InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Dusk ( Chapter 43 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Forty-Three~~

-OoOoOoO oOoOoOoOoOoO-

'I've worn out always being afraid
An endless stream of fear that I've made
Treading water full of worry
This frantic tick tick talk of hurry …'

-'Frantic' by Metallica.


". . . Eyewitness accounts lead us to believe that international rock star, Zel Roka was, in fact, shot this afternoon outside the Dominique Ray Center, a children's hospital in the center of Manhattan.  Hospital officials claim that the infamous rocker was known for making impromptu visits to the facility, and that he was leaving from one of those visits when a lone gunman opened fire.  No details as to whether the gunman was actually targeting Roka or if anyone else was injured at present . . ."

Hands shaking as she dropped the remote control onto the coffee table with a deafening clatter, Valerie shook her head, unable to grasp exactly what she'd just heard.  As though her legs couldn't hold her weight, she collapsed onto the sofa, wanting desperately to tear her eyes away but unable to do it.

A bunch of still images of Zel Roka, both onstage and off, splashed across the screen as the reporter's voice droned on.  Somehow, the press had gotten wind of the visit, or at least some had.  One of them—a reporter from one of those sleazy television magazines, had gotten the footage—the rock star—no, Evan—the Evan she knew—and Dieter . . . The screaming of the fans that had managed to chase him down . . . He stopped and smiled and waved, pausing to sign a few autographs before Bone hurried him toward the waiting sedan . . . a couple popping sounds . . . screams from the crowd as Evan jerked back and fell . . . and absolute mayhem . . . People rushing off to the right—security detail, maybe—while others ran away, screaming and crying until all the sounds converged into a dull roar in Valerie's head . . . Bone hefted Evan and Dieter off the ground—Valerie couldn't tell if they were conscious or not, and she couldn't tell if they were bleeding or where they might have been injured—and shoved both of them into the car.  He climbed in after them, and the car took off before he could even close the door . . .

". . . Not sure of motive, but the authorities do indicate that they have some leads, though no details have been released as yet . . ."

The camera swung around to focus on the mass-tangle of bodies—the shooter?  Valerie didn't know, and when the story switched to an 'on the scene' reporter who was talking to the man who had recorded the video and was bitching over the fact that both his camera as well as the video had been confiscated by the police shortly after it had first aired on the news . . .

"Evan . . ." Valerie whispered, wincing at the harshness of her own voice in the silence, the flash of the police cars on the television illuminating her pallid face in a grotesque sort of hue.

Grabbing her cell phone, her hands were shaking so badly that she couldn't hit the number on first try.  It took about four of them in order to get Evan's number in speed dial.  It wasn't surprising when she was routed straight to voicemail, but it did make her want to scream.

"Evan," she barked tersely, rising to her feet, digging her free hand into her hair as she turned away from the television, unable to stomach the third replay of the newsreel.  "Where are you?" she demanded.  "I saw the news, but . . . just call me, won't you?  Call me . . ." She grimaced.  "Please . . . even if it's the middle of the night—whatever; whatever.  Just call me . . ."

Clicking off the phone, she let out a deep breath and quickly dialed Mike's number.  "The subscriber you're trying to reach is not currently accepting calls," the automated voice droned.

Valerie stifled the urge to growl and dialed Bone's number instead.  No answer.

'Dieter!' she thought wildly, spotting her attaché case near the desk where she'd left it.  She had his number in there, didn't she?  He was with Evan, too.  He'd know what was going on . . .

Falling to her knees beside the case, shuffling through the papers, ignoring the ones that fell to the floor in her careless search, Valerie finally found the card that had the artist's number on it.  The sense of dread, of urgency, that swelled up inside her as she fumbled with the flimsy bit of paper was almost excruciating.  Growing larger, looming ever closer, that feeling that somehow, Evan was just beyond her, that she couldn't quite reach him . . . it was almost enough to choke her; to choke her . . .

She got Dieter's voicemail, too—not surprising yet wholly frustrating.  "Dieter, how are you?  How's Evan?  Are you all right?  Have him call me, okay?  Call me!" she demanded.  Letting the phone fall from her hand, she buried her face in her palms, a ragged breath that wanted to be a sob that she stubbornly refused to allow . . .

She had a right to know, didn't she?  She was his attorney . . .

"Evan . . ." she whispered, her words muffled by her hands, "where . . . where are you . . .?"

