The Final Murder: Part 3
I could hear something, but my mind wouldn’t process it.
Oh good. It stopped. I hoped Sophie killed it with a flyswatter this time instead of one of my shoes. The last thing I wanted was bug guts on my oriental rugs.
Okay, maybe she didn’t kill it. On second thought, that’s not a bug.
Damn, it’s annoying though.
My hand shot out before I even knew it and snatched the handle, incidentally knocking the base on the floor. It landed with several loud clangs, and after a brief skid it stopped just underneath the bed. Great way to start the morning. But with a froggy voice, in what I hoped was English, I answered the phone. “Hello?”
“Good lord Quatre! You sound like hell. Have you been drinking all night?”
I made to look at the receiver as if it could show me who the caller was. I didn’t open my eyes though, so even if it did I wouldn’t have seen anything. “Hilde?”
“It’s not like you to get smashed when you have to come to the office, especially since you have work to do. You missed a lot when you took off the other day to go to L2. You’re late, and it’s damn near noon. If you don’t get your blond ass in here quick I’m quitting!”
I still didn’t open my eyes. “Hilde?”
She actually paused. “Damn Winner. You’re not drunk, you’re sick! Don’t move.”
A few seconds later I heard the incessant beeping of the dial tone. Not bothering to dig around under my bed for the base, I simply dropped the phone on the floor and went back to sleep.
I was slowly coming to awareness, but the one thing that was clear in my mind was the presence of somebody else. Whoever it was had no qualms about touching me and rolling me on my back. It wasn’t any intimate touching either. It felt like I was being...examined?
I finally opened my eyes and saw Sally’s focused face as she listened to my heart. At least the stethoscope wasn’t cold. “Hey Sal. What’re you doing here?”
“Making sure you’re not dying,” she said with quite a bit of anger in her voice.
Oh jeez. “What did I do this time?”
She gave me a glare that nearly made me run screaming to Rashid to protect me. “Why didn’t you tell me you were feeling sick?”
“I wasn’t feeling sick,” I said calmly. Sometimes, trying to soothe Sally was like trying to soothe Godzilla while he was stomping around Tokyo. “I don’t feel sick even now.”
“Christ Quatre!” She stood and started to put her things back into a duffel bag. “Hilde called me, making it sound like you were on your death bed. I thought the same thing when I couldn’t get a call through. I just kept getting a busy signal. Then I call Rashid to call Trowa so that he could get his ass back here and it turns out you just left your phone off the hook!” She put the last of her equipment away and threw her fists on her hips. “Heaven forbid somebody might need to get in touch with you.”
“Sorry Sally. I didn’t realize I did that.” I yawned, and tried to comb my hair down with my fingers. I was certain it didn’t work. “So, what’s the verdict? Find anything worth the trip over here?”
She was giving me a very critical stare. I could see the gears turning in her head as she was coming up with a diagnosis. “Well, your temperature is normal. Your breathing isn’t shallow or too fast, but your heartbeat is regularly irregular. That’s nothing new though. You’ve been that way since you were sixteen. But you’re extremely lethargic for some reason. Trowa’s not here keeping you up all night. So what is?”
THAT woke me up. “Sally! Did you have to say it like that?”
“How are you going to answer a question with a question?”
That’s it. I’m getting new friends. “Nothing. I’ve just been having trouble sleeping lately.” She gave me another glare. I shrugged. “It’s nothing.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Thank you Sal for your optimism. I suppose Trowa’s been called?”
“Yes. Rashid called him. He should be home late tomorrow morning.”
Trowa’s coming, and nothing’s been figured out. I didn’t know if I should be relieved or not, so I settled for a neutral answer. “Okay.” She gave me another suspicious look. Oh for the love of... “Sally, will you stop with the glares? I’m starting to think I did something wrong.” She sighed, and toned it down to a frown instead of a glare. I guess I’ll have to settle for that.
Since I was thoroughly awake, I got out of bed and started to clean up. Sally watched every movement I made as I made my bed, picked up clothes from the floor and got dressed. She even followed me down the stairs as I went into the kitchen to fix something to eat. Despite the fact that I knew she was doing this because she cared about my health, I couldn’t help being annoyed at the same time. “Is this all really necessary?”
“It doesn’t look like it,” she said after a lengthy pause, obviously thinking about something as she talked. Her voice also had gone from being upset to soft and thoughtful. “You just haven’t been acting like yourself lately. You only do that if you’re feeling ill,” and here I heard her take a step forward, “or hiding something.” She stopped talking.
