InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Mouse Trap ( Chapter 66 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Sixty-Six~~
~Mouse Trap~


'< i>Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
'You've been out ridin' fences for so long now
'Oh, you're a hard one, but I know that you got your reasons
'These things that are pleasin' you can hurt you somehow …'

-'Desperado' by the Eagles.


Valerie didn't know how long she stood there, holding onto Evan, squeezing her eyes closed against the things she'd just witnessed.  Unable to process it all, unable to make sense of anything, she wasn't even sure where she'd found the nerve to do what she had done in the first place.

She'd thought that he'd known, that he'd given his blessing to release the tribute song for Dieter.  She'd thought that he'd be pleased that the radio stations were all clamoring to get it on the air, and, though the song itself had brought a tear to her eye as she'd driven to Evan's mansion, she'd thought that it was such a beautiful gesture—a song full of the love for a friend—that she hadn't actually stopped to think that he wouldn't be pleased, had she?  And she certainly hadn't thought . . .

Of course, she knew that he had a temper.  She'd seen it a few times since she'd known him.  She'd honestly believed, though, that she'd seen him when it was at its worst.  Now she knew that she hadn't, because the lightning fast change in him . . . She shivered and jumped, uttering an involuntary squeak as the last bits of the mirror that hung over the table where he'd been sorting through his mail finally lost its temerarious hold and fell, crashing on the wrecked remains of splintered wood and debris that littered the hardwood floor.  In the span of moments, he'd managed to destroy everything within reach . . . But the smashed table, the broken mirror, the gaping hole in the wall didn't frighten her nearly as much as what she'd thought she'd seen.  In that instant, the flash of his eyes . . . Why had they seemed to glow red?  Surely she'd been seeing things—she had to be, right?  It wasn't normal, not that.  Then again, everything had happened so fast . . .

So lost in the confusion of her own mind, she didn't realize what was happening until Evan finally took a step back.  His hands were trembling, gently feeling her arms, her body, as though he were searching her for something—she didn't know what.  Gathering what was left of her shattered composure, Valerie ground her teeth together, willing herself to be calm when all she felt like doing was screaming.  But there was nothing sexual in his touch, was there?  Just a strange sense of urgency as he looked her over, an absolute sense of panic as he finally, reluctantly, met her gaze.  "Jesus, V . . . did I . . . did I hurt you?" he whispered, his eyes darting back and forth as though he were searching her face for any sign of a lie.

She stared at him for a long second, her brain processing his question painfully slowly.  "I'm okay," she managed in a husky, rough tone.  "Evan . . ."

He nodded vaguely, let his hands drop as he quickly turned away from her, only to stop short when he got a good look at the destruction he'd wrought.  "Damn," he muttered, sounding as shaken up as she felt, he reached out with a shaking hand to touch the broken frame that used to house the mirror but yanked it away before he could touch it.  "Damn it . . ."

Valerie rubbed her arms through the thin fabric of the linen suit she wore.  She wasn't cold; not at all . . .

He sank down on the floor, propping his elbows on his knees, burying his face in his hands.  Valerie grimaced when she noticed the blood smeared on his arm.  It looked like it was starting to dry, but it had to have been a pretty bad cut.

Hurrying into the kitchen to retrieve the first aid kit that she knew was kept under the sink, she quickly dampened one of the dish towels under the faucet before returning to the living room again.  Evan hadn't moved an inch, and he jumped when she gently reached for his injured hand.  "Don't worry about me," she said, carefully wiping away the blood on his arm, his hand.  "How bad is it?"

"It's okay, V," he muttered but didn't try to pull away from her, either.

Frowning as she carefully pulled his fingers back but blinked at what she saw.  Superficial scrapes and a few cuts, but nothing that really accounted for the amount of blood that he'd shed.  There was one puncture wound in the center of his palm, but it didn't look that bad; not really, and it was already starting to dry up, too . . . "I think you'll live, rock star," she murmured, brushing aside the fear that was still licking at her stomach.  "Let me put a couple bandages on it . . ."

He sat still long enough for her to finish wrapping a gauze strip around his hand.  He was still agitated; she could feel it radiating off him in waves.  The trouble was she wasn't entirely sure what was bothering him most: his outburst or the song that had set him off, to start with.

Pushing himself to his feet, raking his hands through his hair again, he paced the floor, emotions on the rise once more, only this time, she had a feeling that he was more upset than angry . . . and 'upset' was something that she could deal with.  "Fuck . . . fuck . . . fuck . . . I'm sorry, V . . . I'm so sorry . . ."