Ruthlessly shoving aside the bitter bite of panic that swelled inside her, Valerie grabbed the newsfeed reader off her desk and pressed the red button that brought up emergency phone numbers with a grimace.  The logical part of her brain reminded her none-too-gently that there were well over a hundred hospitals in New York City, not counting any of the outlying suburbs, and only twenty-nine of them were public facilities.  A famous rock star wouldn't have been taken to one of those, but if that were the case, that still left entirely too many to actually check—if they'd even give her any information.  She wasn't family, and while she might be able to get a little help in some circles based on her relationship to him as his attorney, she wasn't at all sure that she could bluff a hospital into providing that sort of information . . .

That didn't mean that she shouldn't try, did it?

Biting her lip, she dialed the number for Mount Sinai Medical Center—one of the best facilities in the city; definitely one that a well-known person like Zel Roka might have been taken to . . .

"Mount Sinai Medical Center.  You've reached the automated help desk.  If you know your party's extension or room number, please enter it now or say it slowly so that I may redirect your call."

Valerie grimaced, rubbing her forehead as she slumped back against the wall.  "Operator," she said in an effort to bypass the system.

"One moment, please."

There was a faint click as she was put on hold to transfer her call, and she bit her cheek to keep from growing in abject frustration.  After what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a few seconds, a real person's voice came over the line.  "Good evening.  Mount Sinai.  How may I direct your call?"

"Yes, hello.  My name is Valerie Denning, and I'm a lawyer.  There's reason to believe that one of my clients—Zel Roka—was involved in a shooting earlier today, and I need to know if he was admitted."  'Good,' she thought absently.  Her voice didn't falter at all . . .

"I'm sorry, ma'am.  That sort of information is completely confidential," the woman said without missing a beat.

"I realize that," Valerie hurried on to say before she could be disconnected.  "Surely you could make an exception . . . I haven't been able to contact his manager or bodyguard, so if you could just tell me if he was admitted, that's all I need to know.  Please."

"I'm sorry," she said again though she didn't actually sound sorry at all.  "I can't tell you anything."

Reining in the desire to scream or to smash something, Valerie couldn't contain the low growl that slipped from her as she slapped her phone closed after the woman hung up on her.  Calling hospitals just wasn't going to work, and she knew it, and while she certainly could understand and appreciate their caution, she also couldn't help the unreasonable anger that surged deep inside her.  The not knowing was enough to drive her crazy, and with every moment that passed, she couldn't help but feel as though Evan were slipping further and further away from her.  It was a feeling that she just couldn't stand . . .


"I'm sorry, ma'am.  We can't tell you anything."

Valerie glowered at the police officer as her temper soared higher, spun further out of her control.  The precarious hold she had on it was stretched tighter and tighter, ready to explode.  That he didn't look any happier about the idea that his hands were, as he'd said, tied, was arbitrary.  She wanted answers, and she was tired and frustrated by those who refused to be forthcoming with her . . .

"Can't or won't?" she countered through clenched teeth.

The officer shifted from one foot to the other, casting a surreptitious glance over her head as though he were looking for someone—anyone—who could help him.  "I'm sorry, ma'am," he repeated lamely.

"I'm his attorney!" she argued with a stubborn shake of her head.  "I was just here last night to pick him up, for God's sake!"

The officer grimaced, clenching his hands in front of himself.  "I'm sor—"

"What hospital was he taken to?" she interrupted, unwilling to listen to the insincere apology again.  "Isn't that public record?"

"I'm not at liberty to say anything regarding the status of an ongoing investigation."

She gritted her teeth for a moment as she tried to remind herself that the man was just doing his job.  It didn't really help.  "Is the chief here?"

He sighed and stared at her for a moment before slowly nodding one time and turning on his heel.  "Wait here, please," he instructed.

She watched him go, letting out a deep breath and rubbing her forehead with a shaking hand.  Of course, the logical part of her didn't expect to get any answers here, either, but she had to try.  The unknowing was killing her, and she couldn't stop the constant loop of Evan, jerking back and falling from playing through her mind over and over again.  Grainy video that wasn't very high quality, but did it matter when she'd known in her heart that was she was seeing was real?  No, she supposed that it didn't . . .

The officer returned in short order with a squat, haggard-looking man fast on his heels.  Valerie recognized him from having seen him on the news from time to time: Merle Blanchard, top man at the Ninth Precinct.  "What can I do for you, ma'am?" he asked, looking anything but accommodating.

