Blood or Chocolate?
Chapter 4: Michael Mooney Was Mauled At Midnight
In no time at all we arrived at my house. I figured Meizer would have to take some sort of statement from me, so I told him to come on in and asked how many sugars he wanted with his coffee. I kicked off my shoes, turned the TV on to some ball game, got the coffee pot going and fixed us a couple of sandwiches. Hey, all that running made a lazy bum like me very hungry.
“Here you are Your Highness,” I said as I brought his plate in. “Shall I cut your meat too?”
“Duo, you are something el--oh my god, you’re bleeding!”
“Eh?” I looked myself over but didn’t see any blood.
“Duo! For heaven’s sake, right here.” He grabbed my right arm and had me bend it at the elbow. On the underside of my forearm I had a large red scrap, with dried blood crusting it.
“Oh for hell’s sake Cob! It’s not bad. You had me thinking I was gushing blood out my ass or something.”
“Here, let me get the med kit. I’ll be right back.”
“It’ll be fine! Come back here.” It didn’t do any good. He dashed out and a hot second later he was back, acting like he was my personal EMT. After he cleaned it, he found a clean washrag and got some ice for me to hold over it. I endured this with much dignity--and taunting--as I could. “Are you finished Mother Teresa?”
“Why are you giving someone who’s trying to help you such a hard time?”
“Why be so concerned now? Who was the one that shot out my two front teeth with a bee-bee gun and bought my silence with ice cream?” I asked with a smile. “I was bleeding all over the place. Didn’t bother you then.”
“And you still told on me.”
“How the hell was I supposed to explain my shortage of teeth and a swollen nose?”
“You could have said you fell.”
“You know I don’t lie. Even then I didn’t.”
“Yeah, I know.” He looked up at me and our eyes locked. That was the clincher for me: eye contact. If I had solid eye contact with someone, I could see, however fleeting, every thought in his or her head. And I could see Meizer was having a serious battle. He wanted nothing more than to throw me down on the floor and have his wicked way with me. But then he thought of his family, their disapproval and outright disowning of him if they ever found out he was gay. He wouldn’t try to keep his love for me a secret, and that touched me at the same time as it saddened me. This was a small town with its small town ways. Tsubarov may give me a hard time, but he wouldn’t dare do it in sight of another human being.
I closed my eyes and lowered my head, trying to banish the images I saw in his head. I heard him sigh, and felt his head gently rest against mine. “What did you see?”
Meizer knew something of my ‘ability,’ as I call it. He’s known since we were kids. He didn’t understand it, but he did accept it. Another reason why I trusted him. “I saw everything,” I said.
“Good,” he whispered. “I needed you to know.”
“Don’t say it.” He cut me off. “Don’t. I-I I know.” He paused. “I’m sorry Septem’s such an asshole.”
“I could care less about him Cob. Really, the man’s eight hundred years old. He’s bound to die any day now.”
He chuckled, then sobered. “I’m sorry I didn’t beat Alex there.”
“Don’t worry about that either,” I said, sitting up and therefore breaking our head-to-head contact. “How we feel about each other is never going to change. He blames me for his twin brother, I blame him for my parents.” I shrugged. “This is a battle we’re carrying to the grave, man. Don’t try to get between us.”
He sighed and dropped the subject. “Okay Duo. What happened this afternoon?”
It didn’t take long to give my side of the story. He spared a few minutes afterward to ask about Howard and Hilde, and I asked how his family was doing. We were yakking it up so much I went ahead and walked him to the car. As we were standing there talking, his radio crackled to life, scaring the shit outta me.
“Yeah, this is dispatch. Gotta call from Black Creek Rd. Mooney’s bull broke out of his fence again. Been running around since the middle of the night, neighbor said. They need some help getting him back in.”
“Alright. I’ll send over Mueller and Alex.” I clapped my hands over my mouth to smother my laughing. He gave me a wink. “Is that everything?”
“Good.” He tossed the radio into the car.
“Hey, aren’t you supposed to say ‘10-4' and use codenames and all that other stuff?”
“Yes,” he said, getting into the car. “But I don’t have time for all that shit.” As he started the car, I chuckled quietly to myself. He always appeared to be so controlled and sophisticated, but every once in a while he showed his true colors. “If you need anything,” he stressed, “let me know.”
“I will,” I said and waved as he backed out my driveway and headed towards Septem’s.
