The Final Murder: Part 7
The phone rang.
My eyes shot open.
The phone rang again.
I continued to stare at the dark ceiling.
It felt like I didn't even fall asleep. One minute I was riding with Sally and the next I was in my bed, my son curled up at my side as he slept undisturbed by the phone. This whole situation seemed surreal, but those kinds of situations have never been a problem for me until recently. I was beginning to understand that I was possibly getting burned out. I wasn't handling things as well as I used to. I mean, Hrncir shouldn't have even qualified as a lightweight. I should've been able to squash him like the petty bug he was. Instead, he has managed to catch me by surprise twice now. There just wasn't an excuse for that.
The phone continued to ring.
After the seventh ring I blindly reached over and grabbed the handle, bringing it to my ear while my eyes were still fixed up above. "Hello?"
I waited. "Hel~lo?"
Still no answer.
I finally tore my eyes away from the ceiling to glance at the clock. It was four fifteen. "It's too early in the morning for prank phone calls."
Still no answer. Then it dawned on me. "Duo, we're okay."
He hung up.
I dropped the phone back on its cradle with a quiet click, then continued to watch the lights chase each other back and forth across my ceiling. As much as I wanted to relax, I didn't think it was possible. I wanted to believe that Hrncir will wait a while before trying another stunt, but he wouldn't. Duo and I could end the charity in a heartbeat and that's what he was trying to avoid at all costs. Time was of the essence to him, so it would be double for me. I would have to move fast, think faster, and get the bad guy before he gets me.
/You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave./
/You're still in my sight, Quatre.../
I sat up like a bolt of lightening had been shot up my spine. I noticed immediately that I was in my bedroom. Sun was being filtered through the window, and the smell of eggs and bacon surrounded the room. Kitty was gone, and the shoes Trowa wore last night were tossed into the corner next to the closet. It had to be around midmorning. I glanced at the clock. Yep. It was ten thirty.
I must've just had a nightmare, if it could be called that. I didn't have the images behind my eyes, or woke with a pounding heartbeat that sometimes happened if it was a truly animated dream. It was just a whisper in my ear, a voice so close and so...real that I woke up and expected someone to be standing next to me. But there wasn't. I was alone.
Closing my eyes I took a deep breath, trying to get my breathing back under control as I heard feet charging up the stairs. Sweat had collected on my forehead and on the back of my neck from last night, making me feel gritty and unclean. The neck of my nightshirt felt moist, and I was sure I didn't smell too good. Eww.
Kitty burst through the door, jumped on my bed and bounced his way into my arms. I squeezed my boy tight and rolled over him a couple of times, making him squeal loudly in laughter. After a few seconds of this, he placed his hands on both sides of my face and shouted, "Uncle Odin is here! And he bought me the newest Terminator movie!"
"Oh great. That's all you need. I'm going to strangle him if you duck tape all the forks together again for a gun."
"I won't," he said, holding up his hand in a boy scout salute. Too bad it was incorrect. I thought they used two fingers, not three. "I don't want to see you foaming at the mouth again. I thought you got bit by a sick doggie or something."
"Daddy said breakfast is ready." He climbed down the bed and was on his way to the door. He's so cute in his Spiderman pajamas. "And take a shower Daddy, you stink."
"You're welcome," he said, and bounded outside the room and loudly down the stairs. I sat on the bed and laughed quietly to myself. That boy is something else.
I took my son's suggestion to heart and showered. I was drying my hair with a towel as I entered the kitchen, and saw Heero and Trowa at the kitchen table, eating quietly. The Terminator movie (T-20: The Comeback of the Machines or something like that) was already on, and Kitty was sitting at the couch, food half dangling off his plate with his eyes glued to the TV. Since it appeared that he wouldn't notice if I sat next to him, I went ahead and seated myself at the kitchen table next to Trowa. He easily reached to the counter for my plate and placed it right in front of me. I gave him a chaste kiss and turned to Heero. "Morning Odin."
"How do you feel?"
"Feel pretty good. Sore, but that's the worst of it."
"Good. I was worried."
"Thanks, but we're alright."
"I know." He glanced at Kitty. "But I wanted to make sure for myself." He chuckled. The baby had moved from the couch directly in front of the TV, food forgotten.
"Did you have to get him that movie? Disney has four new releases out now."
He made a face like something he ate was sour. "Disney?"
"No way Quatre. What the hell would I look like buying a Disney movie?"
I admit it. I laughed. Hard. The mental image of Heero standing in line at Best Buy with ‘Lady and the Tramp' or something like that in his hand nearly made me fall out. I could hear Trowa chuckling alongside me.
"Okay okay, you're right. Sorry Odin."
"Then what do you show your kids?"
"I do field trips," he said, smirking a little. "We go to petting zoos, museums, things like that. I don't want my kids watching movies when they could see something better that's real."
I see why Heero makes such a great teacher. "Hey, where's Duo?"
"He said he had something to do." Heero's voice had gotten darker. Scary darker. Both Trowa and I were taken back, looking at each other in complete surprise.
Kitty turned around. "Is something wrong Uncle Odin?" That boy. Kitty knew all of us better than we probably knew ourselves.
It was so startling to see Heero's expression change the way it did. It was a true Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde transformation. Bright eyes, bright smile, sincere voice. "No Kit, everything's fine."
"Oh. Okay," he said after a second before going back to his movie. Heero continued to look at my son's back, but it wasn't threatening. Just staring off into space.
I was trying to get Trowa to ask him what was wrong. I nodded in Heero's direction, but Trowa shook his head. I pressed my lips together and widened my eyes, trying to give him the ‘do it or else' look, but still he shook his head, not willing to ask what was wrong so that it would quell my curiosity. Damnit, looked like I would have to do this.
