"...the cause of the explosion is still unknown at this time, but investigators state that arson has not been ruled out, even though there wasn't a fire. Attempted arson is most probable. But the investigators are baffled at how some of the library's furniture was crushed without any obvious sign as to how it was done. In other news..."
I quickly turned off the television, trying to get the nasal voice of the reporter out of my head. Sitting back in my leather chair, I sipped on my tea as I let the whole scenario run through my head for the thousandth time. I idly watched the birds outside my room fly around in little circles, shaking my head as every once in awhile one of the birds would fly into my window. It was all I could do. My whole body was stiff from my neck to my toes. Looks like that explosion did more than just blow Duo and I through the window. I shook my head again, this time at myself. I was so used to violence and the bizarre that getting blown through a wall was more of an annoyance to me than life threatening. The story of my life. I should take Hilde's advice and write a book.
"Come on in Iria." I heard the door close before she popped into view, pulling a chair up to sit in front of me. I let the icebag fall from my face as she started to stick something that looked like a huge fat toothpick up my nose. "Where's Duo?"
"He's in the other room resting. He landed pretty hard on his back, and I'm afraid he's going to feel that for the next few weeks."
"Is he okay other than that?"
She froze me with a look. "In all honesty, I don't know." She continued to work on my nose as she spoke. "He's hurt, but he's also tired. And I mean tired in his soul. It's like he's been carrying a burden that has only gotten heavier."
I wanted to shrug, but my shoulder muscles thought otherwise. "Duo's been through a lot. Whenever one thing is over, something else begins that's worse to take the first one's place."
"That's life sweetie."
"Not for someone his age."
"The same could be said about you. Not everyone is a millionaire at your age."
"I'll take being a millionaire over living on the street, as any sane person would."
"Smartass." She smirked. "Anyway, what are you going to do about the library? You know your fingerprints are going to be all over the window, a window which is ten feet up on the wall. How are you going to explain that?"
"Dorothy is handling it. Hilde called her right after the explosion. The police were told it could be an anti-peace attack, so any prints and whatever else they find will be sent directly to her. She said she'll do whatever is necessary to erase that we were ever there."
"Heh. I would hate to be your enemy with a friend like her." She held my chin up to further examine my nose. "Well, it's official. Your nose is broken."
"I figured as much."
"I'm just glad you didn't have your knife on you. That's all you need is to get that jammed up your other arm."
"No need to worry about that. Trowa has it, and I am under strict instructions not to handle anything with a point. Not even if it's a rubber pencil."
"That's why I love the boy." I had to shake my head once again, though who knew why. "But your nose, cheekbones and under your eyes are badly bruised. You could get away with saying that you were in a car accident and your face was smashed into the windshield."
"What?! Do I look that bad?"
She gave me a grimace. "Honey, bad doesn't even begin to describe it. Trowa is going to have a fit when he sees you."
I flew out of my chair and opened my closet door to look in the mirror. Oh boy. Iria was not kidding. The entire front of my face including my forehead was a dark blue with streaks of black in it. Forget the car accident excuse. It looked like someone took a two by four and used my face for a baseball. "Oh wow."
"There's no way I can hide this."
"You got that right."
I rolled my eyes. Iria could be unhelpful when she wanted to be. "Thanks for your optimism." I turned back to the mirror. Lightly with my index finger, I traced the jagged outline of the bruises. Even though I wasn't adding much pressure, my face was extremely sore. Looks like Duo wasn't the only one who was going to suffer for weeks. "I really didn't need this."
"Hang on a sec, I'm getting a page." I didn't pay Iria any mind as she checked her pager. I continued to pick at my face, jumping slightly every time I tried to smile, frown, wink, smirk or squint my face. The only thing that didn't hurt was blinking. Hooray.
Not for any reason, I looked at Iria's reflection in the mirror and noted that she was just standing there staring at her pager with this lost look on her face. She even seemed pale. "Iria, what's wrong?"
"I'm not sure," she said in a far away voice. "I need to leave though. I'll call if I'm not coming back tonight." Not hesitating another second, she dashed for the door.
"Iria! Who was that?"
She bit her lip, as if deciding whether or not she should tell me. But I guess honesty won out over secrecy. "It was Lady Une."
"What does she want?"
She sighed. "She needs to see me." And with that, she opened the door and left quickly before I could ask another question. I was left alone in my room, and all I did was stand there in silence, the only sound being the bird as it flew into the window.
Since when did Une have Iria's pager number?
I didn't know how I knew, but someone else was in the room with me. I wiped the sleep from my eyes as I opened them, and was very surprised to see Relena sitting there beside my bed. What also surprised me was the expression on her face. She was trying to be comforting, but the look in her eyes told me that I wasn't going to be happy.
"Relena! What's the matter? Why didn't you wake me up?"
"No reason. I just...didn't want to disturb you."
She hesitated. That was a clear indication something was wrong. "Relena, just tell me."
Her eyebrows shot up from her surprise. "How..."
