4-17-2002

Title : The Killing Tide15/20
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. (4/17/2)
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Dr. J had been wrong in considering his trainee's patience immortal. Twelve hours after Hicks deposited him in the small cell, a highly impatient Heero was on his sixty-fifth count of the holes dotting the ceiling. He'd had a restless nap eight hours earlier, when he realized he was not getting out of his current residence. Unless someone let him out, or the guard made a mistake, Heero would be forced to put his patience to the test.

He shifted his attention from the ceiling to check on Officer Bob McGee's slow progress through the newspaper. Looking past the pair of raised boot soles that marred his view, Heero noticed the guardsman had finally gotten past page 5D, where a very interesting article had been continued. The newspaper was two days old, but as Dorothy had promised, it contained some "required reading." Trowa and Catherine's deaths had made the news--which was not surprising, since the circus was a business of entertainment and the media was a business of exploitation. Any coverage was good advertising for a struggling business. However, it wasn't pleasant to read such a degrading, melodramatic description of the events; Heero had to employ all his self-control to keep from making a sloppy escape to rectify the errors of press and police. He also wished he had the paper in his hands instead of reading from afar with a man's big feet and fingers covering half the article, but the newspaper had been taken from him upon his arrival along with the children's book, Joey's cap and coat, and all other loose items. Heero had also been "relieved" of his uniform dress shirt with its accusingly absent button. He now wore an old rock concert t-shirt from the donations box at the front of the station.

Heero didn't know who "The Crystal Lips" were, and he didn't much care. His finger scratched in irritation at the bright pink logo on his chest while he did his best to follow the paper's upside-down article. His eyes narrowed, zooming in on what he had hoped to find: a shining pebble of fact among all the bullshit--or pig shit, for that was what the paper finally declared as the fecal decoration around the crime scene. Originally it had been thought the refuse came from the sheep that had been mutilated just hours before the main act of murder, but some former pig farmer-turned-cop straightened that error out right away. No matter the source, the presence of anything pig related was what Heero had been searching for to connect Trowa's to the other deaths.

The confirmation must have made Heero unconsciously make a sound, because Officer Bob McGee's face suddenly appeared where the paper had been. "You say somethin'?" When the temporary prisoner returned to his study of the pocked ceiling without answering, Bob peered over the side of his paper to see what the fellow had been staring at. Then he grinned good-humouredly. "A darn sight boring in there isn't it? I don't blame you for bein' bored; it's just as exciting out here. But I suppose I could give you something to read to pass the time. No crime in that."

Heero's eyes brightened at the offer, though he remained staring at the ceiling. What Heero would have liked was a more thorough look at the newspaper article, but if it was possible he'd take a different advantage of the situation. It wouldn't take much to overcome the thin cop if the right opportunity presented itself. Heero sat up on the cot as he heard McGee rise from his chair and rifle through the desk's drawers. Clasping his hands between his bent knees, Heero tried to get him to loan the paper and forget his sidearm. "What are the stats on the game?"

Bob stopped in his progress through the drawers and glanced at the newspaper on the desk. He shrugged as he pushed a drawer shut and got up out of his chair, leaving the paper where it was and tucking a nightstick under his arm. "Don't think I read that section yet. You a sports fan?"

"No." Heero frowned as he lay back on his cot and sourly returned his attention to the ceiling.

Bob tapped the bars, a puzzled look on his face. "Hey. Don't you want this?" He wiggled a book between the bars, and when he didn't get a response, rolled his eyes and carefully propped the book in the gap. "It's not the Wall Street Journal, but it's the only other thing here. You don't want it, you just leave it there or push it out. Doesn't pay to be picky."

After the policeman had returned to his desk, Heero gave in to curiosity and took a look at the book. A sideways picture of an old woman sitting astride a large goose graced the front of the small hard-back teetering between the cell's bars. It was the children's book Heero had been given at the library. Reaching over his head, he plucked the book from its resting place, and then heaved himself into a sitting position to study it.

It wasn't so much the book as its intended reader that captured Heero's interest. He had only been in this borough for a little over two years and had never run into anyone with a name similar to the one he donned eleven years ago. In fact he had never found any other Heero Yuy in any other place on Earth or on the colonies. It seemed that the general populace had decided to revere the name of the late peacemaker in other ways than christening their first born with it. Or, perhaps, the second Heero Yuy had stigmatized the name enough for one generation. Whatever the reason, Heero was sure no other Yuy existed.

