4-16-2002

Title : The Killing Tide14/20
Author : Dalton (AngelDalton6@aol.com)
Rating : R
Category : AU only in the fact that this takes place 10 years after Endless Waltz
Warnings : Swearing, angst, violence and death.
Disclaimer : Gundam Wing is the property of Sunrise, the Sotsu Agency, and Bandai. No infringement is intended upon their rights. (4/14/2)
----------

The station was in such a bustle that Heero was able to make his way out and help himself to an unlocked car without gaining more than cursory notice. Having passed that obstacle, Heero considered going to Quinton, but no matter how concerned he was for Sally and Duo, he had to postpone that visit. With the recent discovery of Sally's disappearance, the medical facility would be teeming with Preventers and police who would detain him. Choosing a destination the law enforcers would not consider for a time, Heero steered his appropriated auto toward the Berks County Library. The Time magazine with the pig graffiti had come from that branch, and Heero was hoping the library might contain other similar graffiti-laden volumes, including one that could be connected to a library card.

It wasn't hard to find the little library. Heero had visited it a few times, or, actually, jogged past it. He hadn't bothered acquiring a card or browsing the shelves of the facility because the Preventer document library held the only reading material he required. Wufei, on the other hand, often came to the Berks Library to return books before he joined Heero for the day's workout. If Wufei had been in town, Heero would have had him do this bit of research, since the bookworm seemed to know the place inside and out. However, his friend had not yet come back from his mission, and Heero was left to unravel the complexities of the Dewey Decimal System all by himself.

Leaving his Preventer jacket under the passenger seat in the car, Heero entered the quiet building wrapped in Joey's large coat and crowned with his Chicago Cubs ball cap. The library wasn't as quiet as one usually would have been. The front steps were crowded with two shuffling, prattling semi-formed lines of children awaiting their bus. Going in through the main doors, Heero had to sidestep several boisterous day-care children who giggled and swarmed in and out of their places in barely-controlled excitement.

One little pig-tailed five-year-old tugged on Heero's coat hem, and he looked at her with a perplexed expression. Heero hadn't had much exposure to children. His work--his life--was too busy to permit the intrusion of overly-dependent and happily clueless children. But looking down into the worried face of the fair child, Heero was reminded of another reason why he kept away from children; it was too dangerous. ~He~ was too dangerous; and after meeting him, a little girl with a smile and a flower could reach the end of her too-precious life. Though this one carried a Barbie instead of a flower, her approach caught him off guard, and he wasn't quite sure how to react to her insistent tugging.

An older member of the day-care group solved his problem. "Julia, c'mon. Mrs. Collins'll get mad if we don't stay in line."

The boy proceeded to yank the child away; she seemed quite dismayed to leave before delivering her important message. Her remedy was to shout out in a little bird's voice, "Mister, you can't go in, 'cause Mrs. Collins says it's lights-out time, and you have to go home and eat dinner now! Aaron, stop it! The man is gonna get lost, 'cause it's going to get dark an' the monsters, they come out and they're gonna get him..."

"Monsters:" the mumbled word was tinged with irony. Heero was all too aware that there were monsters; monsters that floated in space, monsters that walked the earth, and monsters that controlled both. There seemed to be an unending supply of them. No matter how determined the Preventers were, no matter how driven Heero was, there would always be monsters to fear. Heero could not afford to lose; he could let no monster roam free. He was determined to stop the tide of unfortunate events cresting around him, but he needed more time. The lack of it chafed him, but he had to squelch his impatience or risk losing the monster through negligence.

Heero was so lost in his thoughts as he entered the reception area of the library that he didn't notice the human barrier in his way until he ran into her.

"Heero Yuy. What a most unexpected pleasure."

Heero's eyes shot up from their distracted study of the tiled floor to take in the long platinum hair and the arrowed brow of a smugly amused Dorothy Catalonia.

She smoothed out her jacket where Heero's distracted momentum had rumpled it. "An expected response from a gentleman would be: 'Good evening, Ms. Catalonia, it's a pleasure to see you, as well.' Ah, but I forget that you never took those required etiquette classes during your stay at the Sanq Institute."

Heero's brow creased, wondering what the intrusive woman was doing at the Berks County Library; last he had heard, she was busy scribbling up a career as a journalist somewhere in Canada. He tried to ignore her and pass, but she effectively blocked his way, standing directly in front of the turnstile. Heero would have leapt over the contraption, but he did not want to attract any negative attention. Instead, he gave her a verbal push: "You're in the way."

