The Final Murder: Part 10
"Two and a half more hours," I mumbled to myself as I stared at my reflection on the window. I breathed slowly and carefully, trying to stop my feelings of disaster from flip-flopping in my stomach. I felt so out of control, I was afraid that I would say something totally damning if I opened my mouth. So I sat quietly in the copilot's seat, trying not to run screaming for the hills (or stars in this case) while Duo sat unnecessarily in the pilot's chair, flying us to L2. I knew, just like he did, that the autopilot could take us almost to the doorstep before we would have to take over manually. He was trying to avoid a confrontation; I was trying to start one.
I didn't bother leaving Duo a message last night that I was at a motel. I just showed up at the spaceport at the time we planned, ready to board one of my unmarked private planes. From the time we took off until now, this feeling of...seduction has been in the air. I was somehow aware of every breath Duo took, how many times he licked his lips, the way he touched himself when he massaged his shoulders...just everything! He refused to even glance in my direction, so I had no idea what he was thinking about me. But I couldn't help feeling that his thoughts were on the same wavelength as mine.
We really needed to talk about this. I just didn't know how to begin.
It did provide me some comfort that Iria, Catherine and my son were already on the cruise to Saturn, safely out of harm's way. I hoped Trowa was at one of the mansions, but I couldn't be sure, and it was too much of a risk to call. He would track down our true destination in a heartbeat. Plus, I didn't know what Duo told Heero about this, and I wasn't going to ask. Things between them were already strained, and I didn't want to get into the middle of that.
I jumped, startled at the fact that Duo spoke rather than what he said. I expected Krahe to show up. After all, with Duo and I together it would be surprising if he didn't. But I didn't expect Duo to say anything to me about it. We haven't spoken to each other at all today, and I figured we wouldn't for the rest of the flight. Guess I was wrong.
"Ignore him," I answered back, placing my feet on the console and crossing them at the ankles. I folded my hands behind my head and leaned back in my seat, easily remaining calm now that it was confirmed he was here. Duo continued to fly, either heeding my advice or pretending to play it cool. I could feel Krahe smirking at us, I guess amused at our show of indifference, but I didn't care. More important things were on my mind. So I continued to stare into space, trying to think of a way to acknowledge what both of us were feeling and resolve it. The tension was building, and if we didn't do something...oh the consequences. Krahe will just have to wait for his turn.
Another twenty minutes passed by and still nothing. Duo hasn't said another word, and Krahe's presence has changed from being amused to bored. I was still at a complete loss as to how to deal with my attraction to Duo (besides giving in) and was even less prepared to deal with his reaction, whatever that may be. Every time I've tried to talk to him about this, he's run away from it. And from me. Now that he didn't have a place to run to, I wasn't sure what he would do instead. I wouldn't put it past him to crash the plane if it suited his purposes. "Duo–"
That was as far as I got. Duo stomped his foot, quickly flipped the switch to autopilot and strode out of the cockpit, slamming the door behind him. Furious, I made to follow him, only to find that I couldn't open the cockpit door. I didn't know what he did to it, but that made my anger boil over. I was tired of him acting like a two year old!
"Duo! Whatever you did to this door, undo it."
"I didn't mean now, but right now!"
Still no response.
"Damnit Duo! You're acting like a child!" I screamed, jumping up and down. "We have to talk about this. Ignoring the problem doesn't solve it!"
Apparently, I was talking to myself.
"Ugh! Fine! Be that way!" I swung around and saw Krahe sitting in the copilot's seat, one eyebrow raised with a slight smirk on his face. It was the first time in six years that I've seen him, so I studied his face. He still looked seventeen. His skin was creamy white, not the look of decaying flesh, and his hair was that shade of light brown that looked like honey, flowing down to the tops of his ears. But his ice blue eyes were as piercing as ever. I swear he was able to see through me. Wow. He hasn't changed one bit. And the feeling of seduction intensified tenfold now that we were alone. I felt like a child molester.
Snarling at him, I stomped to the pilot's seat and plopped down, crossed my arms and stared ahead, bent on ignoring everything around me. I could feel his eyes studying me like I studied him, and I allowed it. He reached out and ran the back of his fingers against my stubby cheek, and I allowed that as well. It seemed like we were at a truce from last night, and I wasn't going to risk upsetting that. Yet.
"You've changed," he said, drawing his hand back. "You're like a man now."
"I am a man."
I heard him shift in the chair. "I meant that you got older."
My voice softened at his aggressive tone. I didn't want to upset him at this point. "Yes, I did."