Heero had begun flipping through the book's pages when he heard a buzz on the desk-com that warned Bob of a visitor. Heero slapped the book shut, abandoning it to the lumpy mattress as he rose. He had been anticipating a visit from either Coleman or Une--their positions practically guaranteed their presence--and he wished to use it to his benefit. Hitching the T-shirt out of his slacks to cover his unclaimed belt with its handy metal fastener, Heero frowned at his bare feet and wished the guard had been lax enough to leave him his socks.

When his gaze returned to the world outside his cell, Heero's frown turned into a scowl. Standing in a chastising posture, with his hands tucked behind his back, was Zechs Merquise.

"What are you doing here?" Heero barked.

The less-than-enthusiastic welcome didn't bother Zechs. He was as prepared as usual--flawless in his looks and his manner. "That's exactly what I'd like to ask you. You were supposed to find Duo, not create more problems for me to take care of. Because of your ineptitude, Une has agreed that you are to work with me or not work at all. Your help would be appreciated, but not your recklessness."

"Learn to make changes." Not waiting for the absurd demands Zechs would present, Heero began to seek his own answers: "What have you found regarding Sally's disappearance?"

Heero could have counted Zechs's reaction as a slight victory if he had cared, but he merely catalogued the unguarded rise of golden brows and the hot stare that accompanied them. Zechs recovered quickly, determined not to allow his old competitor another mark. "Are you agreeing to work with me on this?"

Heero stubbornly refused to answer, choosing to let Zechs figure it out for himself.

Zechs sighed. "Need I remind you, you're now considered a suspect in Hilde's death? Your continued refusal to cooperate could convince some people of your guilt, and since Duo isn't expected to recover, they're looking for someone else to take the blame."

Heero wasn't greatly surprised by the news. In fact, it gave him an odd sense of peace. "Then Duo's no longer a suspect?"

"Is that what this is?" Zechs's voice lowered to keep the nosey officer at the desk uninvolved, but his tone remained demanding. "Are your erratic actions an attempt to alleviate Maxwell's burden?"

Heero held Zechs's gaze but neither confirmed nor denied the charge. Instead he answered the question with another: "What's Duo's status?"

Zechs glared at Heero, but answered, "He seems to be recovering fairly quickly for the amount of damage he sustained, but he hasn't regained consciousness. The doctors are unwilling to classify him at a coma status. When his body begins to fail, they will. Duo's criminal charges are still debatable. So far he can only be held accountable for the deaths of the police officers killed at the Market. There is no solid proof he caused Hilde's death, and the presence of his gun in Trowa's trailer can be explained with little effort." He paused as a ripple of emotion flickered across Heero's cold visage. "It's Duo... You're protecting him."

The hardness returned to Heero's countenance triple-fold; even his body seemed to become a granite barrier. "I'm not protecting anyone."

Zechs studied the human obelisk in front of him. His next words seemed like purposeful jabs to find a hole in Heero's armor. "Of course. If your aim had been to protect, the Preventers wouldn't have a member currently occupying Quinton's critical ward. Was it indifference that kept you from getting to Duo before the police did?"

The question struck Heero hard and lodged like an unreachable barb in the small of his back. Though he had been facing Zechs for the comment, it had felt very much like the man had attacked him from behind. Heero's return was paltry in its defense. "Your man didn't make it in time, and he knew the police were on their way." Heero bristled at his unintended admission of error and instinctively tried to turn the tables. "Why weren't ~you~ there, Zechs? Why send Noventa in your place?"

Zechs's brow creased slightly and he absently grasped at a bar as he stepped closer. "Noventa? What were you doing with him? What did he tell you?"

Heero stood resolutely behind the barred fence, not giving in to the desire to press against it as earnestly as Zechs had. The uniformed Preventer seemed greatly dismayed by the chance that Noventa and Heero might have met each other. "If he had talked to me the content would be my business, not yours. I refused to work with you, but I did not refuse to work. There should be no reason why Noventa shouldn't speak with me."

"There is a very good reason." Whatever it was, Zechs didn't look as if he would say.

