Blood or Chocolate?
Chapter 18: The Spider Catches The Fly
The next morning I woke to find myself alone in the room. (Damn, that's been happening a lot to me lately). Quatre was gone, as was his Toyota. I also found myself starving. So, poking around in Howard's kitchen, I managed to gather up a few microwaveable waffles, and found some sausage that was as solid as a rock in his freezer. It didn't look to be lethal if eaten, so I cracked it open against the wall and got to work. The eggs were fresh (thank god), and in the end I was able to whip up some breakfast before Dracula and his servant woke up to grill me (more) about yesterday.
Just when I turned the burner off, Howard and Hilde tumbled in. (Sorry, morning people we were not). After my sister and uncle each had a pot of coffee, they were somewhat alert and oriented. I then filled them in on Hunters, Lagranges, and anything else I thought of. I was surprised that they didn't begin going off the handle. In fact, they seemed to be thinking very hard about something. That was unusual--especially in Howard's case--this early in the day. It was only about two in the afternoon. "Howie? Hil? What is it?"
She shrugged while Howard just shook his head. "Duo, this is just...overwhelming. The world is not how we thought it was. This is one hell of an adjustment we're trying to make."
"Well, at least there hasn't been another murder," Hilde put in thoughtfully. "Maybe the killer knows he's being tracked?"
"The killer knows he's being tracked. It hasn't been kept a careful secret," I told her. "But there hasn't been another human murder. Darlian's mate may have been a Were, but she still counts. Whoever killed her killed Mooney, Luna and Harvest."
"Shit," Howard said. "I forgot about that."
Hilde shrugged again. "Well, what are we going to do now?"
Excellent question. "I don't know Hil. I am completely tapped out at this point."
Right then the phone rang. Howard picked it up. "What do ya want?"
I snorted, and turned back to my eggs when the phone was shoved under my nose. "It's for you."
"Huh?" I said, and looked at the phone as if I've never seen one before in my life. "Who could be calling me here?" I asked to no one as I took it from Howard. "Hello?"
"Duo, it's Trowa."
Wow. That was unexpected. "Hey Trowa. Everything okay?"
"Yes. That's what I wanted to talk to you about."
"Oh?" I was not liking the sound of this...
"Thank you for letting Quatre stay with you," he said instead, surprising me. "I couldn't be in two places at once. I needed to be at Wufei's side, but I didn't want Quatre to be alone. Last night was hard for us...and hard for him too. He really cared about her, and that's saying a lot. Quatre hasn't befriended with many of the Pack. Spending time with you did him a lot of good."
Damn. What the hell could I say to that? "It...it was my pleasure, Trowa."
"Well, thank you again. And if you need anything, call."
"I will. Thanks."
He hung up, and I passed the phone to Howard. "That was Trowa, Quatre's mate?" he asked.
"What did he want?"
I started to clear the plates. "He wanted to thank me for having Quatre stay with me last night."
"Quatre's a good-looking boy," Howard said objectively. "Probably smart as hell too. Don't know why those werewolves are trying to take human lovers. You'd think they'd have plenty of their own kind to mate with." He threw me a look that stated his comment was for both Quatre and myself, then took the plates from my hands. "You cooked, so Hilde and I will clean."
Nope, Howard did not realize he had a shape-shifter in his house last night. Like hell I was going to tell him.
As they started to clean up in the kitchen, I went ahead and got dressed. I didn't have any idea of where I wanted to go from here, but I wasn't going to sit in the house and wait for lightening to strike either. With the way my luck has been running lately, I was sure that once I was out and about, the answer will come to bite me on the ass--probably literally.
I had thrown on some loose black jeans and a white tank top, and jumped into some old, broken-in Jordans. I popped my head into the kitchen to kiss my sister goodbye, and to tell my uncle I would be back before dinner. Then I went to my black, beautiful, low-on-gas car, and hopped in.
My window was down, so I stuck my head out. "Yeah Howie?"
"Here." He handed me something heavy that was wrapped in a dishtowel. "Take this."
Settling the object in my lap, I carefully unwrapped it and nearly jumped out of my skin. "Howie, I don't think I need a .44 Magnum to drive around town."
"I beg to differ. Take it. Keep it in your car. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it."