"But you're still the same."
I blinked. "What?"
"You're still the same Quatre," he said, relief flooding his voice. "You're still you."
I flinched. It felt like a door had been slammed closed behind me, sealing me and my fate together. Krahe was thinking about leaving me alone. He was ready to give me up. But something I did, or didn't do, made him believe I was still worth the effort.
"Krahe–" I turned to his seat and found it empty. Crap.
I heard a few jingles and clicks before the cockpit door opened and Duo popped his head in. "Come on, help me finish loading up. Then we could get in disguise. It's going to take a while to finish everything. Oh yeah, Krahe's gone." He slammed the door shut.
I rolled my eyes. He acted as if I wouldn't notice Krahe left. What I did notice though, was that the air of seduction was gone, minus a small amount. Krahe instigated a majority of it, that I knew for certain now. Duo was right about that. But Krahe wasn't the only piece of the puzzle.
Some of it hovered with Duo.
The rest of it stayed with me.
He wouldn't have been able to manipulate us if something wasn't there in the first place.
"Keep it steady, keep it steady," I repeated in my Boston-accent as another spaceport employee and I were rolling the coffin down the ramp. Inside the coffin laid the bodies of my deceased attackers with rounds of ammunition, guns, grenades, and other goodies keeping them company. Right now I was posing as a baggage handler, my hair hidden in my cap and my eyes a dark shade of brown, while Duo acted as a selfish son-in-law who wanted his father-in-law buried in the worst place imaginable, far away from him and his wife. His eyes were a bitter shade of brown, and he looked strange dressed in a three-piece striped suit, his hair hidden in a rimmed hat, making him look like one of those gangsters from the nineteen twenties. He was right about acting that part; there was no way I was going to be able to pull off a look like that.
"Jeez, what did this guy weigh, five hundred pounds?" the employee--Brad--complained.
"Yeah, that's what I heard," I said, feeding my story. "Yep, keeled over because he was so fat his heart couldn't take it."
Oh Allah, if his eyes get any bigger I will laugh. I'm not kidding. "Not only that, that son of a bitch married his daughter to get the family's money. That's how he can afford this plane."
"Hey you!" Duo yelled, pointing at me. "Yeah, you. Get my bags off my plane you idiot!"
"You better go on," I said, turning towards Brad. "There's another one at the east gate that needs unloading." Not wanting to deal with an irate customer, he nodded, sprinting off to the next gate. I quickly braced the coffin in the back of the hearse, hoping to prevent it from bouncing around as we drive. Duo stood beside me, pretending he was supervising my actions while he talked.
"The director agreed to let me park the plane on the west end for the next two days," Duo said. "That should be enough time."
"I agree," I said, carefully closing the doors. "Let's change then go."
Five minutes later two black-suited, sunglass-wearing drivers slid into the hearse. Duo gently eased our way off the tarmac and out of the spaceport to the 'cemetery.' No one paid us any mind nor noticed our presence as we turned in the wrong direction, heading downtown instead of towards the country. The plan had gone off without a hitch.
I watched as the dye ran down the side of the tub and not in my hair. Again. I sighed, realizing that I was making more of a mess than anything else. Of course, we were in one of the poorest and dirtiest motels L2 had to offer, so I couldn't feel too bad about the mess I was making. Still, it was a waste of dye, and it meant I would have to stay bent over longer, having nothing to look at but the side of the tub. I'd rather be at home with my son and Trowa.
Trowa. I couldn't help the sense of grief I felt at leaving him behind. But I was nervous about going back. Despite all of the time we've been together and all that we've been through, I had no clue how he would react once I've told him everything. In all the time we've been married, we've never had a fight. Sure, we've had disagreements, but it wasn't anything a little sex from me couldn't persuade...
I couldn't help smirking at that.
My smirk turned into a frown when I tried to think of his reaction. He will be angry with me of course. That much was obvious. But what if he couldn't forgive me? I didn't think I could stand it if he would rather sleep outside than in the bed with me. What if he decided I could never be trusted again? Worse yet, what if he wanted to leave me?
My thoughts were thrown off track when Duo barged into the bathroom, chewing his potato chips loudly and complaining. "Jeez Cat, did you want to get some in your hair?" he said with a lot of humor in his voice. It was good to hear. "Here, let me do it. I only bought one bottle and it looks like you wasted half!"
"Not half, but maybe a third," I grumbled.
"Why didn't you call me to help? I thought you knew what you were doing."
"Why would I know how to dye my hair?"
