Almost-lime warning. Is there such a thing?
The Final Murder: Part 12
/ I was falling through the ice. /
/ Trowa waved goodbye. /
/ Duo stopped, but held his hand out, resigned. /
/ No! I don't want to go! /
I shot upright and gasped as if I had been held under water. At this point I was completely disoriented, not knowing what day it was, what time or even my name. I frantically looked around in an attempt to find something that would ground me. Nothing was familiar. I was in a bedroom, sleeping in a full-sized bed. That was it furniture wise. The sheets and blanket were white, the walls, beige. The window was about a foot higher from where I was on the bed, maybe four feet wide and two feet high, but the curtains were drawn.
Before I could get my mind to function, a long-haired man ran into the room with a gun in his hand. He seemed to be looking for someone. "Duo, what is it?" I asked, happy that my ‘just woken' amnesia was gone.
"Nothing I guess," he said, sticking the gun in the waistband of his jeans and sitting next to me on the bed. "I heard you gasp and thought someone was trying to strangle you again. Did you have a nightmare or something?"
"Not exactly," I said. "I mean, it wasn't a new one and it didn't scare me. I just felt...lost when I woke up."
"Hm. Do you want to talk about it?"
We always talked to each other about our nightmares, even after all these years. "Actually, there's nothing to talk about." I shrugged. "I guess all of the excitement from last night triggered that reaction."
"I'm sure it did. Hilde had to scrape me off the ceiling this morning when I woke up." He chuckled. "Going back into ‘soldier mode' has made me jumpy as all hell, and waking up in a new place didn't help."
"Where are we?"
"In a trailer park, can you believe it?" he said, excitement in his eyes. "I mean, Wufei and Trowa will never think to look for us here! I know it won't occur to Odin. It sure as hell didn't occur to me, and I used to live on this colony."
"A trailer park?" I said, amazed. "That would've never crossed my mind."
"I know. Those girls are geniuses!"
I laid back down. "You wouldn't admit that they were geniuses within earshot, so where are they?"
"Hilde's giving Dorothy a tour of L2 before going down to the police station," he said, flopping on his stomach next to me and shoving his gun under the pillow. "Apparently, they have their own plan. Dorothy's super pissed about Zuern's disappearance, so she's going to file a ‘missing person' report to find out what the hell happened."
"Yeah," I said, thinking back to when I first met Zuern. "Dorothy has known him for some time and she thought very highly of him. I'm sure she has taken his death as a personal insult. You know she doesn't give her respect freely."
"I know, but I couldn't help being surprised. I mean, Dorothy's not the ice queen she used to be, but she's still about as friendly as a hot poker up the ass. For her to be so...pissed, I was just shocked."
I stared at him. "You? Shocked? What did she do to shock you of all people?"
"Let's just say her use of profanity is as skilled as my own."
"So what's her story going to be?" I asked, becoming more amused with each passing second.
"She and Zuern were scheduled to have a meeting at his home about the charity, but he never returned her messages once she arrived."
Wait wait wait... "Duo, the police will contact Hrncir to ask about Zuern."
"And ask him to answer questions at the police station."
I sat up and flailed my arms around in emphasis as I talked. "So that would mean Hrncir would have to go to them to answer their questions--"
"And pull an alibi out of his ass--"
"--and while he's doing that they'll start a search for Zuern's body--"
"--which they'll hopefully find--"
"--and contact his men to check out his alibi--"
"--who will all be dead."
I stopped there. "And how will their deaths be explained?"
He shrugged. "I don't know Cat. That's the part I need you to figure out."
I let gravity pull me back down. My head bounced a few times on the pillow. "Give me a hard one why don't you."
"Shut up. You need the challenge."
"This is a terrible thing to say, but I want Hrncir dead Duo. I don't want him in a prison cell where he can still do some harm."
"Hrncir is not the threat Quatre. His money and those goons of his are. But once those idiots are dead and he's broke, he will be as much of a threat as a snail."