"Odin, is something wrong? Did you and Duo have a fight?"
"No," he said, darkness back in his voice. Then he was silent.
I tried again. "You didn't have a fight, but it's obvious you're mad at him."
"What did he do?"
He hesitated. "Nothing that I know of."
Riiiight. This wasn't getting me anywhere. "Then what's the problem?"
He gave me a look. I understood the look, but I didn't understand why he directed it at me the way he did. It was a mix of suspicion, anger and betrayal. I had absolutely no idea what that was about, and it must've been clear on my face. After he searched my eyes and found what he wanted, he dropped the look and sighed. "Duo's up to something," he said quietly. "He's not saying that he is or isn't, but I can tell. I think he's in trouble, but I can't find where or how."
I didn't say anything, but I kept my expression as neutral as possible. "Oh. Well, what gives you that impression?"
He looked at the table. "He's not talking. But Duo talks constantly; on the phone with you, Dorothy or Hilde, at the TV, the car, to himself, whatever. Now he's silent, brooding. He was especially agitated this morning."
I finally got a good look at him then. "Odin, you're exhausted. Did you even sleep last night?"
"No he didn't," Trowa answered. "Zechs and I called and asked him to check a few things. Took him all night just to find nothing."
"Oh." Stay neutral Quatre. "What did Duo do?"
"Stayed home I think," Heero said. "The way he's been so secretive lately, I'm not sure. Do you," he glanced at Kitty, noticed he wasn't paying attention to us, then back to me, "do you think he's...he's....seeing someone....else...?"
The look he gave us next did not belong on his face. Heero's eyes could be cold, but then they could be so expressive that it hurt. It was like he turned into this scared little boy who was afraid that a monster would come out from under his bed and take him away.
"Oh no," I breathed, literally. He was so worried and hurt that it took my breath away. "Duo's not seeing anybody else Odin."
"How can you be so sure?" This time he sounded slightly desperate.
"Because he loves you," Trowa piped up. "He's always loved you, and no one understands him like you do. He wouldn't do that to himself."
"Other people could learn to understand him," he mumbled to himself.
"No, they couldn't," I said, argumentative. "You're saying these things and worried because you haven't had enough sleep and he's being a brat. Go upstairs and take a nap."
Heero looked up at me, startled. "Did you just say he's being a brat?"
I squared my shoulders. "Yes, now go upstairs and take a nap."
"Just making sure I heard that right." Slightly amused but tired, he left the table and went upstairs to one of the guest rooms. Kitty still sat in front of the TV, watching his movie and not giving a first thought to any of us.
"Quatre Raberba Winner," I said in my ‘authoritative' voice, "you need to finish your breakfast. If not, no snacks before lunch time."
"Okay," he whined, crawling his way to the couch. "But Uncle Odin and Uncle Duo don't make me finish my breakfast."
"Well, I'm not Uncle Odin or Uncle Duo's father. I'm your father. Now eat." With another whine, this one incoherent to me, he sat back on the couch to finish his breakfast. "What was that young man?"
"Nothing," he said sourly.
I could hear Trowa quietly laughing as he rinsed the dishes, but just before I had the chance to snap ‘what's so funny,' the phone rang. Trowa answered, said something in a hushed tone, then hung up. He had a very strained look in his eye.
He sprinted upstairs to the bedroom. Just then the phone rang again. The caller ID came up ‘Unavailable.' It better not be a telemarketer.
"Quatre. Meet me at The Oasis as soon as you can. And don't bring Trowa."
I was floored. "Duo?!"
"When can you get here? We need to talk to you."
I was floored again. "Who is ‘we?' And come to my house, I hate it there."
"The Oasis. Thirty minutes."
He hung up.
I was just about to pull a chunk of hair out when Trowa came down the stairs with a backpack over his shoulder. "That was Zechs on the phone," he said. "He found the truck that struck us last night abandoned in Thorntown."
"Thorntown?" That city was a good three hours from here, and that's on a good day.
"Yeah. He's on his way there, and I'm going to meet him. It was in the parking lot of a Piggly Wiggly, all banged up. Odin said he'll stay here until I get back, just to make sure nothing happens."
"Okay. Well, here, let me make you a lunch or something."
"No time," he said, stepping into my path. "But I'll be fine."
"Don't leave," he said--well--demanded.
I flinched back. "What do you mean?" Great. He would say something like that when Duo and...whoever needed to speak with me. "I wasn't planning on leaving the house today but surely if something came up--"
"Stay here," he said more gently. "I don't want you to leave this house unless it's on fire."
"I'm serious Quatre. It's not safe."
Despite how great our marriage is, there always seems to be this power struggle between us. It was a constant battle of who was dominant and who was submissive. But I followed the advice that Relena gave me once when she was still with Heero; ‘Just agree with him for the sake of argument and then do what the hell you were going to do anyway.'
And that's exactly what I was going to do. "If you say so Trowa. Just keep me informed, okay?"
He nodded, gave me a kiss (ooooh, was it ever a kiss!) swatted Kitty on the behind and left. As soon as he was gone, I called Rashid. Within six minutes he was there. I stayed around long enough so that Heero would believe I wasn't going anywhere before I grabbed my Bowie and Makarov, slipped out of the house and flew down the highway in Rashid's yuppiemobile (can you believe he drives a Suburban?) Once there I parked in the lot behind the building and loaded my gun.
Many scenarios were running through my head as to why Duo would have me meet him here of all places. This was not the place you went to have a good time. The only other value this place had, besides being a goldmine for information, was that it was surrounded by other businesses that were just as questionable as OZ, and that the number of places to hide a body were innumerable.