I have never understood that phrase, but I wasn't going to argue. "Okay Howie. I'll take it."
"You make it sound like I was giving you an option." He grinned, and smacked me in the forehead. "Watch your back."
"And you watch yours," I finished, then peeled out of his driveway.
I went to the gas station I used to work at, and filled my car up. No one had replaced me either, but apparently everyone was confident that I would return. There were IOU's taped, pinned or held down by rocks all over the place. It was kind of sweet in a way. The people had a chance to make off like bandits, yet they weren't. Wow...I didn't realize I had this many customers. Well, once this mystery was solved and I got back to work, I was going to be racking it up.
My next stop was the convenience store by my house, where Luna had been killed. I didn't think it would be open for business, but I was surprised to see that it was. Stepping inside, I saw that one of Luna's sons had taken over the business. Lawrence was his name, I think. He usually worked part-time here anyway. I guess he was the owner now.
I did the condolences thing, and he told me how grateful he was that I was man enough to find his father instead of that 'shit-head Alex.' His comment put me in an elated mood, which heightened when he refused to let me pay for my beer. I tried another two times (not very hard though) but he still wouldn't take my money. I had no choice but to swallow my pride (more like glee) and accept the fact that I was getting free beer. Oh woes me.
My good feelings disappeared when I stepped outside. The sun was bright in my eyes, so it took me a while to adjust. When I did, I saw Tsubarov's assholemobile parked next to my baby. Oh my god...
I jumped and spun around, nearly committing the ultimate sin of dropping my beer. As sure as shit smelled, it was Tsubarov that said my name, but he was not how I remembered him.
His face was green, yellow and blue of all varying stages of healing. The stitches marred his otherwise clear skin, giving him the appearance of having a mask sewn on as a face. His eyes were puffy and red, his jaw swollen asymmetrically, and his mind...he hated me. He hated me with everything he had.
"Duo," he said again, in a voice that despite my best intentions, scared me.
"Tsubby, baby," I said in my best 'devil may care' voice. "Did you miss me?"
"Somewhat," he said cautiously, looking around before back at me. "I've heard you've been having a...hard time lately."
"If by that you mean having some guy come by to kick my ass with a shovel, then..." I shrugged, and dipped into his head. When he thought about paying that man fifty bucks and not having a broken bone on me to show for it, I nearly laughed in his face. Instead, I held my beer safely against my chest, and strutted for my car.
"Sorry Tsubby, I've got places to go, beer to drink, people to, you know..." I waggled my eyebrows, and let the rest of my sentence trail off.
I heard him take a step, and then another. He was following behind me, and I was not happy about that. I moved so fast it bordered on panic, because I felt some emotion coming from him that I didn't like. He hated me, but that was because he wanted me so much it kept him up at night. He couldn't sleep, he wasn't eating much...he was becoming obsessed with me and he knew it. He knew it and although he couldn't help himself, he didn't want it to stop either. I saw in his mind that he wanted me broken and begging underneath him. At that point, all I wanted was to get the hell away from him. I hopped into my car, buckled my beer in and started to back out when he stuck his head through my open window.
"I called you that night."
"Have you lost your god damn mind?!" I yelled in near panic. I did not like his face that close to mine. "Get the hell outta my car!"
"I called you the night you were attacked. I wanted to tell you not to go outside!"
I started to back up again, not caring if he was hanging on my door or not.
"I didn't want you to get hurt. I wanted you safe!"
He lost his footing and fell. I made sure to back up straight so that I wouldn't run him over. Once I was a good distance from him, I punched on the accelerator and took off with a bang. Just like Hilde with the Toyota, I zig-zagged on the road until I regained control of the car. I was in such shock that I didn't know what to think or do. Thinking back to that night, I remembered that there was one number that was unaccounted for. On the caller ID it read 'Unavailable.' On the answering machine it was the click of a phone being hung up. That was Tsubarov.
Wow. And I thought my life couldn't get any more complicated.