"Hell, you know how to cross-stitch. I figured you'd know how to do this too."
"Well, as you can see, I don't."
"No shit sherlock."
The next few moments were spent in silence as he worked the coloring dye through my hair, the occasional sigh slipping from either him or me. The way his fingers were running along my scalp relaxed me to the point where the side of the tub was the only thing holding me upright on my knees. After a few more moments Duo's hands started to slow down, and I figured he was just about done. But as he ran his fingers through one last time, I thought I felt a butterfly kiss on the back of my neck. We both stilled. After some time, he broke the silence. "Rinse your hair out under the sink," he said hoarsely.
I obliged, not once risking a look at him. I felt hot and bothered all over, and the sexual tension was pressing down on us with the weight of the stars. I was at that point, I really was, where he could've asked anything of me and I would've gladly given him what he wanted. Even my body if he-- "Eeh! That's cold!" I jumped back, inadvertently flinging water everywhere.
"Ah! Quatre! Why didn't you turn on the hot water?!"
"Piece of shit motel!" he spat, trying to shake the cold water off his clothes. "Hey, finish rinsing that out. And stop flinging water everywhere!"
"I can't help it. It's giving me goosebumps!"
"Then hurry up!"
As I finished rinsing our banter went back and forth, and it was only a matter of seconds before everything was right again. Duo grabbed a towel for my hair and started to vigorously rub, acting like an annoyed older brother. That was such a relief.
"Okay, here we go...wow Quatre. Look at yourself." He had this awe-struck look on his face.
"What?" I turned to look in the mirror... "Oh."
"You look fuckin' great," he said.
I hated to admit it, but he was right. I wanted my hair dyed black for the next part of our plan. A wig or a hat would've been impractical. Anyway, my hair was black to the point where it shined, and the dye also added some body. My pale complexion was a great contrast, and once Duo had dyed my eyebrows and eyelashes with a toothbrush, the look was nearly complete. Running around with my hair loose wasn't practical either (not to mention a pain) so I dug around the room, found a rubberband and put my hair in a high ponytail. Better. I put on the brown contacts I had on earlier, and stared at myself in shock while Duo whistled in appreciation. I still recognized the shape of my face, but I looked like a totally different person.
"Let's clean up," Duo finally said.
So the next half hour was spent fine-tuning things. We both cleaned ourselves up as best as could be tolerated with no hot water. After that Duo and I dressed. He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black jeans with boots. He pulled the hood up over his head to hide his hair and part of his face. I couldn't see them, but I was sure he was armed and then some. I was dressed in black as well, but I wore a T-shirt instead with a jacket over that, hiding three of Duo's guns, seven hand grenades, and my Bowie with a few clips strapped to my chest. Jeans and boots completed my look for tonight. Then we cleaned the room up and packed our things, trying to leave as little evidence as possible that we were ever here.
Soon enough we were done. Our first night here we were going to do surveillance. I wanted to get a head count of how many men Hrncir had, what other scams he might have running, who was innocent and who wasn't, and how we could take him out without drawing attention to it. Lastly, I still wanted to know what happened to the man I hired to be his boss, Zuern. Now that I was here, I had the unmistakable feeling he was dead.
Despite how much Duo whined, I thought it would be best if we went on foot tonight. I couldn't tell you why, but I felt that walking the streets would give me a better impression of what I was up against, hiding places that might help or hinder me, sniper spots, and where one could hide a body for half a year where no one would find it.
"Okay Duo. Find us another motel to stay at tonight and do what you gotta do. I'm going out."
"I don't like this," he said in a growl. "Quatre, this isn't L4. People here look after themselves. They're not going to help you if someone is stupid enough to try and mug you."
"I won't be the one needing help," I said coldly. "I'm quite capable of handling myself Duo. Please, just find someplace else for us to stay. We payed for the night here, so we shouldn't be checked on 'til tomorrow morning, and I want to be long gone."
"Fine," he all but snarled. "You've got four hours. I'll pick you up on Tin Pan Alley." 
"Four hours," I confirmed, then took the necessary steps through the door and out into the night.
The next two hours were spent meandering the streets. By then I knew every street, alley, pothole and dark corner from Eel St., where the motel was, to Tin Pan Alley, where we first met Hrncir at the abandoned auto garage. So far I've concluded that my biggest advantage were the people. Just like Duo said, these people were determined to mind their own business. I could be running down the street in broad daylight with a bazooka over my shoulder and they would not even think to glance in my direction. My disadvantage was that the buildings here were built pretty much the same, so if I wasn't careful I could easily mistake one building for another in the dark. And if I'm charging down the street at full speed in an attempt to avoid catching a bullet in my back, that mistake could be easily made.