Mistrust crackled like lightning around the two men. Heero had always been troubled by Zechs's sudden return from Mars--the man never explained why he left the project before its completion. The current tide of events made Heero question every suspicion. "What are you hiding, Zechs?"

The taller man studied the guarded depths of Heero's eyes before he responded. "What do ~you~ hide?"

The two men stared at each other, betraying nothing. Heero's stubbornness finally broke Zechs's modicum of patience. "Your behavior is wasting time--placing more people in danger. Your single-minded pursuits help no one but yourself." Zechs leaned in closer, hissing the whispered words, "Who are you protecting, Heero? If not Duo, is it Wufei? Or do you save yourself, feigning a false vengeance from their convenient misfortunes?"

"I am not--"

"Protecting anyone. Yes, I know. You've said so before." Zechs eased back from the bars, but his hand had not relaxed its grip on the metal pole.

Heero's brow creased as Zechs's spirited accusations touched off an unexplored consideration. "Wufei. Why did you mention him? He's not part of this. He's been in Tehran since the fourth on the assignment you refused."

"So we all thought." Zechs's response eloquently ignored the dig aimed at his work ethic. Instead, his fingers twitched on the metal bar, eager to serve his latest discovery on Salome's silver platter. "Tests have been done on the blood in Sally Po's hospital room. The results, along with other evidence, prompted a search for Wufei. We don't know where he is now or where he's been, but we do know he was in Sally's room before she disappeared."

"Stop." Heero's demand was a deadly growl. "Stop redirecting the blame onto the most convenient scapegoat."

Zechs didn't stop. "The Mid-East conference ended three days ago with no representation from the Presenter staff. The seat on the round trip flight was not occupied. Wufei never left, and no one has seen or heard from him. Except for Sally. And perhaps you. "

"I told you to stop." Heero's hand grabbed the bar directly in front of Zechs's face. "You're wrong. I'll prove you wrong, and you ~will~ admit it... If you're still alive."

It was a long minute before Zechs's tapered fingers released their pressure on the bar, and he stepped back from the cell. A faint smile appeared on his lips. "That's a difficult task to accomplish from your current position. Not a fair vantage at all. Your release will be arranged."

Heero glared at the retreating form, and as soon as Zechs had disappeared from view, he turned his attention to the guard. He would take no more gifts from Zechs. "I want to make a call."

Officer McGee turned abruptly from the exit to stare in surprise at Heero. "Huh?"

"I'm allowed a phone call. I want to make it now."

The look on Heero's face brooked no argument. The request was perfectly legal, but there was something about it that made Bob wish he hadn't been assigned the duty. He sputtered something unintelligible as his feet hit the floor, and nervously began to rummage around the desk for the telephone. "Uh, I...uh, the phone's...wh...where?....oh boy...."

Heero waited patiently, but his quietly intense presence on the other side of the bars seemed to disturb the officer even more. Bob's frantic hands finally landed on the view-box of the com sitting to the right of him. "Found it. Uh, I...found it." The man's face was flushed a light shade of pink, but his hands managed not to shake as he picked up the unit. Five steps away from the desk and two away from the cell, the cord on the phone reached its end, jerking Bob to a halt.

"Oh, geez." The predicament seemed to be a more of a relief than a disaster. "It, uh, won't reach."

Heero slowly looked from the phone to Bob's stressed grimace. "You're going to have to let me out."

"Oh, nonononononono." Bob immediately returned to the desk, dropping the phone on top of the newspaper. He continued to shake his head in denial, one hand slipping beneath his forelock to wipe his brow as he tried to think of a different option.

"I have a right to a phone--"

"I know! I know!" Officer Bob McGee ground his palm against his forehead as if trying to erase a headache. "But I can't let you out. That's, uh, that's not the best thing to do."

Heero's finger tapped the bar twice, slowly--the only evidence of impatience from him. "Find a mobile com."

"I suppose I could. Kramer's got one right....uh. No." The brief moment of happiness left Bob as another thought trashed that idea. "No, I can't leave you alone in here."

Though he said nothing and moved not a muscle, the light in Heero's eyes honed into dangerous daggers that barely kept from stabbing toward the stubborn officer.