"Whatever it is, spit it right out!" I jumped out of the bed so quickly I almost tripped myself. But I did manage to knock a glass of water over and my telephone off of the night stand. "Please, just say it."
"Whatever it is can't be that bad."
She scoffed and rose from her chair.
"Look Relena, I didn't mean to snap. I'm just extremely tired and cranky. Now, what do you have to tell me that could be so hard to say--" My mouth snapped itself shut. It was like this blinding light of realization shone itself on me. I didn't want to believe that was what she came here to tell me. I didn't want to think that, and I certainly didn't want to hear it out loud. No. I wasn't prepared for this. Not at all. No no no.
She still didn't say anything. She just looked at me with pity in her eyes.
I ran my fingers through my hair in an attempt to keep myself under control. I could feel my body shaking, and I could feel the beginnings of a panic attack. I really didn't panic in intense situations, but I was about to make a very big exception. My voice was shaky when I asked her what she was trying to tell me. "Trowa's dead isn't he?"
She looked me straight in the eye and said, "We're not sure yet."
The gears in my head stopped turning, and my heart skipped a few beats. My trembling hands guided me to the edge of the bed, where I sat myself down and focused my gaze on the spilt water on the carpet. It was one thing to hear that a loved one was dead, but it was a different matter when you didn't even know if they were dead or not. Clinging onto hope that might be in vain was worse than knowing the truth right away.
I heard Relena's voice, but I didn't hear what she said. I kept my eyes focused on the water spot. "I'm sorry, what was that?"
I heard her sigh. "I said Lady Une is doing the very best she can to find out who it was and what happened to him. So far, we know that it was a man, possible five eight to over six feet in height. We aren't sure yet, his....legs were cut off. It doesn't look like they were amputated either." If I had the energy I would've vomited. In any case I just sat there as she continued. "The body was found about two and a half miles away from where Noin was told the mansion was."
"Okay," I said, very very slowly. "What happened to his face that he can't be identified?"
"Whoever it was had been skinned alive...literally. We don't know what animal yet, but whatever it was had large claws. So they have to use dental records." I heard her step forward. "That's why your sister was called. They didn't want Sally to confirm the findings in case it was either of them."
Wait, what was that? "Either of them?"
She hesitated. And hesitated. And hesitated some more. Then, in a soft voice, "Forensics is guessing it's either Trowa or Heero."
It felt like someone put a plastic bag over my face and was trying to suffocate me. There was no way around this. I could always wish that it wouldn't be Trowa, but that meant it would be Heero. But I didn't know if I could live without Trowa now, if it was him and not Heero. Either Duo was going to suffer for the rest of his life, or I was going to suffer. What kind of a choice was that?
Closing my eyes, I tried to use my...space heart as everyone else calls it, to feel Trowa. When that didn't work I tried for Heero. That proved useless too. So I laid back on the bed I was sitting on. I didn't know what Relena was doing, not that I cared. I just let myself go as my vision dimmed, the sound of Duo's frantic screaming at Hilde being the last thing I heard.
Sixteen hours, thirty seven minutes and fourteen seconds later, the answer to the question that had been plaguing my mind was about to be told. After I woke up from an involuntary nap, I went to my music room and stayed in there for the rest of the day. Nothing I played was a comfort to me. This situation was too detrimental. The only other time I felt like this was when I thought I had killed Trowa.
Plus I didn't want to see Duo. What could I possibly say to him, or him to me? It was best that we stayed out of each other's paths, because there wasn't any way we could comfort each other. We were bound to say something hurtful or damning so it was best for us not to be together, even though it was killing me.
Relena left shortly after she told me what she had to. I guess that was just as well. I didn't want her to stick around, especially when Duo was just about hysterical. Normally Duo was very cool under pressure as we all were, but this business with Krahe had shortened all of our fuses. It wasn't a big deal if we were fighting man to man. You can always seek out justice. But when dealing with a ghost...that wasn't going to work, and some innocent person might end up taking the fall. It would be demanded especially since it could be a Preventers' death. I didn't want that to happen.
Sixteen hours, thirty nine minutes and fifty eight seconds. With our technology you would think that it would be faster for them to finish an autopsy. But with Sally supervising over a vid comm, I guess they had to take it slower. Not being able to stand it another second, I decided that I would go downstairs to get something to drink.
I wasn't surprised that all of the lights were on, even though it was after midnight. The whole household was upset about the news and was waiting for word on who the corpse was. It was decided by Hilde that it would be best that Rashid answer the call, where he would tell her and she would give the news to us. I agreed because I didn't want to think about it. I didn't know what Duo had to say, not that it mattered.
When I got to the kitchen everyone that was in there left except Sophie and Abdul. I didn't get the chance to open my mouth; she sat me down at the table and brought me a cup of tea. Abdul was to my right at the table, sitting with the utmost patience as he waited for the call as well. He was the only other Maguanac next to Rashid who I would tell anything to. "Abdul..."
"It will be alright Master Quatre," he said softly. "Your friends are the strongest men I have ever met. I seriously doubt something like that happened to them."
