Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings: Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence
Later, as they drove down city streets, the kitten climbed the car seats and seemed determined to get into Duo’s personal space. He kept putting a hand on its tiny face and pushing it towards Heero to no avail.
“I don’t think you’re my secretary, Heero. I just observe better when I’m not taking notes.”
Heero frowned as he drove, eyes like laser beams on the road ahead.
Duo pushed the kitten away from him yet again, making it slide along the top of the seat as it made pitiful mewling noises. Duo stared hard at the side of Heero’s face, hating the man thoroughly now. What more did he want? It wasn’t easy for Duo to apologize, especially when he didn’t think he had to. The man wasn’t being reasonable. Maybe, Duo thought, he had managed to piss him off about other things.
“Okay, it was also a dick move to take you to a crime scene without letting you have time to look over the case.... or give you much information about it.”
Still silence. Heero raked his rough cut chocolate colored hair out of his face with one hand and his attention didn’t waver from the road. The sunlight made his dark blue eyes seem rarified. Duo had thought he looked plain, almost boring, but in reality he was a handsome man who had intelligence and firm purpose in his expression. Duo though of James Dean and the young Clint Eastwood, people just as intense. His silence seemed judgment now, instead of a default setting.
Duo ground out, “I wasn’t treating you like my partner, an equal.”
Heero finally gave a small, satisfied nod.
“Our victim was supposedly attacked by a dog and killed,” Duo told him. “Problem one: the dog was never found. Problem two: while there were dog prints on the ground around the victim, there weren’t any dog prints leaving the crime scene. No eyewitnesses. No sightings of a blood covered dog, or even a normal looking stray, in the area. He was like a ninja, killing like an expert and disappearing afterward like a ghost.
Duo pushed the kitten away yet again and exclaimed in frustration, “What are we going to do with this thing? It’s evidence. I’ve never had live evidence before.”
“I know it’s going to forensics, but after?” Duo said. “They can’t just bag it, label it, and put it in a bin until trial. They better not foist it off on me. I have pets.” He had two goldfish he barely remembered to feed. He had inherited them after the violent death of Father Maxwell, the priest who had been like a real father to him while Duo had been in foster care.
Heero didn’t voice an opinion or offer to take on the commitment of a pet himself, even though he had treated the kitten gently.
Duo spotted something on the kitten. He reached for the kitten and pulled off a round, plain sticker from its fur before pushing it away again. The dirty sticker stuck to his fingers. Disgusted, he tried to get it off by shaking them. Finally, it flew off into the back seat. It was evidence, whatever it was. He reminded himself to retrieve it and bag it as soon as they reached their destination. Distracted, he didn’t notice the kitten leave the seat until its small paws were on his shoulder. It curled up on his neck and went to sleep with the swiftness of the very young.
Duo glared down at the kitten. “If people only knew the true nature of cats,” he grumbled, recalling how many times in his life a seemingly benign bundle of fluff and cuteness had turned into a demon from hell. “Sure they seem nice and they make you feel good, but they aren’t nice. They’re playing you to get food and a warm place to sleep.”
“Small panhandlers,” Heero said suddenly.
Duo raised an eyebrow. “Exactly.”
“That describes people too.”
Duo snorted. “I might like you after all.”
Duo reached up a hand to remove the kitten, but it suddenly began to purr. His hand hovered over the dark ball of fluff as if the purring had the ability to sap his sense of purpose. Finally, Duo lowered his hand and left it alone. Soon he would hand it over to forensics and they would check it down to the microscopic level for clues. After that, Duo told himself he didn’t care. It would probably end up at the pound.
“Let’s check out Carla’s apartment.” Duo gave Heero the address then put his ear buds in and tried to order his thoughts before they arrived. He ignored the small voice inside, the street wise, hard-core part of him that accused Duo of trying to buy time for the kitten.
Carla’s apartment building was a three story brownstone walk up that would have looked nice with its front planters full of flowers and a bright sunny day as a backdrop. The stone planters were full of dead flowers, though, and the sun had gone behind dark clouds as a storm threatened rain or snow and a stiff wind blew down the street. It gave the entire neighborhood a look straight out of the beginning of a horror story.