What Duo said rang completely true. Hrncir was no fighter. He counted on others to fight his fights for him. That didn't change the fact that he wasn't stupid unfortunately. "Alright. I'll go with this, but let's start from the beginning. You said there was going to be a meeting between Dorothy and Zuern. How would that be ‘set up' exactly?"
"Via email. Don't worry, the police will find the emails and the date planner with the appointment time."
"And how will the emails and planner make it on his computer and to his home?"
"That's why Dorothy and Hilde are doing the tour this morning."
I paused. "To plant evidence."
I paused again. "Well, they are quite capable of hacking and evidence-planting."
"Yes they are."
Okay. I think that part will work. "Well, Hrncir's men could've killed each other over the money, but we don't know where it is."
"I have Odin working on that."
Something ELSE I didn't know. "Since when?"
"Last night...er...this morning technically." I raised my eyebrows in surprise, and he gave me a hard look. "Hey, that money needs to be found and put where it's supposed to be."
"I know," I said, feeling Duo's defensiveness. "I wasn't challenging you, just surprised."
"Don't worry about it. Anyway, I'm still not comfortable with using the money as an excuse for them killing each other. Too many variables. Police would think that Hrncir was set up." I sighed, interlaced my fingers and rested my open palms on my forehead. "I need some time to think about this. When do you want to attack?"
"Tonight," Duo said, stretching out.
"Yeah, Wufei and Trowa probably scared everyone into looking for us by now."
"They will be the least of our problems. We will need to kill a bunch of people of the Hrncir persuasion under the nose of the police while they are looking for an important WEI employee under the watchful eye of Dorothy Catalonia, granddaughter of Duke Dermail. Plus, we have to make everything point to Hrncir and make out of this like we were totally unaware. I'm telling you Quatre, easy--this--will--not--be."
Ideas were running back and forth in my head, all having serious flaws. "I know. But seriously Duo, I'm going to need some time to think about this."
"Well, if we postponed everything until tomorrow, do you think that would be better?"
"No, I agree with you that it has to be tonight. We can't spare the time. That also has been Dorothy's traveling style. She always flew out, met with whomever, and went back to be at Relena's side in the same day. It would be odd if she broke...that...pattern..."
I rolled to my side, and was just about nose to nose with Duo. "I might have something, but I'm not sure yet. I'll have to ask her a few things."
Wrapped up in the bed with Duo, I felt like we were fifteen again. "What happened with you last night?"
He rubbed his nose. "I told them just about everything. I didn't say anything about our meeting with Hrncir, his threats or that package you sent him. I figured that was a bad idea. But they know the men responsible for hitting you that night after the carnival are dead, and pretty much figured that our ‘fight' was a coverup for the ass-kicking I got."
I sighed. It blew back Duo's bangs a little. "Well, our friends are many things, but stupid isn't one of them."
"Yeah, but it has its disadvantages."
I laughed. "Yes, it does."
"So, what happened with you last night?" he asked, poking me in the neck. "You look like you were attacked by a big-lipped, man-eating fish."
I clutched at my neck. "Oh no. Is it that obvious?"
"Quatre, they're glowing like a fuckin' disco ball."
"I didn't realize disco balls looked like hickeys."
"Shut up. You know what I mean."
"Crap. I can't get near anything resembling a camera. The media would have a field day, the vultures."
"Present company excepted, of course."
"Ch', I don't believe that shit for a minute. You can't look innocent grinning like that. Anyway, why worry about it? Just put some concealer on them and be done with it."
"Duo, I refuse to put makeup on any part of my body."
"Wear a turtleneck then."
"I don't have one."
"Ha! I guess you're shit out of luck."
We laid in companionable silence for some time. Duo was lightly dozing, and I laid partially awake, my mind still pulling up possible plans before discarding them in a mental wastebasket. Duo wasn't kidding. This was going to be tough to pull off. But if there was anyone who could find a way out, it was me.
I missed my son.