The next hour was spent going in circles around the garage. There were six doors that lead out into the street, and depending on which one I would end up escaping through, I'll know what street I was on. On several of the buildings facing the doors, I made little arrows and symbols to inform me of where I was and what direction to go in.
The last hour was spent in an alley across the garage people-watching. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up from my irritation. I counted roughly twenty five goons to be Hrncir's people. A couple I recognized, but the rest fit the bill of people I felt he would employ. The men kept coming in and out of the building at irregular intervals, obviously chasing around the hookers that were outside, but there was no sign of Hrncir himself. Damn.
I checked my watch. Time's just about up. Duo should have been in and out of the garage several times now, and hopefully he has a rough blueprint of the building. I want to know how to get out of there when the time came to run. Plus, if he took any longer, I would have to leave on foot.
Just as the thought passed an old gray Oldsmobile crept into view and pulled into the alley. I quickly hopped in and we carefully drove through the alley and out the other end. I glanced back in the direction we came from to make sure no one noticed me stepping out of the shadows and into a car that shouldn't have known I was there. I didn't see anyone looking after us, but that didn't mean a thing.
"Got bad news Quatre," Duo said easily enough. "I felt like someone was tailing me, so I didn't check into a motel. I found us a house the size of a bathroom to squat in tonight. At least we won't have to worry about cold water."
"Why, is there hot water?"
"Don't be silly," he said cheerfully. "This time, we don't have water at all!"
"Oh joy!" I cheered, bouncing in my seat. "Does this mean I'm actually 'roughing it'?"
"Eww, don't ever act that way again," he said, face a mixture of a grimace and a smile. "That was as scary as Wufei singing in one of his drunken moments."
"Alright alright, I'll stop." I couldn't help chuckling to myself. Then I got down to business. "I figured there's about twenty five guys. How about you?"
"I figured twenty three. It was hard to tell with all those hookers about. Hrncir's people wouldn't stand still long enough for me to make sure I wasn't counting someone twice, the bastards."
I rolled my eyes. Leave it to Duo to expect people to stay still when he's trying to count them, steal from them or kill them. "Let's go over the layout and everything else tomorrow, okay? I'm really tired, and I won't remember a thing you'll tell me."
"Sounds good to me. I was just about to suggest the same thing."
The next twenty minutes went by in silence. The road to...wherever we were going was nice and bumpy, so I had been rocked to sleep some time before we arrived. When we did, I almost unhinged my jaw when it dropped to the ground. Duo wasn't kidding about the size of this place. I was afraid that we would step through the front door and right out the back at the same time. It was that small! And to think it looked this bad at night. I didn't want to think about how it looked during the day.
All of a sudden I felt my nose tingle, and I knew someone was watching us. Without any thought, I ran over to Duo and grabbed his arm before he could say anything. With more force than I meant, I flung him through the door of the house and slammed it shut. Amazingly, it did have a bolt lock. So I locked the door and Duo and I dropped down on our stomachs with our guns drawn, aiming at the door.
At first, nothing happened. Our silence was met with silence. Then a whistle, almost like the call of a bird, sounded. Recognizing that sound, I rolled to the left and tracked Duo rolling to the right. Suddenly, the sound of a Jati-Matic submachine gun  filled the air, riddling the walls with holes and threatening to burst my eardrums. I let go of my guns and curled into a ball, covering my head with my arms as pieces of the disintegrating door, lock, and wall fell over me. I vaguely heard over the gun the sound of the door being kicked down, and I blindly started to reach for my gun to fire back. I jumped slightly when I felt a scorching heat that could only have come from a fired weapon above my ear. Looking up I froze, staring at the gun barrel aimed between my eyes. Eventually, my eyes slowly raised to the gunman's hand, arm and then shoulder, before finally reaching his face.
It was Wufei.
 Tin Pan Alley is a song by Stevie Ray Vaughn, a blues singer (I think). Song's about this place called Tin Pan Alley, and all of the terrible stuff he saw the inhabitants do to each other while he was there.
I have been informed by a reader that Tin Pan Alley is a real place! It's located in London, England. Isn't that just kewl?!?! Another example of life imitating art! Or is it the other way around?
 Here's a picture of the Jati-Matic. I don't know much about this gun, except it has a magazine capacity of 20 to 40 rounds, and fires a shitload of rounds a minute. (shitload=alot).