Bob seemed to come to a decision as he fished through his pocket for the keys to the cell. "Okay, we're doing this my way or not at all." When Heero nodded his agreement, Bob stepped toward the bars, his nightstick in hand. "Stand to the left and keep your hands on your head. When I open the door, I want you to take one step out and to the side."

As the bars clanged out of the way, Heero did as he was instructed, standing just in front of the cell. Satisfied with Heero's conduct so far, Officer McGee pocketed his keys and removed a pair of cuffs. "Okay, now turn around, keep your hands above your head and grab hold of the bar."

Heero began to turn around slowly, wondering if he was going to have to change his plans and do more than knock out the guard to escape. "How am I going to hold the phone?"

"I'll hold it up to your ear. You just ta--"

There was a loud crack that sounded like two-by-fours clapping together. Heero spun around fast enough to get his arms full of an unconscious Officer Bob.

"Oh man, that hurt!" Joey dropped the com unit and began to shake the throbbing pain out of his hands.

Heero stared at the unexpected visitor. "What are you doing?"

"Springing you. What's it look like?" Joey grinned with barely-concealed excitement, looking like a child playing his favorite game of pretended espionage. Too soon the grin was replaced with a grimace, "Shit! I think his frickin' hard head broke the phone and a couple of my fingers. Oh, sorry man, let me help you." Joey grabbed one of the officer's arms and helped Heero prop him in the chair.

As they tried to get the officer settled without threat of toppling over, Heero grumbled, "I had the situation under control."

"Yeah, sure. And you're gonna tell me you're a Houdini, too." Joey's grin from his teasing jibe wilted after he received Heero's disturbing glare. "Uh, well, you know, cuffs aren't easy to get out of."

Heero stood up after securing Bob's hands to the back of the swivel chair. He removed the revolver from the officer's holster, popped it open and checked the chamber for rounds. The gun had a silencer--an odd accoutrement for a beat cop, but handy for Heero. "This station isn't easy to get out of, either. Did you make a plan, or is this a spur-of-the-moment lapse of reason for you?" The sheepish look on Joey's face was enough of an answer for Heero. He tucked the gun into the back of his jeans, then began to sift through the newspaper for the article on Trowa.

Joey had moved to the outer door, nervously shifting from one foot to the other. "Well, uh, the place was kinda empty when I came in, so I thought... Well, I don't know what I thought, but it seemed like a good idea. I mean, everybody's over at the space port because of that bomb scare, so until they're back, I think you can sneak out without a problem. I think. You can do stuff like that real easy, right?"

Heero had just finished tearing out Trowa's article, and was folding it into his pants pocket when the nursery book caught his eye. He hadn't figured out what relevance it had to his investigation, but he wasn't going to leave it behind. Slipping back inside the cell and grabbing the book, Heero turned his attention to the man who had helped him. Joey was the last person he would have thought would try and help him, and Heero wanted to make sure he wasn't being set up before he walked out of that room and into more trouble. "I know you hate me. Your distrust helped put me in here, so why are you helping me get out?"

Joey stopped his nervous fidgeting and looked at Heero for an uneasy second before turning away. "I... Because I... Well, shit." He ran a hand through his red hair a few times before continuing. "Look, I admit you pissed me off and...and scared the shit out of me. Believe me, I was more than happy to help put your ass behind bars. But then I started thinking. Well, I didn't really start thinking until that geezer friend of yours dragged me to the hospital to see that guy Hilde was rooming with. Christ, I don't know what it is about you tough guys that attract the cute chicks, but there was this classy one there that had nothing but good things to say about you two. I guess that's when I started thinking--you must really care for Hilde if you were going to get into trouble trying to find out who killed her. I mean, if you were the one who'd killed her, or if your friend did it, then you'd probably be in Mexico or on Mars by now. That's where all the most wanted run to, right? So I came here to maybe talk to you, and then, uh...then I guess I had a momentary lapse of reason."

Heero understood the apology behind Joey's rush of words and tried to offer one of his own. "I can't return your things. They took them from me."

Joey took the kind comment for what it was. "Yeah, I know. Don't fret it--the cops gave them back to me." He patted the bag on his back and, for the first time in Heero's presence, smiled. The grin took on a devilish tilt. "Wanna `borrow' them again?"