Murder Has Blue Eyes
Heero boarded the plane back to LA with heaviness in his heart, but the knowledge that following Duo's wishes was probably the best thing for him to do in the long run, to keep himself in good with the organization. Duo was smart, and quite resourceful when he needed to be, as Heero well realized. He'd handle it on his end and keep the heat off Heero if he possibly could. As it stood, William really was the guilty party involved anyway, even though Heero was supposed to have been the one to pull the trigger on the gun that killed Duo. However, what was left now for the investigation was a simply case of family rivalry and self-defense, once the whole story was revealed. Having a witness that actually saw William shoot Duo was sure to be a big help, too.
As far as the unregistered weapons were concerned, Heero knew that Duo would face a fine for that, but because of the other man's quick thinking, even in his state of semi-shock, there would hopefully be no way to connect Heero to anything that had happened there that morning. Following Duo's request, Heero had thoroughly cleaned both weapons with his cleaning cloth that stayed in the duffel bag. Then holding the first gun with the cloth, Heero pressed William's fingers all over it, finishing by putting the gun in the dead man's hand, his finger still on the trigger, as it had been before Heero took it to clean it. The other gun he handed to Duo, who grappled it all over, feeling the trigger, then put it aside, knowing that his markings were all over the weapon.
It was a very scary predicament to leave the injured man in, with his prints all over a weapon that had killed someone, when he wasn't even the one that had done it, but Heero suspected that Duo had some good lawyers. Once they heard the whole story, and once it came out that William had arranged Victoria's death, Duo would suddenly be more believable, and as the head of a major corporation, the lawyers would want to keep it as quiet as possible with the police. He didn't know why, but he had a complete trust in the longhaired man that he would be able to make everything right. Perhaps it was just gut instinct, or maybe it was because it was about time that the soap opera came to an end, but Heero had no difficulty leaving the situation in the other man's hands while he returned home to sit and wait for it all to blow over. Duo would work it out, and as much as he wanted to be there to help, in the long run, he knew this was best.
Now, however, his heart ached for his new companion, and Heero wondered what the future would have in store for them. The first thing he planned to do when he returned to work the next day, though, was to resign as an agent for the Freedom Corporation. The time had come for Heero to stop. He knew it. He'd done way too much damage in a short amount of time. Duo Maxwell made him realize that, and now it was time to honor the other man by hanging up his weapons and starting over.
When Duo woke up in the hospital the next day, Jonathan was there waiting for him, sitting in an armchair by the window of the hospital room, the morning paper spread out before him. He was filling out the crossword puzzle, eyes fixed on the paper, pencil held tightly between his lips as he considered number 26 across - 8 letters starting with 'R', fifth letter 'M'; a spicy name for a lady.
There had already been an emergency procedure on the afternoon that Duo was admitted to the hospital to repair the damage that was caused by the bullet as it passed through the young man's shoulder, shattering the scapula. It would be the first of several procedures that he'd undergo over the next six months to return his shoulder to its original function. For now, though, his arm remained confined in a sling to keep the shoulder from moving too much, but the prognosis was good for a full recovery and complete motility of the joint.
"He has gone, then?" Duo's voice was low and tired.
"Mister Maxwell, nice to see you awake." Jonathan mumbled around the pencil held in his lips before he removed it. He dropped his newspaper and smiled at the recuperating man in the bed.
"He has gone?" the question was repeated.
"I assume so. I've already arranged for the car to be picked up. It should be there when I return home."
Duo said nothing for a while, looking past Jonathan and out the window to blue sky and fluffy clouds. He said he didn't know if we'd ever see each other again...but that was before all this happened. His mind immediately went to thoughts of the beautiful brown-haired special agent that had stolen his heart. Heero, are you going to quit? Have you had enough? This was a close one for you... don't let it happen again. You might lose the second time. It isn't in your heart anymore - I can feel it in you. I don't want to see you dead.