I almost, almost went to Wufei's. I was so close I could taste it. But I was irritated beyond belief. Tsubarov's words put me in a mood I couldn't even describe. I should've taken it as flattery but I couldn't. I wanted to be mad but I wasn't. I wanted to rip his nuts off and shove them down his throat for thinking that I was worth fifty bucks to get my ass kicked, when I was worth so much more...well, at least *I* thought I was. Overall, I was just fried. My brain had been turned into mush trying to read the minds of the supernatural (one who was dead), and from trying to piece together why a murderer was murdering. I had seen a lot of horrible shit in less than a week, and I knew of the existence of creatures that 99.99% of the world would never know. I felt I had a lot of shit on my plate.
Instead, I went to my uncle's bar. He and Hilde wouldn't be there until the night shift, so I was stuck being a regular joe, possibly having to pay for my food. Thankfully, the lunch crowd was gone, so the customers were few and far in between. I brought my beer in so that Long could stick it in the frig. At least he knew who I was to Howard.
My mood got even better when I spotted Meizer sitting in one of the corner booths. "Hey Cob!"
"Duo!" He waved back. "Come on over."
I slid into the booth and automatically ordered a tuna sandwich with fries and one of my beers. Like hell I was going to pay for one when I brought my own. "Late lunch?"
"Yeah," he said, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. He was such a guy's guy. "Been at your neighbor's all day."
"One of them called me. Quatre, I think. Said he and his boyfriend found an eye when they were in the cemetery, about to bury that little girl's goldfish or something." He shrugged. "We went over right away, and sure enough there it was. It took a while, but forensics came down and snooped around." He took a bite out of his sandwich. "We found Mrs. Dalian's body buried there. It was weird." He shook his head.
"What was weird Cob?"
He looked at me. "The ground hadn't been disturbed. It was very clever. Whoever buried her kind of...made the top layer of ground lift up like a sardine can. Once we peeled back the layer of grass, we could see the disturbed soil underneath where she was buried. It was a very interesting gardening technique. Not only that..."
He got quiet. I started to intrude, but decided against it. I needed to stop doing that. "What Cob?"
"Duo," he began, total disbelief in his eyes, "that poor woman had been ripped to shreds. Just like Mooney." He shook his head again.
I sat back in my seat. The waitress came and dropped off my food and beer. She hurried away to finish filing her nails. "Oh god Cob. What's the world coming to?"
"I don't know."
I took a bite out of my sandwich, and worked on the french fries. We were quiet, but I could feel Meizer's eyes on me, as if weighing me. "Duo, can I ask you something?"
I almost choked. That was odd. "Cob, you can ask me anything. You know that."
He was silent, then: "Is Chang your boyfriend?"
This time I did choke. "What?!" *cough**cough*
"Is Chang your boyfriend?" His voice held curiosity, but I felt he was screaming inside. He knew the answer, he just needed to hear it from my mouth. "The night before last, when he was touching you, the way he was touching you...you didn't seem to mind."
I sighed. "No--well--not yet. He's...he's trying real hard though."
"I see," he said, and I could feel his hurt even more.
"No no, it's okay Duo, really." He smiled sadly. "I mean, I never made a move, right?"
I felt terrible. "It's not only you. I--I could've made a move."
"I would've acted like you hadn't even if you had Duo. Just...make sure he treats you right, or else I'll have to kick his ass, okay?"
What the hell could I say to that? "Okay."
"Sorry, but I gotta run." He stood, and came to my side. "There's a lot more work I need to do now."
"Okay," I said softly. "Just...be careful?"
He gave me a sharp nod. "Sure thing." Then, in an unexpected move, he bent down and slowly, kissed me on the bridge of my nose. I froze, and couldn't stop my eyes from closing at the softness of his lips. I balled my hands into fists to keep myself from grabbing him and pulling him down. Then in one fluid move, he stood and walked right out of the bar without looking back. I sat in a daze until it registered where I was. Looking around with my heart in my neck, I found that no one had noticed what Meizer did. There were only two patrons (including me) here, and the other one--at the other side of the bar--was thoroughly drunk.
I stood, and went to pay for my food when Long, from his place in the kitchen, waved me away. Waving my thanks, I grabbed my beer and got in my car, wondering where to go next. Hmm...I got beer. I got gas. I ate. Hey, I wondered how the wolves were doing.
Guess that was my next stop.