"My, my." She batted her lashes in mock shock and politely stepped to the side, but as soon as Heero had passed, she followed.

Her move irritated Heero to no end. Stopping at the reference desk, he turned to confront her, but she had already anticipated his complaint.

"I know, I know. It's very improper of me to keep you from your urgent quest for How to Win Friends and Influence People," Dorothy gave a predatory little grin. "but running into you--or, rather, being run into by you--was such a surprise that I got the most absurd of ideas. I thought we could have a little chat--reacquaint ourselves, mull over present circumstances, reminisce over old grudges, and so on. Surely you wouldn't mind a little company while perusing the periodicals."

"Yes, I would." Heero tried to leave the persistent blonde and enter the main room, but another person's disapproval stopped him.

"I'm sorry." A petite brunette at the main desk leaned over the wide counter to get the couple's attention. Though her frame was diminutive and her tone kindly polite, authoritativeness permeated her being. "The library is closed. We're open again at 8AM tomorrow, but if you're returning a book, I can take care of that now."

Dorothy smiled sweetly at the librarian. "Mrs. Essman, allow me to introduce an old...acquaintance. This impressively stiff young man is Heero Yuy, one of the Earth Sphere's cherished Preventers. We knew each other once upon a time." With a dainty twist of her wrist, she waved the fact away, drawing attention to the importance of the statement by belittling it. "I'm sure what he's looking for is quite important since anything he does could be no less; so if you don't mind, might we have a moment or two before you lock up?"

A kind smile lit the librarian's face, but she remained dedicated to her duty. "It must be such a pleasure for you to meet again, but it is five o'clock and the board is very strict about its rules. I'm afraid that I can't..." Glancing at the clock on the wall, the woman seemed to reconsider. "Well, there is someone in the file room who may not be finished, and since I have to stay till he's done, I think it will be all right for you to have a few minutes inside. Mind you, I'll be shooing you out as soon as he's done, so don't dally."

"You are simply wonderful, Mrs. Essman. I knew you were an angel when you helped me with that mess of a book signing. I shall definitely recommend this library to the other clients in my agency." Dorothy turned her smile on Heero and waved toward the rows of shelving in the main room. "Shall we?"

The pleasant librarian jolted up from her closing work as if she had remembered something. "Oh! Mr. Yuy? I'm sorry, you are Mr. Heero Yuy?"

Dorothy nodded while Heero bobbed his head with a scowl. He couldn't figure out what Dorothy wanted from him. This woman, whom he had only known as a dangerous obstacle, was being too helpful.

Mrs. Essman ducked under the U-shaped desk and came up with a small book in her hand. She set it on the counter and smiled at Heero. "I thought I recognized your name. Here's the book you called for. I didn't think you were going to come for it, but I always wait a month before re-shelving things."

The comment and the offered book confused Heero. When he made no move to pick up the hardback, Dorothy graciously took it for him. One of her forked brows rose as she read the cover. "'Mother Goose'? Don't tell me there's a miniature Yuy running rampant and blowing up daycare centers somewhere. It will take more than soothing bedtime stories to control genetic inheritance."

"I don't have children." Heero cut Dorothy's taunt off quickly, then startled the librarian with the intensity of his sudden attention. "I didn't request this book, or any book, from here. You must have the wrong information."

A crease appeared across the woman's brow. The error seemed to bother her more than it bothered Heero. The librarian fumbled through a collection of note cards until she found the one pertaining to the book. "Yes, here. You see, the book was requested by a Mr. Heero Yuy. I have the registration in our database and in the hard files. Susan could have mistyped the name, but she's an excellent assistant." The librarian tilted her head as she wrote a note on the card. "I'm sorry for the confusion. The request must have been made by another Heero Yuy."

"A third Heero Yuy?" Dorothy grinned. "How very interesting."

Heero glared at Dorothy, then spoke to the librarian. "I'd like to see the registration card. It could have been a friend who was doing me a favor."

Mrs. Essman nodded, stepping around the counter's edge. "The files are in the back room. I'll be right back with the paperwork."

"Oh, please do." Dorothy turned on the charm again. "I'll keep an eye on things for you, and we won't move an inch."