Sitting back on her heels, Valerie heaved a sigh and shook her head.  "Stop apologizing, Evan," she said.  For some reason, it was only serving to make her feel worse.  "Look . . . Don't you have a say over what is and isn't released?  I can . . . I can talk to them, right?  I'll tell them that you only recorded that song for Dieter, not as a single . . ."

"Depends on the contract, V," he muttered.  "Even then, if they've already started the pre-release bullshit, there's not much I can do about it now.  They listened to it and figured it was the most marketable thing I've done, so they pulled a fast one and put it out there before they bothered to run it past me."

"Then don't you have to power to stop it?  It's your song, Evan, and—"

"And it's a business, V!  That's the bottom line: business—it's about how much money can they soak out of you.  It's not about art, and it's not about vision.  The music is secondary in this industry.  All they see is the bottom line, and once that bottom line starts shrinking, they dump you like yesterday's garbage.  I've see it happen . . . and one day, it'll happen to me, too."

Biting her lip, she frowned at him.  There was something entirely defeated about his stance, his words, his tone, and she didn't like it at all.  "Are you just going to let it go?" she asked quietly.

"No," he grumbled, casting a furious glower at her, only to stop short when he caught sight of the wreckage he'd created.  The angry bravado seemed to fade as quickly as it came, and he grimaced.  "You're sure I didn't hurt you?" he asked suddenly, his gaze still darkened, staring at her as though he expected her to lie.  "You're sure?"

"I'm fine," she insisted once more.  He'd frightened himself, hadn't he?  Badly, at that . . . Letting out a deep breath, Valerie pushed herself to her feet and headed toward the kitchen to find a broom and dustpan.

It didn't make sense to her.  How could Evan's label release a song without his permission?  Surely there had to be something regarding that in the books because it just seemed completely wrong.  The real problem was that she wasn't sure if she could do anything about it.

After grabbing the gear out of the utility closet in the kitchen, Valerie had to spend a few minutes, rummaging through the drawers to find some trash bags, but she stopped short when she stepped back into the living room again.  Evan stood near the glass doors with his back to her and his cell phone pressed to his ear.

"Yeah, why don't you tell me, Mike?  What the hell's going on?  Why is that song being played on the radio when I told you that I didn't want it to be released as a single?"

His anger was coming back.  She could see it in the clipped way he moved, in the snap behind every step he took.  Anger, though, was fine, as far as she was concerned, and she could even understand exactly why it bothered him.  If she were him, she'd be mad, too.  He wasn't anywhere near the rage he'd showed before.  It was more of a slow simmer than an all-out burn, and while she almost wished that she'd kept her mouth closed on the subject, she was also kind of glad.  Considering the violence of his initial reaction, she couldn't help but think that he was at least somewhat better off since he was home instead of out in public or worse . . .

"Goddamn it!  I told you!  I don't give a shit how marketable anyone thought it was!  You know why I wrote that, and you know how I felt!  I didn't write it for some little bastard to call in to dedicate it to his little girlfriend, and I didn't write it so that everyone could get out their fucking lighters and wave 'em in the air at a show . . .! No, I don't, and—What?"

Valerie cringed as Evan's volume rose, and without a second thought, she set the cleaning supplies aside, closing the distance between Evan and her, laying her hand on his forearm.  He glanced at her, seemed to calm down just a little, which really wasn't saying much, all things considered.

"No," he stated flatly, his tone leaving no room for discussion.  "Forget it.  I don't care, Mike.  I'm not doing it."

Slapping the phone closed, he looked like he wanted to throw it.  Valerie took it out of his hand and sighed.  "What'd he say?" she asked, not really wanting to hear the answer, but figuring that if he didn't get it out of his system, he was going to explode all over again.

Evan snorted indelicately, planting his hands on his hips as he glowered past her out the doors.  "Cocksucker said that he didn't know a damn fucking thing till it was too late, but he's got the balls to tell me that those fat ass bastards want me to do a video for it this weekend before we leave on Monday."

"What are you going to do?"

"Keh!  I'm not making that fucking video," he growled.  "They can figure it out, right?  I mean, they figured out every fucking other thing out themselves."

Letting out a deep breath that lifted the tendrils of hair that had escaped the severe ponytail she'd pulled her hair back into just before leaving her apartment, Valerie nodded.  "And there's nothing you can do about it?"

