“Our friend Kaiba has not been as careful as he thought.”
Butler looked up from his Guns and Ammo magazine. “Necros?”
Artemis pursed his lips in annoyance. “No. I can’t find anything that would conclusively link him to Kaiba. At least one of them is too smart for that. But there are other things.”
He lifted a sheaf of paper. “Here is a police record of an assault and robbery that occurred about four years ago. The man was badly beaten. He claimed that the only item that was stolen was a rare Duel Monsters card. The Blue Eyes White Dragon.”
“Isn’t that Kaiba’s trademark?” Butler asked. He had done some research on the man when Artemis had set out on this fool’s errand, and references to the Blue Eyes White Dragon had appeared numerous times.
Artemis smirked in smug satisfaction. “Yes. The card is extremely rare. Counting the card that was stolen…” he waved the police report, “There are only three in the world.” His smirk widened. “All of which appear in Seto Kaiba’s deck.”
“Why didn’t the police investigate this?” Butler asked, eyes narrowed.
Artemis shrugged. “They did. They linked the crime to a couple of petty thugs, but they claimed they were working alone. Refused to say anything else. When questioned, Mr. Kaiba said that he had located the card on an exclusive dueler’s website. It is theoretically possible that the thieves sold the card to the site. The company has a reputation for paying a great deal of money for rare cards, and the Blue Eyes would certainly qualify.”
He clicked a few keys. “I took the liberty of tracking down the other two previous owners of the Blue Eyes White Dragon cards. One died in a fire that burned down his home, and the other one was sent to an insane asylum a few months later. Babbling about “the curse of the Blue Eyes.” Mr. Kaiba bought the card for a very low price at a silent auction.”
“The one that died in the fire…” Butler trailed off.
Artemis grimaced. “Yes, I believe that this is another example of Necros’ work. But I can’t prove it. Yet.” He tapped his chin with his fingers. “Butler, I want you to track down the man listed in this record.” He lifted the police record. Butler wondered briefly how he’d gotten it. This was not a public record. “I want to talk with him about the events leading up to his assault and robbery.”
“I’m sure that the police have already questioned him,” Butler said. He was not really protesting; he trusted that Artemis knew what he doing. Merely covering all the angles.
Artemis pursed his lips. “But I have not questioned him, Butler. See to it.”
“Yes, Artemis.” Butler sat down at the computer as Artemis vacated the chair.
“Do not disturb me for the next three hours,” Artemis said as he stretched. “I need to rest and plan.”
Artemis entered his bedroom and gazed distastefully at the supposedly “modern” furnishings. He was tired, and the bed at least looked fairly comfortable. But he did not lie down. Instead, he sat on the edge of the bed and steepled his fingers together under his chin. A triumphant smirk spread across his face.
“Oh Kaiba,” he whispered. “You made the worst underestimation of your life when you decided to play this game with me.”
Unbidden, his mind conjured up an image of Seto Kaiba sitting at his desk in his Spartan office. The man was smiling and sitting in an identical posture to Artemis himself.
I’m good at games, the smug gaze seemed to be saying. Try your worst, Fowl.
Angrily, Artemis banished the image.
“I never knew stake-out duty could be so boring,” Mulch commented, helping himself to another bottle of Irish spring water from the shuttle’s cooler.
Commander Julius Root fumed. Only a few hours with the convict and he was already dreaming longingly of strangling him. Or perhaps taking a leaf from Kaiba’s book and lobbing him out a high window. Either way, he was thoroughly regretting his decision to bring the dwarf along, and wondering what under the earth had possessed him to do so.
He settled for snapping, “Shut your mouth, Convict,” in a very authoritative tone and adjusting the cameras with which he was currently watching Yugi Mutou’s house. So far, there had been no movement, though Foaly’s thermal scanners read two strong heat signatures inside. Two people. Holly was watching from the opposite side of the building. Nothing from that side either. Root was beginning to come to the conclusion that despite his connection to the magic of ancient Egypt, Yugi Mutou was a thoroughly boring person. Nine-thirty, and he already seemed to be turning in for the night.
He called up his link to Holly’s helmet. “Anything?”
“Whoa, Commander, don’t startle me like that! And no, nothing.” Holly sounded exceedingly bored. She didn’t make much of an effort to hide it.
Root heaved a sigh. “Holly, what do you think of Mutou?”
Her tone was more cautious now. “Why do you ask?”
“I just want to know what you think.”
Holly hesitated. “I don’t know much about him. I mean, other than the Egyptian Pharaoh thing. His background came up clean.”
