to his feet in the same move. Shinichi blinked. He’d never met a magician that could be considered clumsy before, but it was strangely cute. Shinichi cleaned up the water with one of the napkins on the table, while Kuroba patted at his pants, his cheeks bright red.
“Sorry, I don’t know why I’m such a mess today.” Kuroba sat back down rubbing a hand over his face. “I’ve never met a detective who actually liked Kid before. I’m a fan, too, but all of my friends are law enforcement types.”
Shinichi smiled. “I’ve been called a critic, but trying to figure out the tricks is the way I have the most fun. And, well, Kid’s heists were always high points for me. Compared to the cases I usually have to deal with, getting to watch a magic show where the challenge is to figure out what’s going on…” He sighed, bittersweet and longing. “I think I’ll probably always miss it.”
“So,” Kuroba said slowly, “Hakuba set us up so I could fill the Kid-shaped hole in your life?”
Shinichi laughed. “I hope not. I’m not exactly looking to replace him, but maybe he thought we’d get along. I mean, he knows how we both feel about Kid, right?”
Kuroba looked down, cheeks darkening again. “Right.”
Wrong. Shinichi frowned, considering. What was he missing?
The waiter came by to take their orders, but Shinichi was only paying half a mind to the interaction. Instead, he ran through what he knew. Kuroba Toichi was a magician of great renown who was killed some twelve or so years ago. Kuroba Toichi knew his mother. His father knew and competed with Kaitou Kid who disappeared around the same time.
“Oh,” Shinichi realized. The timing lined up perfectly. One disappeared, and eight years later a successor took his place. “Oh. No wonder Hakuba was so sure of himself.”
“Um, what?” Kuroba asked. There was a bead of sweat at his hairline, his face was red, and he looked jumpy, like he knew where every exit was and the best route to get to them.
“Please, relax, Kuroba,” Shinichi said, raising his hands. “The game is over. You made yourself very clear. A goodbye is a goodbye.”
“I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about,” Kuroba lied. His hands twisted at the napkin still on the table in front of him. “We’ve only just met, when would I have told you goodbye?”
“Another life.” He considered Kuroba, eyes tracing over his features, overlaying what he remembered of Kid’s face. Handsome and enigmatic over cute and a little awkward. Shinichi felt a rush of fondness. “Hopefully, this life will work out a little differently.”
Kuroba slumped, defeated. “Nothing gets past you, huh, detective?”
“No,” he agreed, “although I am working with more information than I ever thought I’d get.”
“Hakuba.” Kuroba pressed a hand over his eyes. “What did he say?”
“Nothing that would normally implicate you.” Shinichi hesitated. A secret identity for a secret identity seemed fair. “I figured it out when I remembered your reaction to one of the scenes in the new Fujimine Rika book.”
“And what, I couldn’t just be a fan of romance novels?”
Shinichi shrugged, acknowledging. “With your father, it made sense. And well. It makes me feel a little vindicated. After all, that scene was written about you.”
Kuroba dropped his hand, lips parting in confusion. His eyes skimmed over Shinichi’s face, analyzing. “Do you mean to tell me,” he said, the words stretching almost endlessly, “that you wrote that scene? Based on my goodbye to you?”
“A secret for a secret,” he agreed. “I’m Fujimine Rika, and I’m in love with Kaitou Kid.”
“Hi Fujimine, I’m Kuroba,” he said, almost as if in a trance. “No, hang on, sorry, you’re what?”
“Look, you read the book. It was basically a love letter to Kaitou Kid, lamenting his retirement.” Shinichi gestured absently. “I can show you the drafts if you need proof? I started writing it the day you said good bye. I was so depressed, my editor resorted to threats to make the ending happier instead of leaving my main character crying in a god damn clock tower.”
“Oh, shit,” Kuroba breathed. “The clocktower. That’s where we—that was—oh, fuck.”
Shinichi let the silence stretch, watching Kuroba come to terms with the truth.
“Drafts won’t be necessary,” Kuroba said, covering his face with both hands. “I believe you. Fuck, I’m such an idiot. I could have kissed you and said some cool line and you wouldn’t have even tried to hit me. God damn it.”
“Missed opportunity,” Shinichi agreed, grinning. “What would you have said?”
“We’ll meet again in my dreams.” Kuroba froze with realization. Shinichi could feel his delight reach his face. No hesitation, no taking time to consider the question. An immediate answer. “I mean—I didn’t—” He groaned. “Just kill me, detective. Do us both a favor.”
“Oh, never.” Shinichi paused as the waiter came back with their food, both he and Kuroba playing normal for a beat. After thanking the man, he turned his grin back on the love of his life. “This is easily the best date I’ve been on. Granted, I’ve been on two dates, but this is much better. Trust me.”
“You suck,” he muttered. Kuroba stirred his noodles petulantly. “Why do you get to be so cool all the time?”
Shinichi snorted, nearly choking on his drink. “You—I wrote both of my two books, love letters to your altar ego, you may recall, before I knew I was in love with you. I thought ‘romantic hero’ and pictured you. Clearly, you can be plenty cool when you want to be.”
He picked up his chopsticks, smiling down at his bowl. “And, well, I like this side of you. You’re cute like this. So, will you relax? Now that we don’t have any more big secrets to reveal?”
Kuroba sighed. “I suppose I can try. For you. Since you asked.” But he was smiling. “So the image you chose for your first cover?”
“Oh, yeah, absolutely evoking your image.” Shinichi smirked. “My publisher was the one to recommend it. Sell to the Kaitou Kid fangirls of the world.”
Kuroba laughed, his shoulders finally dropping, his expression opening back up. “So, tell me, Mr. Famous Author, are you going to stick to romance novels or try your hand at mysteries?”
“An excellent question. My publisher asks me that daily.”
Shinichi shrugged. “I suppose I could be convinced to write another romance. With the right motivation, of course.”
Kuroba grinned broadly. “Of course.” He took Shinichi’s hand, resting them on the table between them. “I suppose, rather than the proper motivation, you’ll just have to put up with me. I’m no Phantom Thief—” Anymore, Shinichi amended. “—but I am an aspiring magician. I even grow my own roses.” Kuroba winked, pulling a vibrantly red rose apparently from thin air. Love.
Shinichi sighed with feigned exasperation and accepted the rose. “I suppose you’ll just have to do.”