Jonathan cleared his voice, interrupting Duo's thought. "The surgeon said that you can go home tomorrow if you wish."
Duo turned to the older man, his friend throughout his entire lifetime, and nodded absently, not hearing a word that he said. "The investigation?"
"The police still want a statement from you, but it all looked very black and white to them." Jonathan's face was solemn. "I'm so sorry things had to turn out this way, Duo."
Duo smirked, looking away again. "Me too. But I think this should be the end of it all." He would eventually explain to Jonathan the role that Heero had in the whole scheme with William, but for the moment, Duo was satisfied that he knew the bits that he did, and nothing more. It would make the investigation easier, if Jonathan was able to honestly recount what he had seen, and not have to worry about hiding things from the law, since there already was the issue of the switching of the guns.
His main concern now, once he was released from the hospital, was dealing with Victoria's lawyers first and foremost, and getting the story straight with them. Duo would have them put a freeze on any information going to the media, and keep the story in secrecy until some hype had blown over, and William was found unquestionably to have been the cause of the whole scenario. Although Maxwell Corp. should have been his main reason for this freeze, with the company shares and reputation at risk after what had already been a very tumultuous start to the year, his interest was more to protect Heero, who had been an unsuspecting pawn in the whole incident. As long as Freedom didn't find out that Duo Maxwell was not dead, at least until Heero was gone, then everything would be fine, so that's what he would set out to do. Because, as he had reasoned to himself while lying in the hospital bed, it wasn't as if William was going to be able to complain to Freedom that he paid for a hit that did not happen. As far as the organization was concerned, the job had been completed.
Then once it was safe again, he'd contact Heero.
Contemplating what had transpired with the striking-looking man in two weeks, and apparently a whole year before, Duo resigned himself to the reasoning that he could not blame Heero for Victoria's death, no matter how hard he wanted to blame someone. The blame, if it belonged to anyone, belonged to William and in return, William had received his own justice. Duo held no remorse to know that the man was now dead. And although it pained him greatly to know that his lover had been there when Victoria - his mother, his business partner and his best friend - had died so tragically, Duo realized that the Heero that let her fall from the cliff was a different Heero than the one that had just saved his life. He, the one who was supposed to be next in William's little covetous scheme. It would take a while to get over it, but Duo knew that eventually he would. He just hoped he got the chance to tell Heero that he forgave him.
Dropping his bags just inside the doorway of his condo, Heero locked the door behind him, then entered the main room of the home. It was already after dark, and the place was black and hollow, but he didn't move to turn on any lights. It felt foreign to him now, after having spent the last month living in a posh hotel room. It felt as though he was, once more, intruding in on someone else's privacy. The furniture was strange, the layout of the home was awkward, and the feeling of cold indifference would not let him appreciate the relief of returning to a home sanctuary after a long time on the road. For that matter, Heero thought to himself, he really didn't have a home, since the condo wasn't even his; it was only a rental provided by the organization as part of his expenses. Except for the clothing in his bags and a few other personal items, everything about his life was unfamiliar and distant, a feeling that he'd lived with his entire existence, but which had vanished during the time he'd spent with Duo. Now it was back, as Heero was forced to settle again into the life that he was leading before the assignment that had changed him.
Abandoning his bags where they sat, Heero went to the kitchen and opened up the refrigerator door. There was hardly anything in it, other than some staple items and a few cans of diet Coke. This is how he'd lived before, eating out most days, never wanting to stock up on many things because he was always traveling, sometimes for days or weeks at a time, and until now, it never seemed to be a problem. But now, as he stared into the empty appliance, the hard white light from its interior bulb shining on him and across the floor in the otherwise blackened room, it suddenly seemed too barren. Too lonely.