“Yeah,” Root said, shaking his head. “This is one boring Mud Man. Well…” he stopped. “Yugi is, at any rate.”
“Do we know anything else about Pharaoh?” Holly asked. “What he’s like, how he might behave in certain situations?”
Root shook his head again, though Holly couldn’t see it. “Nope. Nothing. It’s like he’s some kind of ghost.”
“Um, Commander?” Holly said. “He is a ghost.”
Root scowled. “Don’t patronize me, Captain.”
“Of course not, Commander,” Holly said. Root could almost see her smirking. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
He was glad she couldn’t see him smile. “Good.”
He cut the connection and, trying to ignore the gurgling and sloshing from the dwarf sitting in the back of the shuttle, resigned himself to a night of boredom.
Unbeknownst to anyone, the thermal signature that appeared in Yugi Mutou’s room did not belong to Yugi Mutou. Yugi was gone, had left in fact only a few minutes before the fairy surveillance team arrived. Nor was it Grandpa; other than periodically sticking his head in to wake Yugi up on particularly difficult school mornings, the old man had no reason to be in that part of the house.
No, the thermal signature that Root and Holly were currently monitoring belonged to Bakura.
And like with all good thieves, no one had seen him arrive.
With a little luck, no one would see him leave either. He moved quietly, catlike, through Yugi’s room, searching methodically, with the air of someone with plenty of experience in breaking and entering.
What Bakura was looking for was the Millennium Items. Not the Puzzle; Yugi wore that at all times, and even in sleep, his hand was tangled in the chain. (Not that Bakura had checked, of course). But he hoped to find the others: the Scales, the Key, the Necklace, and the Rod. Especially the Rod.
He had just knelt down beside Yugi’s bed to check beneath it when something, an instinct perhaps, made him stop and look up. He knelt where he was, his hand gripping the bedspread, cautiously sending out his magic in all directions, searching for the source of his unease.
There. Far enough away that it was little more than a faint tingle, Bakura could feel a hint of magic. The hairs on his neck prickled; he stayed absolutely still as he gently prodded the area, trying to define the source.
Damn. Too far away.
He hesitated for a moment or two longer. But in the end, he shoved the feeling – not strong enough to be of much of a threat – to the back of his mind and bent to check under the bed. There was a duffle shoved against the far wall. The Ring began to glow, and the spikes attached to it extended towards the bag.
Bakura grinned in triumph and reached out… Footsteps. He straightened up so fast he knocked his head on the bottom of the bed. He cursed under his breath. The Thief King was upright in seconds, every nerve tensed with a mix of excitement and anger, senses straining.
He heard Yugi’s grandpa humming as he waddled past the room. Bakura grimaced; the old man was as tone-deaf as he was senile.
Bakura! he heard his host protest softly in the back of his mind, but Bakura ignored him. The boy was weak and helpless; his wishes meant little to the thief, unless they coincided with his own.
Instead of wriggling back underneath the bed, he headed for the window. Enough that he knew where the Millennium Items were. Better that Yugi go on trusting him for a little while longer. Bakura smirked. The fool.
Something caught his eye. It was Yugi’s phone, evidently left behind. A small light was blinking on the front. Curiosity overwhelmed Bakura. He picked the phone up, flicked it open, and pressed the button that accessed the messages.
“Yugi, this is Kaiba,” the recording said. “I need to speak with you. Come to the mansion immediately.”
Bakura glanced at his host’s watch. Nine-thirty. The message had come at 9:00. From the sound of Kaiba’s message, Yugi had set off for the mansion on his own. No car. Walking, Yugi would have barely reached it by now.
Which would make it an excellent opportunity for eavesdropping, the thief thought. If I could find some way to get there quickly.
A grin spread across Bakura’s face. He knew a way.
With a single bound, he leapt over the window ledge and dropped lightly to the ground.
“Someone has left the building,” Holly reported, her voice suddenly alert and ready for action. “It’s not Yugi.”
“Oh, is something finally happening?” Mulch inquired oh-so-innocently, padding up to the front of the shuttle and gazing out the viewport. When he saw the Mud Boy crouched beneath the game shop’s window, his heart nearly stopped working.
“That’s him…” he stammered, aware he sounded like a frightened child. “That’s the Mud Boy who attacked me!”
Root gave him a look midway between doubtful and disdainful. “Bakura?”
“He’s not as sweet as he looks,” Mulch said. He could feel his bowels twisting with dislike.
“That wouldn’t be possible,” Holly muttered.
At that very moment, a bright gold light blazed from the ring around the boy’s neck. When it faded, a monstrosity stood in its place. The thing was huge and gaunt and hungry, with leathery wings folded tightly in place on its back. Its glowing red eyes and dripping fangs came straight out of a nightmare.