"I'm Valerie Denning, Zel Roka's attorney," she said, seeking a calmer tone than she was feeling.  "I wanted to know if you could give me an update on the investigation."

Mr. Blanchard waved a hand tersely to send away the officer she'd already haggled with before turning his attention back to Valerie once more.  "Ms. Denning, you're an attorney.  You know that we can't release information like that to anyone but next of kin," he explained in a tone that implied that she ought to have known better.

"I know that," she rebutted, "but surely you understand the difference here.  We're not talking about someone that no one knows.  We're talking about an international rock star—a celebrity . . . and he's not just my client.  He's my friend.  I just need to know where he is.  Please."

He shook his head slowly, almost sadly.  "I'm sorry.  I can't tell you anything."

"What about his family?" she demanded, the frayed edges of her raw nerves coming through in the ragged tone of her voice.  "Have they been contacted?"

"Ms. Denning . . . Mr. Roka has no next of kin," he explained.

It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him that he was wrong.  Then she remembered that, according to his official biography, it was true.  Zel Roka might not have had any family . . . but Evan Zelig did . . . "Would you just tell me where he was taken?"

"I can't do that, either," he said.

Valerie dragged a hand over her face and shook her head furiously.  "And the person who shot him?  Have you caught him?  Can you tell me that?"

The chief of police looked duly irked, his ruddy cheeks growing ruddier by the second.  "I can't give details in an ongoing investigation," he barked out tersely.  "You should go home."

Letting out a deep breath as she watched the man turn on his heel and stomp away, Valerie felt like screaming, like ranting and raving.  In the end, she couldn't do anything, and maybe that feeling of complete impotence was worse than anything else in the world could have been.

Digging her cell phone out of her purse as she weaved her way through the usual crowd inside the station house, she could have cried when she saw that she hadn't missed any calls.  As angry as she would have been if she had missed one, it was almost worse that there hadn't been any at all . . .

The insane glare of a myriad of flashbulbs that shattered the murky dark outside the stationhouse was disorienting, at best.  The press had started to camp out here, hoping for word from the chief, she supposed, since the Dominique Ray Center was located in this precinct.  When they realized that she wasn't anyone of interest, they stopped just about as quickly as it had started.  Maybe they didn't realize who she was, given that she was still wearing her pajamas with her hair down—a far cry from the professional attorney the press had met on prior occasions . . .

Slipping through the reporters and across the street to her car, she ignored the buzzing voices that had somehow congealed into a dull hum.

'Evan . . . where the hell are you . . .?' she asked herself for the thousandth time since she'd seen that God-awful news report as she scooted into her car and started the engine.

And more importantly, what about his family?  If no one realized the connection between Zel Roka the rock star and Evan Zelig, had anyone contacted the Zeligs at all?  As worried as she was, wasn't it worse for them, especially if no one had bothered to contact them?

The absolute affection on his mother's face as the two of them had danced at the fundraiser . . . The woman doted on her son, didn't she?  Did she know?  Had she heard . . .?  Bailey and Olivia . . . his brother, Bas, and his father . . . Had they been told anything at all?

"Mr. Roka has no next of kin . . ."

Biting her lip, Valerie glanced into the rearview mirror and pulled into a lull in the traffic.  If they didn't know, then they had a right to.  If they did?  Maybe they could tell her where and how he was . . .


She'd never seen anything quite like the tableaux laid out before her as she stepped out of her car a good block away from Evan's mansion.  Throngs of kids—five hundred?  A thousand?—milled around the street outside the high stone wall that surrounded the estate, some with candles, others with Zel Roka memorabilia in their arms, yet more with photographs, all talking in hushed tones to one another, all staring at the closed gates as though they were waiting to catch a glimpse of him.  Reporters from major news outlets and trash media, alike, milled in the crowd, stopping here and there to interview the fans under the harsh glare of their portable lamps.

Valerie pushed her way through, making a painfully slow trek to the front of the crowd, all the while, squeezing between the bodies packed together so tightly the closer she got to the gates.  Wincing when someone stepped on her toes, she ignored the muttered apology.  A pitiful few police officers, none of whom she recognized, tried to keep the peace in front of the closed gates where fans were starting to piece together a makeshift display—an almost macabre collection of assorted memorabilia that looked far too much like a shrine offering for some deity than Valerie cared to admit.