At Duo's, when they'd gone to the kitchen for something coffee and something to snack on before retiring to the bedroom, Heero had noted the inside of the refrigerator, as silly as that sounded. It was full to the brim with everything from milk and juice to cheeses and fruit and half-eaten jars of salsa. There were Rubbermaid containers with leftovers and pitchers waiting with home-brewed iced tea. There were cans and containers and bags. All signs of life in the home, something that Heero didn't have here where he stood. It occurred to him, still gazing into his own refrigerator, that it was remarkable how much of an impression the refrigerator at the Maxwell estate had made on him. Then taking out a can of Diet Coke, Heero let the door shut behind him as he turned to make his way back to the living room.
Snapping the can open and taking a sip, Heero winced at the bitter taste of the soda. Why the hell do I drink this crap? He put the can down on the coffee table, then sat, reaching for the TV remote. Flipping the TV on, Heero surfed through channels until he found a program that was even minutely interesting - something on the training of rescue dogs - and he put the remote back down on the table. As the screen flickered its images, light danced over the floor and furniture creating patterns in the dark since Heero still hadn't turned on any lights. The room seemed surreal, like an old movie house, but Heero opted to stay hidden in the darkness as his eyelids grew heavy. The darkness, as lonely as it was, was secure.
Eventually he flipped off his shoes and laid across the couch, his head propped by one of the decorative pillows that had come with his rented furniture, and fell asleep, feeling more alone than he'd ever felt in his entire lonely existence.
The next day, Heero resigned.
The first person that Duo Maxwell called when he got home from the hospital was Elise Bettinger, one of Victoria's most trusted lawyers, and the head of the firm that handled her will and estate. Elise had not yet heard the news of William's death since the investigation was only two days old, so she didn't know about the whole shootout incident, or that Duo had been in the hospital. She knew only that the young son of her friend had left a very strange and vague message mentioning that he needed to see Elise as soon as possible and that he'd call in a day or two.
"Duo, what's wrong?" Elise began as soon as his call was transferred through to her. Even though Elise had been Victoria and Jake's sole attorney back in the days when Maxwell Financial was just getting off the ground, the servicing of the Maxwell's needs had been since passed on to a whip team of young esquires as the firm grew - and Elise's attentions were more needed in other areas. In her opinion, she had left the care of one of her best clients to some of her best employees, but she was about to learn differently.
"Elise, thank God," answered Duo.
The concern was beginning to show in Elise's voice. "Is something wrong?"
"Have you been over my mother's things since..." he paused. "Since she died?"
"Well, not personally, but Charles and Ed keep me updated with reports of everything that they are doing. Just like everyone else here. Why?"
Duo sighed into the receiver. "I think you need to go back to last year and review things. Personally."
"Duo, is there a problem with the execution of the will? What's happening? Is William giving you a hard time about things? I heard from Charles that you aren't working for the Corporation any longer and I've actually been meaning to call you to..." the lawyer rambled her questions quickly, her mind running a mile a minute.
"William is dead," Duo blurted out, silencing the woman.
"What?" Elise asked, her tone laced with surprise.
'I had no choice...he came after me with a gun. Tried to kill me. I've just returned from the hospital myself."
"Oh dear God. Duo... I'm so sorry."
"It's a long story, but I think you'll find it interesting."
There was the sound of pages turning in the background. "Can you meet me for lunch tomorrow at noon?"
"Deli across from my building."
"I'll be there."
Then without another word, Duo hung up on his end, leaving Elise wondering just what was going on with the young heir to her former client's fortune, and whether William had actually attempted to retain all of Victoria's wealth for himself by killing the young man. Only time would tell, and she sighed, hanging up her phone as well.
When they met for lunch the next day and Duo recited his version of what he assumed had gone on, Elise's eyes were bulging out of her head with disbelief, between his story and his condition, his arm slung pitifully in its sling. The premise that all of this had gone on under her nose was not only terribly embarrassing to her, but it awed her as well. Elise always prided herself as being on top of everything that was happening in her firm, always ready to assist her employees and their clients however she could to provide the utmost in service, and this went completely against everything that she stood for.