Standing in front of Carla’s apartment while a few pedestrians walked around them, Heero and Duo both looked up at the approximation of where Carla’s home was: third floor, fourth window on the left.
Duo had his hands in his pockets and his ear buds were hanging around his shoulders. His long braid swung in the breeze.
“We shouldn’t leave the kitten in the car,” Heero said suddenly.
Duo glared at him. “Is your mind ever on the case?”
Duo opened the large pocket of his black coat and revealed the kitten snuggled warmly inside.
Heero grunted, seemingly satisfied, and looked up again.
Duo blinked and felt a chill that had nothing to do with the wind. A ghostly hawk flew from an upper window through suddenly falling snow. Duo turned his hand palm up and felt nothing. The snow was as ghostly as the hawk.
“According to the report, our victim, Carla Metzer, was a woman who enjoyed sameness,” Duo said. “She had a rigid routine that she followed every day. Her neighbors were questioned and they all confirmed that they could set their watches by her daily habits. It was the only thing they noticed about our unassuming Carla. She had a cable bill, a phone she only used to order pizza on Thursdays, and a crush.”
Duo started walking down the sidewalk away from the apartment building, following the flight of the hawk. After a moment’s hesitation, Heero followed him.
Duo continued, “The weird thing about the case isn’t the fact that she was killed by a dog. It isn’t even weird because the dog pulled a Hound of the Baskervilles and ‘disappeared’. It’s weird because of the one thing no one in the investigation picked up on. Our poor Carla broke her routine and went jogging after work. In fact, she went to a park that wasn’t close to her home in order to jog. Something tells me Carla went there to meet someone.”
“Carla was shy,” Duo went on, as if Heero had questioned his theory. “She worked at an insurance firm for five years, yet none of her coworkers knew her well. She sat on a bus bench for five years, yet the people who sat with her every morning couldn’t recall ever speaking to her. Suddenly, she broke with her routine and started buying a coffee and danish every morning. The employees in the coffee shop confirmed it. They recalled her because she acted oddly.”
Heero made a surprising conclusion, “She was probably having panic attacks because she was forcing herself into a social situation.”
Duo hadn’t thought of that. It made him irritable as he replied, “Because buying coffee and a danish is terrifying?”
Duo could feel Heero’s tension even though the man was walking behind him.
“Okay,” Duo grated, “She was having panic attacks and that made her stick out among the crowd of usual coffee drinkers.”
Yuy said bluntly, “You thought she was on drugs, didn’t you?”
“It was only a working theory,” Duo replied defensively.
Duo pointed briefly to indicate the coffee shop on their right, a small establishment that was an unremarkable place in a line of unremarkable shops with its name, Good Perks, written in florid script on its large, plate glass window. Duo didn’t stop walking to go inside.
“Every day, she passed that clothing shop, that delicateness, that cell phone shop, that salon, and last, but not least, that bail bonds office, but never went inside them.” Duo pointed briefly to each shop in quick succession as he walked by them.
Duo finally stopped at a bench and a bus stop sign. He smoothed a hand over the back of the bench there, ignoring the woman sitting on it. The woman looked apprehensive and moved further down the seat away from him.
“My theory, Heero, is that Carla met someone who made her want to change her routine.”
Heero stood next to him, looking down at the bench as if it could tell him something, “The killer?”
Duo grinned. “That would make this case too easy.”
“We’re looking for a jogger?” Heero theorized. “Someone handsome enough to make Carla change her routine and take up jogging herself in order to see him?”
Duo nodded. Heero was definitely not an idiot. “That would establish why she was at the park. As for a clue to her killer, forensics photographed the footprints in the area at the time of the murder. They were all jogging shoes… except for a pair of combat boots.”
Heero frowned. “Your theory is that she went jogging, hoping to meet someone, and ran into a killer instead? You said the first investigation found that the killer was a stray dog. You’ll need a strong case to convince a jury it was a person.”
Duo pointed an admonishing finger at him as he leaned on the back of the bench. “Don’t sound so skeptical.”
Heero insisted. “We need evidence.”
Duo dropped his finger and pushed himself away from the bench. He walked back to the coffee shop with Heero in tow. “Let’s find some, then.”