I pulled up to what was damn near a construction site. There were makings of several extremely large houses. So I backed out and parked at the end of the driveway. Walking up, I waved to Rashid and a few of the Maguanacs that I recognized. As I came upon the house, I saw Trowa opening the back door to Wufei's car. I almost laughed. Trowa was dressed all in black with matching sunglasses, looking for all the world like a Secret Service agent. Wufei got out, and smiled when he saw me. Then I saw Catherine pop out of the passenger side, (dressed the same as her brother, complete with sunglasses and tie) and open the door behind her. Out of that door was Darlian.
Without even thinking about it, I ran up to him. He turned at the sounds of my footfalls. I saw the pain in his eyes, and knew it wasn't from his injuries. He knew his wife was dead, and he was absolutely soulless because of it. "Please," he said to me, bowing at the waist. "I understand why you are concerned, but like I told the police, I don't remember how I got into your kitchen."
"Hey, no man, you got it all wrong," I told him, trying to get back on the right foot. "I just want to say I'm sorry and offer my condolences. The rest of that stuff about you in the kitchen can wait."
His eyes brightened even more, and I felt a wave of relief flow from him. Damn, the police must've been giving him hell. "Thank you Mr. Maxwell. Your words are very comforting."
I nodded. "You're very welcome."
I watched as Trowa and Catherine escorted him into the house. I turned to Wufei. "Hey, how're you feeling?"
"Much better, now that you're here." He walked up to me, and wrapping his arms around me, he gave me a light kiss. I was feeling tingly all over. Yippee!
"If you're trying to sweet-talk me, it's working," I teased.
"I meant what I said. If you consider that 'sweet-talk' and it works, that's just an added bonus." He chuckled, and we pulled away from each other to walk side by side. "You have a human's smell on you that's familiar. Who?"
Shit. He could smell that?! "I had lunch with my friend, Meizer. He's the cop in charge of this case."
"Oh yes, now I remember. The one you've been friends with since childhood."
"Was it a nice lunch?"
"Good," he said, closing the subject. Thank you god.
We went inside, and every werewolf in there treated me as if I had spun straw into gold. Although I hadn't found out yet who the killer was, everyone was confident that I would, and soon. The story on how I figured out the purpose of the hydrogen cyanide had traveled through the Pack, and now I was referred to as 'Maxwell the Genius.'
In all honesty, I liked that title.
Unfortunately, the second Wufei and I walked through the door, a werewolf came running up to him, stuttering to him that the Prince was on the phone and wanting to speak with him urgently. Wufei excused himself, and muttered under his breath about how spoilt that 'sniveling vamp-lover' was. I heard a few astonished gasps come from several werewolves, and quite a few eyes widened in shock and disbelief. I didn't think it was that big of a deal, but apparently it was a major insult.
So for the next few hours, I partied with the werewolves. They were celebrating Darlian's return, so as soon as everyone got off of work from their various jobs, there was food and liquor galore. Wufei had finished his call with the Prince in a record hour and a half, and was able to join in on the fun--sort of. Apparently, being Packmaster meant standing on the second floor of the house, looking down as everyone else had fun. Trowa and Catherine were at his side, doing their bodyguard thing. Once again I was the Guest of Honor, but Darlian held the 'Seat of Honor.' He was standing next to Wufei as if he was a bodyguard too. Heero explained to me that that was a special treat; to stand next to Wufei like he was Privileged. Uh huh.
When it was getting around nine o'clock, and I had danced so hard I threw out my back, I called Howard and Hilde to let them know that I probably wouldn't make it back tonight. I invited them to come join the party, but Hilde politely refused and Howard told me how many ways the werewolves could kiss his ass. They also told me that Meizer called them, and said that the forensic team had everything they needed and that it was all right for us to go back home. Hilde didn't want to come back just yet, so I told her I would pick up some of her panties and stuff to bring back tomorrow. She told me she'd pick them up herself sometime tonight, and for me to keep my mitts off her things. Humph. Apparently she had some edible underwear she didn't want me to see. Hell, I did her laundry all the time. She never cared before. Hmm...
At my last thought I started cracking up. Quatre, who was dancing with Mariemaia (well, jumping up and down was more like it), sidled over to me when I started laughing for no apparent reason. "Duo, what's so funny?" I pulled him close and told him what Hilde said, and the fact that I always did her laundry. He grinned. "Feel like explorin'?"