That afternoon's lunch dragged into the early evening as Elise canceled her appointments for the rest of the day, taking the time instead to sit with Duo. She documented his entire account in private, so that she could begin to get to the bottom of whatever it was that was going on unbeknownst to her. Although he conveniently skirted the issue of "who," when it was made known that there had been an admission that William had hired someone to kill Victoria, Duo was relieved all the same when Elise responded by saying, "and that's one investigation that'll be like looking for a needle in a haystack. I know how these groups work - they're invisible. A year later, we have an ice cube's chance in hell to find out who did it." When he'd accepted that answer from her without demanding that she have a search begun, the issue, for the moment at least, was pushed aside as they move don to the next point. She seemed satisfied with knowing that Jonathan had witnessed the shooting, and assured Duo that she would begin researching within her own firm to get to the bottom of what was transpiring between William and the other two lawyers, agreeing to keep everything hush-hush for the benefit of the Corporation.
What she did eventually find out was startling, and culminated with the termination of Charles' and Ed's position at the firm. Although it took her the better part of three weeks to do it, digging through not only the Maxwell account records but going back to the firm's paperwork over the past year since Victoria's death, Elise eventually managed to find what she was looking for - falsified documentation in the Maxwell files. The fake documents indicated payments that were being taken from Victoria's estate for "legal fees," although Elise had no recollection of any other service being performed for the Maxwell account since the will reading and estate dispersal. When she compared those documents to the accounts for the firm, and then with the bank records for William's account, the money had indeed been withdrawn, but there were no matching deposits in the firm's records.
It had been near a month, and Heero hadn't heard a word from Duo. In that time he resigned, the debriefing going substantially better than he'd expected, and Heero was convinced that they had gone about their own way to get him to retire from the organization. His supervisor noted, on that fateful day when Heero handed in his letter of resignation, that he seemed different, almost broken, as far as his ruthless dedication to the firm and in that manner it would be better for everyone involved if he retired. Heero only nodded in his agreement, not knowing whether to expect annoyance from his supervisor or not, but what he got was indifference. And a hand shake.
"Go live your life, son," was the only comment made, which left the most remote feeling that he'd done the right thing, and Heero was relieved as he handed in his weapons and turned over the keys to his leased automobile. The condo, it was decided, he would continue to rent on his own, since the lease was already in his name, and he still needed a place to live until he decided what he wanted to do with himself.
Walking out of Freedom's headquarters for the last time that sunny morning, Heero realized, once and for all, that he was free. Free to do what he wanted, free to go where he pleased, free to decide for himself. Initially the thought made him smile ever so slightly as he walked down the sidewalk to hail himself a cab to take him home, full of new vigor and life. But as he sat in the back seat of the vehicle contemplating, that feeling of pleasure and accomplishment quickly gave way to feelings of loss and uncertainty. Because with freedom comes indecision. With freedom comes question. With that new freedom would come the responsibility to once more fend for himself as far as life was concerned, and suddenly things didn't seem so rosy.
When the cab let him off in front of the condo in the neat little neighborhood of cookie-cutter buildings, Heero got out and handed the cabby his money, telling him to keep the change. The vehicle drove away, leaving the dark-haired man standing in the driveway. Heero stood there gazing around him for the next fifteen minutes, unmoving, his mind absently wandering as his body was overcome with a feeling of complete alone and fear - a fear he hadn't known in a long time, the fear of abandonment, even though it was he who removed himself from his duties as an assassin.
Pulling out his wireless phone, Heero checked it for the tenth time that morning for any word from Duo, but there was none. No message, no voicemail, no evidence that the phone had even rung with a hang-up, and his heart sank. He'd had the phone on non-stop since returning home to LA, hoping that the call would come in, but half expecting that it never would, and it left him baffled. While he didn't want to risk calling Duo for fear that things were still happening on his end and he needed to still be hidden, Heero couldn't help thinking that this had just been a convenient way for the other man to remove him from his life, considering the realization that they had both made before Heero's exodus. The part that frustrated Heero the most, though, was the fact that there was no way for him to find out what was happening, without risking messing something up worse than it already was, or putting Duo in jeopardy, so instead, he just watched the damn phone and waiting.