The boy, however, approached it calmly and extended his arms as though intending to embrace it. The thing gurgled with pleasure and wrapped its sinewy arms around him. Then, with a single bound, they took flight.
“Get in the air, Holly.” Root barked into the comlink. “Don’t lose track of him.”
She didn’t bother with an affirmative. He settled into the pilot’s seat and began to ease the shuttle away from the ground after making sure the protective shields were still in place.
“What are you going to do?” Mulch gulped.
Root gripped the joystick grimly. “We…we are going to find out exactly where he’s going. And what it was that we just saw.”
When the summoned monster deposited him in the shadows near the gates of Kaiba’s mansion, Bakura glanced around, considering his options. For a brief moment, he considered just walking up to the guard on duty and telling him that he was expected. But he almost instantly discarded it. The guard would check the information with Kaiba, and besides, Where’s the fun in that?
Instead, with the agility of a monkey, he began to climb the wall, eyes darting, scanning for sensors, bolstering his efforts with magic. Not much; he didn’t want anyone to know he was coming. And besides, if he relied on magic, he would get rusty. That was a good way to get dead. At the top of the fence, he laughed at the spikes and slipped between them with the ease of the cats he had once revered in ancient Egypt.
Bakura was thoroughly enjoying himself.
The estate was well protected. Guards patrolled the entire premises, and Bakura was certain he heard the growling of dogs once or twice. There were sensors crisscrossing the lawn where there were no guards, and cameras in the most unexpected places. An ordinary thief would have been snared before he even touched ground. Fortunately (or unfortunately), Bakura was no ordinary thief.
He easily avoided the traps, snares, and guards and came up next to the dining room window. He could vaguely hear voices through the glass. Then, he had to duck down hurriedly, because Seto Kaiba was standing at the window. He was talking to someone Bakura could not see.
This was no good. There was no point in eavesdropping if he could not hear what was being said. He could use his gift, but the thorn-in-his-side Pharaoh would sense it. At this point, there was also a chance Kaiba might.
Just as he was contemplating how he might get into the house, Kaiba abruptly left the window. With his ear pressed against the wall under the sill, Bakura heard something that sounded like, “I need a drink.”
Bakura smirked. But Kaiba’s drinking habits were certainly convenient. The thief could hear the sound of footsteps, and when he risked a quick peak, the dining room was empty.
He waited for three minutes. Kaiba was a clever one, and it was possible he had seen Bakura and was lying in wait. But despite Bakura’s keen hearing, the room continued to seem empty. He made his decision. With cobra-quickness, he opened the window and entered the house.
With a thief’s instincts, he noted the valuable items in the room, but managed to refrain from touching. Now was not the time.
He heard voices again. Now they were clear.
“Fairies.” Yugi’s voice sounded rueful. “Well, I guess we’ve faced everything else.”
“Fowl’s files were certainly illuminating,” Kaiba said wryly.
There was a moment of silence during which Bakura strained forward to listen. Yes, my dear Kaiba, this is certainly “illuminating.”
Then Yugi’s voice: “What are you going to do?”
Kaiba sighed. “I don’t know.” Before tonight, Bakura would have bet his right hand and all his teeth (well, Ryou’s right hand and teeth) that Kaiba would rather be disemboweled than admit such a thing to anyone.
Then Kaiba’s voice got cold. “I think that I felt one of them in my office in Ireland. With my…magic. If so, they are observing me.”
“Normally, I’d say you were just being paranoid,” Yugi said. Bakura repressed a snort. Normally, Yugi would just smile nervously and stammer out some ingratiating nonsense. At least the Pharaoh had balls.
“But I think you’re right,” Yugi finished. “We need to find out more about this LEP, so we know what we’re facing.”
“We?” Kaiba’s tone was inscrutable.
“We.” Bakura could almost see the pharaoh taking over the body. Ra, about time. “Like it or not…”
“This is all destined to be,” Kaiba finished with a snort. “Spare me the lecture, Yugi.” There was a pause. “Pharaoh.”
First, I find out that fairies exist, then I find Kaiba believes in magic. Next thing you know, I’ll be in bed with the pharaoh. Bakura had to pause a moment to vigorously scrub that mental image out of his head. The very idea was…Bakura didn’t know a sufficiently strong adjective to describe it. Ugh!
He slipped across the room and left through the window. Now that he had dragged his mind out of the gutter, he was busy thinking about all he had learned. Illuminating indeed. His second thought, close on the heels of the first:
How can I turn this to my advantage?