It hit me like a mile high tidal wave. My baby. Kitty. It's only been two days and yet it felt like a lifetime since I had my son in my arms. Heck, I was just with Trowa last night and that felt like years ago. I have to tread carefully. I have to fix this, so that we could still be a family. I didn't want my son to suffer for my stupidity...
I came back to my senses when I felt a light touch on my forehead. Duo was awake, lightly touching me with his fingertip, which had trailed down to the bridge of my nose, lips, and chin. A feeling of bottomless longing swept through me and I responded to the touch by rolling on top of him. I rubbed my face against his, and with one arm supporting me I ran the other down the side of his body to his knee, then up the inside of his thigh, over his hardening groin, and across his strong stomach. I forgot about being shirtless until I felt Duo's hands glide down my back where he cupped my butt. One of us moaned--I couldn't tell who--and Duo stuck his face in my neck. I slid my hand into his hair and was attempting to pull his head back for a kiss when he pushed me off. Unfortunately, he pushed me in the direction of the floor.
"Duo!" I screamed. Not only was the mood broken, I was mad, in pain, and slightly breathless from landing on my back. "What is wrong with you?!"
He stepped over me as if I wasn't there at all. Even angrier, I grabbed the leg of his jeans and nearly made him fall. He grabbed the doorframe and braced himself as he tried to kick his leg free. I wasn't having that. I held on and was jerked back and forth on the carpeted floor.
"Damnit to hell Quatre, let go!"
"Not until you apologize! What was that for?!"
With one vicious kick I lost my grip. He gave me this condescending look that I couldn't believe he was aiming at me. "You smell like Trowa," he said.
I was HURT. Hurt that I didn't think about Trowa when I wanted Duo, and hurt that Duo would throw it in my face as if I was the only one at fault. Then I was angry for the same reasons.
"Get away from me," I said.
"That's what I was trying to do in the first place."
I waited for a few seconds before I turned to the doorway and found it empty. I got up and closed the door, but stared at the wood. I couldn't believe him. Duo never made me feel that way before. He's never hurt me like that. How could he?
Then I heard the door open and close, and for some reason thought that he was going to leave me with this mess. Angrier than before, I nearly ripped the door off its hinges opening it, and found myself about to pound Dorothy and Hilde into the dirt. "Oh, hey guys," I said, not even trying to sound as if nothing was wrong.
"You okay Quatre?" Hilde asked. "You looked like you were about to rip someone apart."
"Yeah," Dorothy agreed, looking at Duo who was standing across from me in the living room area. I guess he thought I was about to abandon him too. "Did you two have a fight?"
"Yes," Duo said without hesitation. "But don't interfere. We will solve it on our own."
"Okay," the girls agreed, and really didn't try to interfere. They set about laying out our supplies and weapons. The guns Duo and I brought with us were fortunately left in the trunk of the car after Duo buried the two men sent from Hrncir. That turned out to be a plus; Wufei was going to be watching that house, waiting for us to return. So we couldn't go back for anything left behind.
Once the rounds were counted and the guns were cleaned, Hilde went into the kitchen to fix something to eat. I sat on the couch with Dorothy, and Duo was in an armchair to her right. He was flipping through the channels on the TV, but I knew he was listening to us. "Okay Dorothy, I need to figure out how to make this work."
"Yes, because I certainly don't have any ideas."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Duo turn off the TV and face us, giving us his undivided attention.
"Did you and Hilde get done what you needed done?"
"Yes. Everything's in place, and we managed to steal one of their radios from a squad car."
I nodded. "Good. Now, did you come to L2 using your own name or an alias?"
She gave me a quizzical look. Duo raised an eyebrow. "No, I arrived using my own name."
"She did too."
"What about Wufei?"
"He had to use his own name so that he could use privileges of the Preventers."
Just as I thought. "What about Heero and Trowa?"
She shook her head. "They didn't use their names or any aliases I recognized, and they didn't ride with any of us. I'm pretty sure they were stole-aways."
Duo laughed maliciously. I grinned. "Perfect. This is what I have in mind..."