When Mrs. Essman was out of sight, Heero turned on Dorothy, taking the book from her. "What are you up to?"

Dorothy spread her hands out, palm-up, and cocked her head. "Whatever do you mean, Heero?"

Heero chose to drop his question and her presence as well. Tucking the book into one of the large pockets of Joey's jacket, Heero turned to make his way behind the main desk. He could wait for the librarian to retrieve the physical signature of the mysterious second Heero Yuy, but he was curious about other Preventers who might be on the library's list. The computer was still on; without further regard for Dorothy, Heero began his search.

Dorothy's smile didn't waver, but the playful look in her eyes disappeared as her prey began to make his escape into his own private world. "I merely want that chat I mentioned. If it means you'll agree, I'll do whatever I can to help you finish your little book project."

He stopped typing, but kept his back to her. "I have no time to play your games, Dorothy. I don't want to talk to you."

"But I want to talk with you." Dorothy clasped her hands resolutely behind her back. "About what has happened to some people we both know."

She had finally caught his attention. Heero's quick fingers froze upon the keyboard and he glanced down the hallway where the librarian had gone to make sure she was not returning. He spared a minute of his limited time to face Dorothy and make sure she understood him. "Whatever you have heard, the subject is not open to discussion. Not now. Not ever with you. It doesn't involve you and there is nothing you could offer to change that."

The young woman looked temporarily miffed, but held her ground gracefully. "I do know a few things, Heero Yuy, that perhaps even you might not have discovered yet. I'm not denying my lack of love for those who have unfortunately perished, but I do have a deep respect for them, and I don't wish for their deaths to sully the brilliance of their lives."

Heero's resolve weakened only enough to allow her to state her case. "What could you know?" He turned back to the computer, but peered at her over his shoulder.

Dorothy smiled. "Enough to make me curious."

"With you, that's not much." Heero spoke without a trace of humor. His fingers flew over the keyboard again, then paused to await the resulting data.

Now it was Dorothy's turn to glare. "Who have you been taking snide lessons from? It's not very becoming."

She tapped a finger on the desktop, waiting for Heero's rebuke. None came, but he had shifted to face her again, leaning back against the wall behind the desk with his arms locked across his chest in a display of impatient curiosity. Since she had seemed to gain her audience, Dorothy ventured to continue, "Now, if you can continue to be serious or at least civil, I'd like to know what you think of this farcical investigation into the reasons behind Quatre Raberba Winner's accident. This talk about drug abuse is utter nonsense. The investigation seems suspiciously and disgustingly inept, because the reports are full of theories--there's not a single detail that they can come to an agreement on. At first they claimed food poisoning, but although the meat was tainted, the level of contamination was not high enough to cause death. The other three people who ate the infected pork chops didn't die. After a little uncomfortable stomach pumping, they were perfectly chipper, but not our sweet little Mr. Winner. No, it appears the poor dear went into seizures from a mixture of the bad meat he ate, the alcohol he drank and the pills he took. At least, that is what they are reporting now."

Heero was surprised that for once he and Dorothy were in agreement. Her news had a bit more information than what Une had told him. It hadn't been unusual for Quatre to have a drink with his meal, especially when he was entertaining guests, but Heero had not known Quatre was on medication. "What kind of pills?"

Pleased that he was finally taking her seriously, she continued, "Methadone HCI. It's a narcotic pain reliever, but it's also a treatment for heroin addiction--and a very nasty thing when mixed with alcohol. Now, I knew the little angel was not as innocent as he looked, but I wouldn't be naïve enough to say he was an idiot--because he'd have to be one to ignore the warning labels on the items he consumed. It's this point that makes me almost believe the reports. Only someone abusing the drug would have put himself in such a dangerous state. Methadone was created to correct abuse, but like all drugs, it can turn and become the addiction. However, certain other substances don't play nice with Meth. Their inner battle is what caused Quatre's seizures and closed up his throat. I'm not surprised the teetotaler took up casual drinking, but he's always been much too stable and too pure to fall under the spell of casual drugs. I'm sure you'll agree with me."

She paused in her diatribe to get confirmation from her silent audience, and sighed at what she found. His eyes locked on the computer screen, his mind locked in thought, Heero Yuy was a live personification of one of the decorative statues within the old library. "Shall I knock, or will there be no one home?"