"Ch'. I hope you're right."
He smiled. "Trust them. You know they won't let you down."
It was at that time that Hilde shot through the kitchen and headed upstairs to where I guess Duo was. Rashid followed at a more sedate pace, and I felt Abdul's hand on my upper arm, squeezing it for comfort. I grabbed his wrist and squeezed it as well, as my mind was ready to split itself apart.
"It's not Trowa or Heero," Rashid said quickly. "They don't know who it is, but it's not one of ours. Not even Wufei or Zechs."
My face dropped into my hands as the greatest sense of relief washed itself all over me. It wasn't either of them. Thank Allah! Thank you thank you thank you! "Thank you Rashid for your support. You too Abdul and Sophie." They nodded their welcomes.
But something inside of me snapped. The corpse was not one of them certainly, but I wasn't going to go through this again! "Rashid, I need your help."
I wouldn't be surprised if he was expecting my reaction. "Yes Master Quatre?"
"Get my jet ready," I said flatly. "I want to leave by morning."
"Immediately." He turned sharply and left.
"I'll assist him," Abdul said as he rose and followed right after him.
"Let me call all of the cooks. You are going to need a lot of food." Sophie dialed the numbers so fast her fingers were a blur.
I didn't say anything more. Finishing my tea I started to make my way up the stairs. As I got to the second floor I saw that Duo and Hilde were hugging in the hallway. Once he saw me he smiled, but it quickly faded as he noted the expression on my face. Hilde did too. They both stepped away to let me pass between them, but I had plans for them too.
"Hilde, I need you to call Sally and Noin. Duo and I are going to Frankfurt, and if they want to come they better be here by morning." She didn't say a word or even gave a sign that she heard me. She just took off running for the nearest phone. "Duo, come with me." Walking side by side we made our way to one of the elevators at the far end of the wing. I hit the button for the basement, and soon we were assaulted by white fluorescent light and millions of dollars worth of computers. I had this place built after my father died to take care of Sandrock's needs among other war related things.
"When are we leaving?"
"I want to be flying out by sunup."
"We could leave sooner than that you know."
"I know. We just need to get some stuff taken care of first."
I pulled up to one of the super computers, where Duo gave me a funny look because I could only log on with a retinal scan. He watched quietly as my fingers flew effortlessly over the keys, booting up the programs. He gasped when the Preventers page popped up on screen, and gasped again when I hacked into the system.
"Quatre, what the hell do you think you are doing?"
"Nothing, just breaking into Lady Une's computer," I said as if it wasn't a big deal.
"What?! Who the hell told you how to do that?"
"That was a dumb question. Who else would it be?"
"Because," I had to pause when a warning sign flashed, saying I wasn't authorized to view the material. Duh. I quickly overrode it. "We need to find out what has happened so far. If they were able to find a dead body two miles away, then they either got a photograph of it from a satellite and had someone go out and get the body, or someone came across it and reported it to the police. Now when we were stuck there, how often did someone pass by?"
"Exactly, which is why I figure they got a picture of it, and judging by the picture and where the body was found, they thought it could be one of the guys. Here." Hitting the enter button, I was able to download all of the photographs Une had on her computer. Duo and I watched, with some disgust I might add, as we viewed the pictures of the body and of the mansion. Yuck. It looked like this guy was skinned alive all right. Ew. And it appeared that his legs were ripped clean off his body. Ewwwww.
"Damn! What the hell happened to him?"
"I don't want to know Duo."
"I'm gonna hurl if we don't hurry this up."
"That makes two of us. Here. Here are the pictures of the mansion."
After we studied them for a few seconds, Duo blurted out, "Where the hell is the plane?"
"Which one, ours that crashed or theirs?"
"Theirs! Look. If you squint and turn your head forty five degrees you can see the wreckage from ours. But there doesn't seem to be a trace of another plane landing there."
"So that means they didn't land there."
"Where the hell else would they land then?!"
"I don't know Duo! Do I look like a psychic?"
"You got that space heart thingie, that's close enough."
"Look at the thermal scans. See, something must've happened because it doesn't show any heat in the house. If they were there, there would be four red splotches or something."
"Not necessarily. I'm sure the weather outside could shield their body heat. Especially with all that snow around."
I stood up and stretched before shaking my legs out. After that I cleaned up the traces that I broke into HQ, then shut down my computer. Duo sat there the whole time with this meditative look on his face. I didn't bother him; I just let him think. Then he turned to me, determination written all over his face. "There's no way around it. We have to go. Nothing else can be figured out until we do."
I walked towards the elevator, not really interested if Duo was following me back up or not. Didn't matter anyway. He knew his way around my house as well as I did, if not better. The elevator doors were open upon my arrival, and were closing pretty quickly when I pressed the button. I saw then that Duo was still sitting in the chair by the computer, looking at me.
"Then be in the west wing hanger in your flightsuit in the copilots seat at five hundred hours," I said as the doors were closing. "And not a second later."