/Of course/, I thought as I punched in the time on the microwave. /She was Wufei incarnate as a woman. Plus anything he thought or felt he would share with her./ “I’m just feeling stressed is all,” I said. It was somewhat true, but I still couldn’t help feeling like I was lying to her face. “I’ve been running around with Relena for one thing, and flying to the end of the galaxy with Duo. Not to mention I have my own work that needs to be done, a son to raise and a husband who keeps trying to save the world from itself.” At the thought of Kitty my mood improved. He’s been gone nearly a week and I missed him. I missed Trowa. I wanted them both home.
I smirked at her over my shoulder. “I’m sure you can relate to that last bit, at least. After all, it’s Wufei that leads those ‘save the world’ missions.”
She finally smiled. “Yeah, I know.”
“Hey, wanna hot pocket or something to drink?” I asked as the microwave dinged.
“No thanks. Already ate and not thirsty.”
“So, when are you and Wufei tying the knot?”
Sally was rescued from answering my question when Duo loudly entered my house. Even if she did answer, I wouldn’t have been able to hear her over Duo belting out whatever song from the Phantom of the Opera he had just learned. He sung it so terribly I couldn’t make out which one it was. I think he liked it more for the possible noise level than for the actual music. “Duo, will you stop that?! I can’t even hear myself think!”
“Hey Cat. Ooooh, hot pockets!” He tossed his keys on the table and took both of the hot pockets. I couldn’t help the temptation I had to take one particular key off of his ring and swallow it so that he couldn’t get in for a while. Everyone in our gundam club, minus Relena, Zechs and Noin, had a key to my house. It wasn’t anything against them personally, just that they weren’t involved in my daily life as much as everyone else was.
Rolling my eyes, I went to the freezer and got out two more for myself, all the while listening to Duo pant like a dog as he burned his tongue on the food. I stood at the microwave, begging it with my eyes to hurry as I heard the noise level behind me rise suddenly. Duo and Sally were playfully arguing about something for the sake of hearing their voices bounce off the ceramic walls. And to think I could’ve been in my quiet office that overlooked the city while Hilde made prank phone calls to my competitors.
About the time my food was finished, Sally’s pager went off. “Well, it’s been fun guys but I gotta run!”
“Damn Sally, do you have to? Come on, hang out with Cat and me. We’ll feed ya!”
“I’d love to Duo, I really would, but it appears another new recruit did something that Neosporin and a band-aid won’t fix.”
“You never did answer my question Sally!” I shouted as she walked out the door.
“I know,” she threw over her shoulder as she closed the door, shutting off my next comment. I couldn’t help shaking my head and smiling as I heard her car pull away. If I had done that, she would’ve jumped on my head and held on until I answered her.
“What question?” Duo sat in a chair next to me at the kitchen table.
“I asked when she and Wufei were getting married.”
“Soon I bet,” Duo said with a smirk. “He’s been looking for an engagement ring.”
“What?” I said in an excited whisper, even though we were the only ones in the house. “How do you know that?”
“Well,” Duo leaned in close to me, whispering as well, “he and Dorothy have been leaving on their lunch hour to go shopping at these fancy smancy jewelry places.”
“Yeah. That’s what Dorothy told me.”
“I don’t know how she made it through the wars,” I said, mostly to myself. “She’s been crowned ‘the gossip queen’ four years in a row by your news station. That girl couldn’t keep a secret if her life depended on it.”
“Sure she could. I mean, she wouldn’t be Relena’s top...everything if she was so reckless. Besides, what does Wufei’s private life have to do with national security?”
“Then where’s the harm in telling me?” Here, he gave me one of his ‘trust me’ smiles. Right, as if.
“Duo, you know I’m immune.”
“Immune to what?” His smile got even bigger.
“Nothing. Never mind.” I waved it off, deciding that it was better to just let him win this time around. It was then that I noticed something...move, in the background.
“Cat, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just thought I saw something.”
“Behind you, near the couch.”
“Well, I don’t see...holy shit!”
Duo, I kid not, jumped six, possibly seven feet in the air. “Duo, what is it?!”
“There’s a roach over there!”
“Where?!” he shouted, exasperated. “What do you mean ‘where?’ How can you not see it, it’s the size of Deathscythe’s left foot!”
“I don’t see it. It can’t be that...WHOA!” I suddenly found myself backed up against the counter, with Duo right by my side. “That’s not a roach, that’s a lobster!”
“Where’s your bug spray?”
“Bug spray? We don’t keep any. I don’t like killing bugs. They deserve to live just like AHHH! It’s coming this way!”
“We have to kill it Quatre! It’s our only hope!”