Heero had heard her, but he was lost in the organized shuffle of his thoughts. His stare pierced the list of Preventer-related information that scrolled across the computer's screen. His name was there, along with Wufei's and Noin's. When his lips moved from their firm line to speak, it wasn't in answer to her jibe, but in response to something previously stated. "Did you say 'pork chops'?"

Dorothy mentally schooled herself to be patient with the obviously slow man. "Unfortunately, yes. I don't know who hired his cook, because pork is such a wretched choice for a meal when there are guests. Pheasant or hare would have been more apt and a better choice, especially with guests from a predominately Muslim country, but that is neither here nor there. I'm sure they do things differently on the colonies, even in the best of houses, but pork..." She let her sentence trail off as her well-bred sensibilities took distress from the idea.

Heero grew tense, the muscles in his jaw clenching before he spoke again. "Methadone HCI is a prescribed drug."

Not quite sure if he was asking or stating, Dorothy replied with a tentative yes, and was surprised when that answer seemed to be the oil that moved the tin man.

Heero's fingers flexed unconsciously on the book in his pocket as data flashed through his mind like lightning, offering probabilities, theories. Just as quickly he rejected them, shooting through the absurdities and the impossibilities. He held onto the few hard facts he was sure of, his mind bristling at the re-emergence of the tell-tale swine. He knew Quatre had all his physical appointments, all his prescriptions, done through Quinton. The two made a habit of meeting for a shared meal after their bi-monthly physicals. Heero also knew Sally was the only one with clearance to access the medical data of the five former gundam pilots and the ability to grant the access to others. Une also had the control, but left it in Sally's hands as the head of Quinton. As much as Heero wanted to deny that Sally could be responsible for the murders, Heero could not deny the bad light shed upon her sudden disappearance. Her knowledge of drugs and access to private Preventer records could be an essential asset for someone striking out at the group, and that knowledge could prove fatal for one currently recovering patient.

Coming back to life, Heero had to admit he couldn't be in two places at once; and from what he just learned, it seemed Quinton Medical Center was beckoning to him much more desperately than the dusty aisles of the Berks County Library. He made a hasty decision, risking nothing more than he had already lost, and applied for Dorothy's previous offer to help. "Do you know where the magazines are kept?"

The question threw Dorothy off. "Magazines? Ah, you mean the periodicals in the library." A sly smile slowly spread across her face. "Are you asking for my help, Heero?" She didn't press her pleasure at the concept, afraid to lose the chance to be a part of something more exciting than book signings, but her curiosity made her speak out. "May I ask why?"

"You're convenient." Heero tore a page out of the sign-out book on the desk and hastily penned some information on it. "And your desperation for involvement ensures the trust I wouldn't have given under normal circumstances."

Dorothy dryly accepted the offer. "Your tact never fails to amaze me. What is it you want me to do?"

"Look for Time magazine, or any other magazine that would have any content about the Preventers or the people and events from the wars, and get a copy of the signature on the registration card." He tucked the folded paper into her palm as he made his way around the desk. "Call that number and ask for Coleman if you find anything that sparks your curiosity."

"If we are going to continue our chat later," Dorothy couldn't refrain from keeping the impatient man a second longer, "you should take this. It's required reading." Removing a rolled-up section of newspaper from her shoulder bag, she thrust it at Heero, and Heero; in his rush, shoved it into his zippered coat opening without a thought.

"Mr. Yuy?"

His hand on the bar of the inner door, Heero paused only long enough to glance back at the returning librarian, who was accompanied by a rather determined looking man in blue. The sight of the policeman gave Heero further cause for making a hasty retreat, but as he broke through the outer doors, he was greeted with an impressive display of hastily-collected manpower. Two squad cars were parked in a tilted angle at the foot of the library's concrete steps, some of their tires resting in the autumn flowers along the walkway; safely behind the steel blockade stood three armed policemen, their weapons drawn and defensive stances taken. Heero froze, his eyes darting to take stock of his options. As the officer he had seen inside approached him from behind, Heero resignedly lifted his arms in the air, his elbows held slightly away from his sides.

Hicks didn't hesitate as he firmly took hold of one of Heero's wrists and slapped a metal cuff around it. "That was something, leaving the station like you did. Pissed off a couple of people who don't like being played with. You just don't know how much of a mistake that was, kid."
--------