I turned back to my own house, and compared it to the one across the road. Where their siding was yellow and peeling, mine was beige and neat. The steps were white and the paint only a month old. The windows, shaped almost like Bugs Bunny’s eyes, were so clean they were invisible to the naked eye. The door was bright red, a nice contrast with the beige, and the little garden Hilde planted in the windows was growing green and strong. The front porch was freshly painted also, and the rocking chair was at home to the door’s left. Feeling like I won a pissing contest in the house department, I trotted back inside to take a nap. I stretched out on the couch, turned the TV down (but not off, I always slept with the TV on), and fluffed my pillow. I closed my eyes and waited to fall asleep.
/ I lost my scent--I mean, my way back /
Why the hell did that bother me so much?
I woke when I heard the doorbell, and then knocking. I rolled myself off the couch (which meant I fell on the floor) and after a year or so I gained the energy to crawl to the door. Still on my knees, I opened the door and-
“Good morning Duo,” Quatre said, all cheerfulness. He was fully dressed now in caramel slacks and a blue polo shirt that almost matched his eyes. The brown-haired man was with him, still dressed as he was before. At least they had shoes on: Quatre, brown loafers, the other one, white Converse Chucks with thick black laces.
“Morning?” I asked when my brain caught up. “What the hell time is it?”
“Six in the evening. Ignore Quatre, he’s just being an ass,” the banged-boy said in his deep, slightly accented voice. He held a hand out to me. I took it, and he hauled me to my feet. Christ he was strong!
“Duo, Trowa. Trowa, Duo.” Quatre made fast work of the introductions.
“What’s this marriage my niece is talking about?”
“I think someone needs coffee,” Quatre commented. “Where are your shoes Duo?”
“Shoes. You know, those things you put on your feet. Where are they?”
“Oh, the hell with it. He should be fine in his socks.”
“Wait, I see them. In the corner by the TV.”
“Ah.” Quatre made quick work sticking them on my feet. “Done!”
“Okay. Let’s go.”
They half-carried me down the steps, and I was seated in the back. It wasn’t until they had backed out my driveway, turned off the road and were a good five minutes into the drive when their words caught up to me. “Go? Go where?”
“Yep, someone definitely needs coffee.”
Trowa only nodded.
Turned out we were on our way to Howard’s. During the drive I became a little more alert, so when we pulled up I noticed that something was very wrong. I had to have my shields up and bolted into place if I was going to function. The bar was jammed packed, and it felt like everybody’s mind was worked up in a tizzy. The weight of it all made me stumble as I got out the car, and it was Trowa’s quick grab that saved me from making out with the asphalt. Quatre gave me a very concerned glance, his earlier cheerfulness gone at the raised voices from the bar.
“We need to find out what’s going on, Quatre,” Trowa said, quietly.
“Alright. But any funny business and we’re out of here.”
I opened the front door and just about elbowed my way in. After I gave a few nasty jabs, the patrons made a little path and allowed us to migrate through. Once inside, I waved down Sylvia, who got the three of us the only booth left. It was in the back corner of the bar, where the lighting didn’t completely reach. I felt like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.
“So what’s this about guys? Why the field trip?” I asked, trying to break the obvious tension the other two were having. They welcomed the distraction.
“Well, this is a mini ‘thank you’ for helping Mariemaia today,” Quatre said. “We were out looking for her when we came upon the road and saw you and the cop leaving.”
He was looking for her half-naked and barefoot? To each his own, I guess. “Oh, you don’t have to thank me. I was more than happy to-oh, oh! You’re her Uncle Trowa!” I said, smacking myself on the forehead. “Sorry man, I’m not normally this slow.”
“It’s alright. You wouldn’t have been able to get her out of trouble if you were. I swear that girl...” he said, smiling fondly. “You weren’t slow that first night either...” He looked me directly in the eye. No point in pretending it didn’t happen, I guess.
“Yeah, sorry about that. It’s just... this is a small town. Everybody knows everybody, and newcomers... I was just curious.”
“So were we,” he said. I heard the hidden meaning, but I didn’t understand it. I wanted to ask about the other man (god!) he was with, however I didn’t. I knew I’d turn into a slobbering dog if he told me something I wanted to hear, like he was single, gay, a nympho...
“Well, how ‘bout we start over?” I held my hand out. “Name’s Duo. Duo Maxwell.” Just like Quatre and Heero, Trowa looked at it and waited. I sighed, rolled my eyes and dropped my hand. Then I laughed.