If he doesn't call, then I have thrown away my life for no reason at all. Heero pondered the future again, trying to decide right then and there, standing in the driveway, what he would do with himself if the inevitability came about that he never heard from Duo Maxwell again. If that happened, then he had allowed his lust come between himself and his profession, and now was left with nothing. If nothing is what remained, then that was what he deserved, for allowing such weakness of character in himself, and he would just have to learn to deal with it.
"Idiot." He cursed himself, then finally turned to walk toward the front door of his condo, going inside to sulk some more, and think about what his life was turning into.
Three days later while he was in the shower, Heero's wireless phone rang, he not being able to hear it, so the voice mail picked up. The message that was left was vague, but he understood it all the same.
"Hey, it's me. The heat's off. Things are good. It's safe."
Duo sat, looking solemn once more, oblivious to the spectacle going on around him as he proceeded to try to drown his sorrows in lagers. His arm still protected by its sling, he was telling people that he pulled some muscles playing racquetball, since Duo really did not want anyone else to know the true nature of his injury.
"Duo, man, what is it with you lately?" Sheila called out to him loudly against the noise of the nightclub. It was Friday night and the place was packed, as per the norm. The attractive woman sat beside him, dragging on a cigarette, sucking down her own beer, on her second break for the night. It was after eleven.
The longhaired man just shook his head, then took a sip from his mug.
"Where's that cutie I saw you here with a couple of weeks ago? Don't tell me it's over already?"
"Gone," came the reply as Duo turned to look at the woman. "Had some obligations to take care of."
"And look at you in the meantime...Damn." she rubbed his shoulder supportively. "Duo, this just isn't you, man. You gotta snap outa this, hear me? I wanna see the old you again, okay?"
Duo forced a little smile. "OK. I'll see what I can do."
For many minutes the two friends sat drinking, with no more mention being made of Duo's stale mood, until Sheila rose off her barstool to get back to work, her break over, and as she did, her attention was caught by the dark-haired man standing behind Duo.
"Umm... need to get back to work now," she said, pushing out her last cigarette in the ashtray on the bar. "Besides...I don't think you'll be needing my company anymore tonight."
Sheila smirked, then winked in her teasing way, trailing her eyes from Duo to just over his shoulder so that he would follow her gaze. When he caught her meaning and turned to look behind him, Duo's expression was pure surprise.
Heero smiled shyly.
"Jonathan told me you were 'out,' so I thought I would try looking for you here." Noticing the other man's slung arm immediately, Heero moved up to the bar and sat in the stool that Sheila had just vacated. Eyes fixed on Duo's and full of uncertainty, Heero just stared at the man before him, not knowing what was going to happen next - whether Duo would be happy to see him or not. Duo was still speechless, his own eyes searching the other man for answers as well.
"So... 'nother round?" Sheila asked, appearing now on the working side of the bar.
For a few seconds nobody spoke, until Duo snapped his attention back to Sheila. "Uh, no.. no Sheil, ya know, I think I'm done for the night." He smiled at the woman and she nodded, then moved on to her next thirsty customer.
"You want to get out of here?" Heero asked, timidly.
"Y-yeah, sure. I have a lot I need to fill you in on," Duo agreed, getting up from the stool. The two began to walk out together. When they had exited the building and reached the street where the noise level had all but subsided, Duo turned to Heero. "Where ya staying?"
"Uh... I..." Heero blushed, dropping his eyes to the sidewalk. "With you?"
Duo smirked, amused. "Oh, is that so?"
"I can get a hotel room if..."
"I'm JOKING, Heero. Joking." Duo smiled warmly and Heero relaxed, relieved. "Of course you're staying with me."