Steeling her resolve despite the very definite trepidation that nearly overwhelmed her, Valerie started toward the guard house, telling herself that they'd let her in—of course they would.  She was on the cleared list; she knew she was.  Why did everything feel so very wrong?  Sure, it had something to do with the disturbing video she'd seen before she'd left her apartment, but that wasn't the real reason, was it?  It was the sense that Evan . . . He just wasn't there that did it.

How did she know that, anyway?  The obvious reason was because he had to be in a hospital somewhere, okay.  But no, this was more of a feeling than general understanding or knowledge . . . it had more to do with an innate perception rather than the common logic.  She couldn't . . . couldn't feel him . . .

"Hold it, lady," one of the officers said gruffly as he caught her by the arm and yanked her back a little roughly.

Valerie swung around to meet his gaze, tamping down the rising irritation that would avail her nothing.  "I need to talk to the guard on duty," she explained, careful to keep her tone as level as she possibly could.

"Sorry.  No one in or out of there," he insisted with a stubborn shake of his head despite the marked narrowing of his eyes.

She didn't miss the way his gaze traveled over her, from top to bottom, as it were.  Grinding her teeth together since she had a marked suspicion that she knew well enough, exactly what he was thinking, Valerie tried again.  "Officer, if you'll just let me talk to the guard on duty, you'll see that Mr. Roka cleared me to go in."

The officer's face contorted into a very cynical sneer.  "I'll bet he did, honey.  Mr. Roka isn't home tonight."

"I'm his attorney," she gritted out, just barely managing a civil tone.

"Look, lady, I don't care what they're calling it these days.  He isn't here, and the chief's given explicit orders that no one's allowed in," the officer insisted.

"Something the matter, officer?"

Both Valerie and the officer turned to eye the guy who stepped out of the guardhouse.  Valerie didn't recognize him.  That didn't stop her, though.  "I'm Valerie Denning," she blurted, cutting off the cop before he could speak.  "I'm E-Zel's attorney, and I need to get in there."

He shook his head.  "No 'Valerie Denning' on the list," he told her.

She almost growled in frustration as she raked her hands through her hair.  "V!" she barked out quickly.  "He probably listed me as 'V'."

The man's eyes brightened, and he nodded vaguely.  "Oh, yeah . . . Sorry, V, but I got orders not to let anyone in."

The officer looked positively smug as he crossed his arms over his chest.  Valerie ignored him.  "But—"

"You're going to have to leave, ma'am," the officer said, grasping Valerie by the shoulders, ready to escort her away by force, if necessary.

She jerked free from his grasp and glowered at the security guard.  "Who gave you that order?" she demanded, narrowing her eyes on the police officer when he started to reach for her again.

"Bone," the man replied with a simplistic shrug.

"Since when do Bone's orders outrank Zel Roka's?"

The vague amusement on his features was waning fast.  "I'm not risking my job for you, sweetheart," he told her.  "Now be a good girl, and go home, will you?"

"You'd better leave willingly or I'll have to haul you into the station," the officer added.

Valerie could have screamed.  She needed to get inside the mansion, damn it.  She needed the phone numbers for his family—numbers that she didn't have.  Unfortunately, she didn't see any other option, either . . . For the first time in her life, though, she could understand how someone could get carried away and end up being arrested, because damned if she wasn't tempted to argue her point further.  If she thought that she'd get anywhere, she might try it.  Too bad she knew well enough that it really wouldn't do her any good . . .

Rubbing her temples, she turned away, though not before pinning each of them with scathing glowers.  More and more kids were gathering.  The collective din they created throbbed in Valerie's head like the dull roar of ocean waves.  Nearby, a boy—maybe fifteen or sixteen—sat, legs crossed, strumming a beat up acoustic guitar as the crowd around him sang one of Zel Roka's older songs in unison.  A surreal sound, wasn't it?  And she knew, didn't she, that if he were here, Evan . . . Well, he'd think that it was absolutely fantastic . . .

Weaving her way through the milling crowd, the sense of disbelief that slowly grew inside her seemed to surge higher, tighter, constricting in her chest, leaving her feeling lightheaded and completely disconnected.  Pushing through a strangely solid barrier of bodies, she stopped short, blinking as she stared at the spectacle unfolding before her.  Two girls, both clinging to each other as they sobbed piteously, caught in the harsh lights of an overhead, portable lamp as a familiar looking woman—Valerie couldn't think of her name or why she might have been familiar, at all — held a microphone and pasted on a concerned expression that didn't strike Valerie as at all genuine.