“What’s so funny, Duo?” Trowa didn’t look mad, only mildly curious.
“Sorry Trowa, just... Heero and Quatre did the same thing when I introduced myself to them. You know, I have to ask: where are you guys from?” I couldn’t think of any civilized place where no one would recognize the sign of a handshake.
“Europe,” Trowa said evasively.
“Europe,” I echoed. That was pretty... vague. “Where in Europe? That’s a continent, not a country.”
“All over,” Quatre said in a dreamy way. “We were everywhere: England, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland...” He sighed. “It was so beautiful there. Plenty of room, food, water and sun. You would’ve loved it, Duo.”
“Yeah, I bet. I’ve seen pictures.”
“Pictures don’t do it justice, believe me.”
“Then what made you guys come here of all places?”
“The governments in those countries were getting very... oppressive,” Quatre said with a frown. “It wasn’t safe for us to stay there anymore.” He gave me an apologetic look. He wanted to say more, but couldn’t.
“Hey Hilde,” I called as she whisked by me. She dropped off someone’s refill before coming back to my table.
“Sorry Duo. Sylvia told me you were here. It’s just been crazy!”
“Don’t worry about it, Hil. Here, let me introduce you.” I stood and put my arm around her waist, facing Trowa and Quatre. I knew the blond knew who Hilde was to me, but it wouldn’t hurt to give proper introductions. “Trowa, Quatre, this is my sister Hilde. Hilde, this is Trowa and Quatre. They also live across the cemetery at the old Jenkins’ place.” They went through their ‘hellos’ and ‘how are yous.’ I sat back down. “Hey Hil, what’s going on? Bar’s gettin’ kinda rowdy and Howie looks like he’s about to begin his own ass-kicking contest. Is there a beer shortage I don’t know about?”
“No dork.” She thumped me on the head. “Did you hear about Michael Mooney?”
“Mooney? Yeah, his bull got out again. Neighbor was pissed.”
“No! He’s dead!”
That stopped me cold. “What?”
“Yes!” she hissed. “His neighbor called the police for help to get the bull back into the fence and repair it. But then they saw blood on its hooves. They called the town vet to see to the bull’s injuries, but they didn’t find any. When Mooney didn’t answer the front door, they went around back and found his body all cut up.” She made slicing motions with her hand. “The police are stumped. They don’t know what kind of animal could have done that.”
“Animal?” Trowa and Quatre said in unison. They sounded a bit alarmed.
“Yeah!” Hilde soaked up the attention. “It looked like he was clawed to death! I mean, I know we’re out in the country, but we certainly don’t have bears running about!”
“Hey Hilde! We need another pitcher!” one of the patrons shouted.
“Alright!” she shouted back. “You guys want anything? It’s on the house.”
“We’ll have whatever Duo is having,” Quatre said when it became obvious Trowa wasn’t going to answer.
“You got it. Three Drafts coming up!”
Hilde got our beers, smacked me around like every sister did to her brother, and was gone again. Trowa and Quatre remained quiet for the next twenty minutes, obviously contemplating something important. In fact, they looked downright upset. Trowa occasionally took a good gulp of his beer, finishing it off in about ten minutes. Quatre, I pegged immediately as a non-beer drinker. Every sip was followed by a grimace, and I had to turn my head away or else he would’ve seen me laughing at him.
Their pensiveness and silence intrigued the hell outta me. The problem with being able to read people’s thoughts was that I was always tempted to do it. Why ask and risked being lied to when you could pop in and see for yourself? But I tried to resist anyway, saying to myself that I wouldn’t like someone intruding on my thoughts, whether I knew it or not. Unfortunately, the temptation to do so was swinging from my balls, and I could only ignore it for so long.
So, pretending to be drinking my beer, I closed my eyes and decided to focus on Trowa. Sorry Quatre, but I’d like to keep my head on my shoulders, thanks. Letting my shield down, I gathered my strength, centered my ‘sight,’ and–
--got blown right out of the booth.
The distance I covered was impressive. On a scale of one to ten, I would give it a seven and a half. I landed on the floor by a rowdy table of six, and the entire bar stopped and looked around to see who threw me. Hilde slammed her tray of drinks on the counter and damn near appeared spontaneously at my side. Howard and Sylvia were right behind her, while Trowa and Quatre loomed above them. I saw Trowa’s eyes go slightly glassy, and Quatre pulled him away from us. Sylvia pulled a handkerchief seemingly out her ass, and Hilde pressed it against my nose. Howard helped me stand up, and I felt awful all over again. The whole bar was looking at Trowa and Quatre, waiting for me to step forward and begin the brawl.