“Then throw something at it!”
“Why, so the roach can throw it back?!”
“How are we going to kill it then?!”
“Go step on it.”
“Me?! You’re the one that has shoes on!”
“This is your house!”
“So what? You’re here so much you might as well pay part of the mortgage!”
“Oh my god it just winked at me!”
“Here!” I flung the freezer door open and took out two loaves of bread. “Throw these!”
“What the hell is frozen bread going to do?!”
“Serve as a projectile weapon! Now throw it!” At that, Duo threw it. “Oh no you missed! How could you miss it?! It’s the size of this house!”
“I didn’t miss, he moved!” He threw the other loaf and missed again. “Shit! It has wings!”
“Here, try the hot pockets!” I didn’t know how many I handed to him, only that with every toss the roach magically evaded each one. I handed Duo six TV dinners, but no luck. Frozen orange juice cans were next, followed by a dozen eggrolls, two gallons of sherbert ice cream, three pounds of tenderloin meat, eight pie crusts, twelve chicken patties, nine beef patties, my salmon, (and I got those on sale too!) and forty seven ice cubes. Duo, in a fit of insanity even threw my coffee maker at the damn thing.
Our enemy was expanding its territory, now that it had entered the kitchen. As a last stand, Duo turned the kitchen table on its side as I collected ammunition from the pantry. I dumped an armful of canned ranch beans next to Duo’s elbow. With careful aim, I launched the first can and cheered when it clipped one of its wings. Duo followed my hit up by tossing a twelve pack of Dr. Pepper on top of it. When the sound of the cans stopped reverberating off the walls, we could see that half of the roach was pinned under the box, and the other half was still wiggling.
“Oh my god that’s disgusting! I’m gonna hurl.”
“I know,” I said, leaning against the table as I tried to block out the image of twitching antennae. “We should go outside and call someone to come get its body.”
“I got my cell phone on me, so the call isn’t a problem. But I’m not stepping over that thing to get outside! Unless you don’t care that we go out the kitchen window.”
“No, I don’t care.” The window was about four feet wide and three feet in height, so we were able to easily slip through. It was autumn, but it still had the stifling heat of summer. Of course, it was always kind of humid on L4, but I was grateful for that. I had on only a T-shirt and shorts, so I probably would’ve suffered if it had been cooler. I wasn’t use to the cold.
“So, who do you want to call?”
I looked at Duo like he had grown another head. “Me? I thought you had someone in mind?”
“Odin’s in class, and then he’s supervising day care this afternoon. He’s not going to be reachable ‘til after six.”
“What about Wufei?”
“He’s at work, unlike you.”
“Oh yeah? Well how come you’re not at work?”
“I finished my story. I can fart around til six.”
“Never mind, we’re getting off topic.” I sighed. I did not want to wait until after six to get back into my own home.
“What about Hilde?”
“She can’t Duo. I need her to run my office since I’m not there.”
“Are Zechs or Noin on their lunch hour?”
“I don’t know. It depends on what Mars region they’re in.”
“They’re on Mars? Shit!”
“Maybe Lady Une?”
“Get real Quatre.”
“Well, it was worth a try.”
“Damn. We need more friends.”
“Wait, I know somebody,” I said slowly, trying to gage his reaction.
He caught on pretty quickly. “Hey, it’s up to you. I mean, I can always go back to my house and wait ‘til this thing is cleared up.”
“Oh no you don’t. You’re going to wait right here and help me clean up the mess in the kitchen and buy me a new coffee maker, or the next time Trowa makes Boston Cream Pie I’ll make sure to save some for everyone except you.”
“Give me the phone,” I said, feeling my mood perk up with a successful threat. Duo handed me the phone, and I pulled together all the dignity I had as the line began to ring. This was going to be so embarrassing, but I’d rather be embarrassed than stuck outside all day. I’ll admit it in a heartbeat. I hate roaches. I couldn’t stand them, I was terrified of them, and I will burn my house down in half the time it took to blink if I thought for a moment I had an infestation. Duo felt the same way, but you’ll never catch him admitting it.
I just happened to glance at the window when I saw a third reflection, but the face wasn’t very clear. Whipping around, I saw that there wasn’t a third person standing behind me like there was in the window. Glancing back, the reflection wasn’t there anymore.
“Quatre, what’s wrong?”
I wasn’t going to say anything, but changed my mind in the end. “Duo, did you see--”
Whatever I saw was forgotten. I had more important things on my mind. “Hey Relena, it’s Quatre. Listen, I need a favor...”
The roach scene really happened. My former roommate will forever be pissed at me over the coffee maker.