I grinned back. "Hell yeah."
The two of us started to slip away. Quatre caught Abdul by the arm, and told him where we were going. As he did that, I looked up to Wufei to see him watching us wearily. I guess wild parties weren't his thing. Feeling suddenly sure of myself, I pursed my lips out in a kiss, and winked. He raised an eyebrow, smiled, and shook his head to himself. Catherine and Trowa saw me, and both of them laughed outright. Darlian didn't find it funny. In fact, he looked downright appalled and displeased.
"Come on Duo!" Quatre hollered over the music.
Waving back at Wufei, we left.
Quatre and I took the route around the pet cemetery, but we had to make it interesting by crawling under bushes, hiding behind trees, and other things you would expect two twelve-year-old boys to be doing instead of two grown men--well--a grown man and a shape-shifter.
Once on the back porch, I dug up a loose board that we kept a spare key hidden under and let ourselves in. Shooting straight into my sister's room, Quatre and I acted like two brothers tormenting their older sister. We went through her drawers and pulled out her underwear, socks, shirts, and threw it all on the floor. Just to be funny, Quatre and I started to try some of the stuff on, even the thong panties. It was a riot. Then we tried on her high-heeled shoes. Quatre accidently broke one, so I ran into the pantry and got the SuperGlue. Once we glued the heel back on, we stuck it back in the closet like nothing happened to it.
Finally, when we were digging around for porno tapes or something, Quatre and I struck gold: we found Hilde's vibrator.
I was ready to DIE. When I was fourteen, Hilde had found my Playboy magazine under my mattress. Well, she didn't let me live it down. She embarrassed me further by telling Howard about it, and so he took it away. My embarrassment went away about a week later when I found it under his mattress. Hmm...I wonder if he still has that issue... Anyway, Quatre and I played with it for a bit, poking each other with it while it was on, using it as a sword, a lightsaber, and whatever the hell else we thought of. Who knew how long we were goofing around, but soon enough I was dead tired and ready for a nap. "Let's go Cat. Wufei's probably wondering what the hell happened to us."
"Yeah, but let's get a drink first. I'm thirsty."
"Me too. And I need a smoke."
I dashed into my room to get one of my packs, then into the kitchen. The milk and stuff I didn't trust, but the beer Wufei bought me was still there, and it beckoned me. I took one while Quatre had water. We guzzled our drinks. Then I lit my cigarette on the stove and we went outside.
Quatre waited for me as I locked the door and stuck the key back into its hiding place. I stood, and was ready to announce that we were set to go, when all of a sudden the cigarette went sour. Well, to be more precise, it suddenly tasted like ass and throw up. I spat it out, and started to claw the skin off my tongue when this whole thing came together for me.
Hearing Heero's voice in my head, I recalled him saying that the chemical created a foul tasting odor with tobacco smoke. Well, that was as foul as foul could be. "Hey Quatre." I grabbed his arm. "Can you smell my cigarette smoke?"
He took a sniff and his eyes widened. He didn't need to say anything. "Shit Duo."
This was not good. This was not good. "We need to call Wufei."
"Hurry up and get the key back out," Quatre demanded, tense. "I can't smell who it is, and they're being too quiet. I can't pinpoint their location."
Quickly but quietly, I dug back under the floorboard and got the key. Letting ourselves back in, I locked the door. Quatre went to the phone to call, and I went through the kitchen drawers to find a knife...and discovered that we didn't have any. "Shit. Shit!" Where the fuck were my knives?!
"Duo, your phone is disconnected!"
"What?! Those fuckers! I paid the bill on time--"
"No Duo, 'disconnected' disconnected." He made the 'scissors' motion with his fingers. "The line is dead."
Just then the lights went out. "Quatre, all of my knives are gone."
He held his hands up. They were no longer hands, but claws. "What about any guns?"
The Magnum. Shit! "Hilde and I don't keep any here. And the .44 Magnum I have is in my car."
Quatre sighed. "Then we're on our own."
Just then a car pulled up, and I ran to the front of the house, Quatre right behind me. Once parked, the headlights dimmed, and I recognized the grill as Howard's car. I saw two bodies in the front seat. Howard and Hilde were here.
Oh my god...