“Sorry about that,” I announced to the crowd. My voice was muffled through the handkerchief. “I need to watch how fast I drink my beer.” I shrugged sheepishly, trying to appear embarrassed for ‘falling on my face.’ The patrons bought it and went back to whatever they were doing. Howard and Hilde didn’t buy it for a second. Trowa and Quatre were watching me wearily.
“Take him home,” Howard told Hilde, none too gently. “Stay with him.”
“But Uncle Howard, it’s too busy for Sylvia to handle by herself.”
“Don’t worry about that sweetheart. I’ll take care of it.” Trowa and Quatre were on either side of me, to help carry me out. Hilde trailed right behind them. Once we were near the door, Howard stood up on the bar and whistled, getting the customers’ attention. “Everyone, look at me.” He waited a beat, and made sure he had everyone’s attention. “Thank you all for your business,” he said. “Now get out.”
Quatre and Trowa followed us home, then helped me into the house. As soon as I was situated, they made a hasty retreat. From there I napped a good hour, and woke up to the smell of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and greens. Starving, I dashed into the kitchen and did my best impersonation of a human vacuum. I had just made my second helping when Howard came over. He didn’t even fix himself a plate before he got on my case.
Hilde and I were sitting at the kitchen table, across from each other. There was an empty seat between us that Howard usually sat in. He quickly dropped himself into his chair as Hilde got up and went to the stove. “What was today all about?” he nearly shouted. “ ‘I need to watch how fast I drink my beer?’ Boy, if there is anyone that can handle their liquor, it’s you. You drink beer like it’s your sole purpose on this Earth.”
“Howie, it’s complicated,” I said, massaging my forehead.
“Then it’s a good thing I have all night!” he snapped, murmuring a quiet ‘thank you’ to Hilde as she sat a plate down in front of him. She returned to her seat and sat patiently, waiting as well for me to explain.
I sighed. “We have new neighbors.”
“I’m aware,” he said.
“No,” I snapped at his tone. “You met three of them. There are more.” He remained quiet, but his glare told me to get a move on. “The blue-eyed Japanese man and the two women were the beginning. The two that were with me tonight also live there, as well as a seven-year-old girl.” Both Hilde and Howard raised their eyebrows. “Meizer and I were by there today, bringing the little girl home. While there, I felt... others. Many others.”
“Why the hell were you bringing the girl home in the first place?”
“Later Uncle Howard,” Hilde interrupted. “How many others, Duo?”
“I’m not sure. I’m having a hard time getting a fix. When I try to read their thoughts, I get hurt.” I shrugged lamely.
“Is that what happened tonight?” Howard asked.
“That was pretty violent,” he commented, digging into his food. “From what I could tell from over the years, when you do... what you do... the person can’t feel it.”
“That’s the thing, Howie!” I jumped up and started pacing the kitchen, gesturing wildly as I spoke. “It only happens when I try to read their thoughts! I read Meizer’s today with no problem! I heard Tsubarov’s as clear as a bell! It took almost all of my energy to shut out everyone at the bar, but when I tried to read Trowa’s thoughts,” I didn’t care if he knew who Trowa was or not, “I thought I got my head caved in! That’s never happened to me before and I don’t understand why!” I stopped and faced them. “What the hell makes them so different?!”
“I don’t know kiddo,” he said, biting into his chicken. “Maybe they’re superhuman.”
That comment stopped me cold. I was angry, I was irritated, I was frustrated, and that was exactly what I did not need to hear. “I’m going to get beer,” I mumbled. I walked purposely out of the kitchen, grabbed my keys and stomped into my shoes. Hilde followed me out. She wanted to say something but was having difficulty finding the words. She made eye contact with me so that I could see for myself, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t. There were two minds I will never read: Howard’s and Hilde’s. To me, that was like walking in on your parents having sex. It was something too personal to intrude on.
“Do I need to pick up anything?” I asked instead.
She was silent. “No.”
“Be back soon.”
“You know I will.”
We kissed, then I walked out, relaxing as soon as I was out in the night. I slid into Deathscythe, lit a cigarette, then shot out onto the road like a bullet.
I wish I was able to tell the future. Otherwise, I would’ve kept my ass at home.