"Good evening.  This is Morgaine Beatty, live at Zel Roka's mansion with a couple eye witnesses who were there at the Dominique Ray Center where the rock star was shot," the woman said smoothly.  "Can you tell me, in your own words, just what happened?"

One of the girls—a petite blonde—uttered a loud wail.  "W-We were there to s-see Zel," she blubbered, rubbing at her already bright red eyes.  "There was this . . . this boom, and he fell . . . He was shot in the chest, you know?  Just blood all over him . . ."

"Then one of the guys around yelled that he was dead—dead!" the other girl nearly howled.  "Zel Roka's dead!"

Valerie froze, unsure what she should think of that.  In her mind, she told herself that nothing of the sort had been confirmed.  Was that what all the eyewitnesses thought . . .?  The swell of panic rose higher inside her as the girl's words echoed through her head.

"Zel Roka's dead!"

"But that hasn't been confirmed by officials as yet," Morgaine pointed out with all the finesse of a lynch mob . . . or a member of the paparazzi.

"He was shot in the chest, you stupid bitch!" the blonde-haired girl snarled, furiously slapping tears away from her cheeks.  "You don't live if that happens!"

Morgaine shot the cameraman a slightly anxious glance.  "Don't worry.  We'll bleep that out before it airs," he muttered without hesitation.

"How close were you to Zel Roka?" Morgaine went on.

The second girl hugged her friend tight and shook her head.  "I don't know . . . maybe twenty feet?  I mean, we could have been shot, too!"

And that sent the first girl into another round of caterwauls.

Morgaine turned away briskly, facing the camera head-on.  "And there you have it.  We'll try to get more information from the authorities, but according to eyewitness reports: rocker Zel Roka, dead at the age of thirty-two—and you heard it here first.  Morgaine Beatty with another Trash Talk exclusive."

The rustle that shot through the gathering spread like wildfire, traveling from the people near her to the ones behind, engulfing her in the hateful whispers, the proclamations that Valerie just didn't want to believe.  She had to get away from there—from that reporter—before she did something drastic, like yank out every last bleached-blonde strand of the woman's highly shellacked hair.

Turning abruptly, unable to venture outside of the curious numb that had settled over her, Valerie couldn't shake the feeling that she was wandering through some morbid dreamscape.  What might have otherwise been a heartfelt and beautiful tribute to a man who had touched so many people through his music somehow seemed to her to be the most ghastly ritual that she'd ever witnessed.  Teenagers with their faces frozen in sobs of misery; a cataclysmic rumble that made no sense even as words locked together, only to disjoin in a thousand cries . . . Sallow skinned youths with their abject sorrow writ so carelessly on the surface . . .

A girl, clawing at her face as she sank to her knees amid the shattering sounds of her own sobs . . .

A teenage boy, his eyes blank and vacant as he hunched his shoulders and dragged deeply off a carelessly rolled joint . . .

A young man, shaking his head, muttering over and over again, "Dude . . . so wrong . . . so wrong . . ."

Another girl, her body quaking as she clung to a friend, both of them crying quietly . . .

A wash of faces—all of them as different as night and day—all of them exactly the same . . . the same . . . the same . . .

Yet among the masses, a solitary cry; one so loud that it couldn't be heard by mortal ears . . . one trapped so deeply within Valerie's very soul that it hurt . . .

It hurt.

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~ =~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
'Frantic' by Metallica first appeared on their 2003 release, St. Anger.  Song written by and copyrighted to James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Bob Rock.
== == == == == == == == == ==
Malitiadixie —— Dark Inuu Fan —— OROsan0677 —— AtamaHitoride —— Chase65 —— Titiana —— DonthatemecuzImbeautiful —— lilswtheart9811 —— angelyami —— oblivion-bringr —— smurf_x3 —— Sovereingty —— Meru —— theblackthorn —— Sesshomaru4Kagura4ever —— Inusbabe —— CandyEars —— monkeyseemonkeynodo —— iloveanimecartoons —— sunshine161820
BlkbltVette —— cutechick18 —— OROsan0677
Thought from Valerie:
Where the hell is he …?
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Subterfuge):  I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga.  Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al.  I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

Chapter 42
Chapter 44
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