He stared at her for a long minute, eyes narrowed, as though he were trying to see into her head.  "You already heard it on the radio, right?  You don't know how this works, do you?"  Turning away from the doors, Evan dragged his hands over his face and shuffled over to the sofa.  "Wicked Soundsations didn't just send that song to the station you heard it on, V.  You can bet your pretty little ass that they sent out copies of it to every major radio station in the States—easy publicity for the album, right?  So all those stations that want to be the biggest and best and trendiest and quickest on the uptake will play the hell out of those new releases.  It's too late to stop it once it's been sent out, see?  Even if they asked everyone to send the copies back, it'd do more harm than good.  You can't yank something that's already been put out there, and that's what Wicked figured when they opted to fuck me in the beginning."

"But there's got to be something," she replied weakly, grasping the implications of what he'd said even if she didn't like it.  "What about your contract with them?  Surely there's something in your contract . . .?"

Shaking his head, Evan managed a wan if not rather tolerant little smile that didn't reach his eyes.  "Of course there is," he told her with a shrug, as though it didn't really matter.  "I'm not completely stupid, I guess . . ."

"So fight them, Evan!  It's your song—your work!  Can't you fight them on this one?"

"And after months and months of legal bullshit?  After my label dumps me for causing so much trouble?  After they make it damn near impossible to find another decent label because I'll be a notorious troublemaker?  It'd cost them millions, V, and they'd spend it, sure.  I'd win the case—maybe a few million—but it won't change the fact that the song is already out there.  It won't stop its release because that's already been done.  I gotta tell you, I don't need their fucking money."

Valerie didn't reply.  She'd never heard Evan talk like that before.  The same man who had told her that his family had though that he was stupid?  She shook her head.  He wasn't—really wasn't; not in the least.  The biggest rock star on the planet?  And he, better than anyone, understood just how precarious that position could be . . . "So you're just going to let it go?"

Flopping back against the sofa, Evan sighed and stared at the ceiling.  "I can't stop it," he finally said, "but I'm not going to help it, either."

She fell silent, too, slumping beside him, staring at the ceiling the same way he was.  His words kept tumbling around in her head, over and over again.  He might understand it all well enough, but she couldn't say the same for herself.  A single thought hounded her, though, and she frowned.  "So they knew that they were breaching your contract and did it anyway."

"Sounds about right," he agreed darkly.

"That's despicable," she muttered.

"No, V, it's just business."

She snorted and uttered a terse 'hrumph'.  "I wish you'd let me nail their balls to the wall," she muttered, pushing herself off the sofa and stomping over to grab the broom and dustpan.

"Don't," he said behind her.  She heard him stand up but ignored him as she dropped the pan on the floor and started to sweep the broken glass and mirror and plaster dust and splinters of wood together.  "Here," he murmured, taking the broom from her.

"Let me help," she insisted.

Evan smiled and shook his head, and this time, it was almost genuine.  "I don't need you to clean up this mess, V," he told her.  "Why don't you go on home?  I'll be fine."

She blinked and stared at him, unsure what she ought to make of his uncharacteristic insistence that she should leave when he usually went out of his way to talk her into sticking around.  After a moment of watching him, she sighed then knelt down, pulling the whisk broom off of the dustpan to start gathering up the debris.


"Okay, so I must admit that I rather like this, too."

Leaning to the side to peer around the edge of the grill, Evan smiled when he caught sight of Valerie, covered to her neck in the frothing, foaming water in the hot tub.  Hair caught up in a jumble of loose curls that she'd piled carelessly atop her head, eyes closed as she savored the soothing heat of the quad jets, her cheeks flushed from the slight steam that rose from the surface of the water, she looked prettier than he could credit.  "Want some company?" he asked, only half-teasing.

She didn't even open an eye.  "Aren't you busy making my dinner?  You don't have time to lounge around in the hot tub, Roka."

He chuckled and then heaved a very loud, very pronounced sigh designed to let her know what he thought of that.  She ignored him which wasn't at all surprising.

'You scared her.'

Wincing inwardly at the not so subtle reminder, Evan ground his teeth together.  He had scared her.  He knew he had.  He hadn't meant to, which didn't really matter and kind of smacked of making excuses.  There really wasn't anything that he could say to justify his behavior, and worse, she'd seen it all, every last moment of his absolutely unconscionable rage.  Frustrated, certainly, and maybe he had a right to be.  But . . .

But just what did Valerie think of him now?  He made a face as he ducked behind the grill once more, pretending that he was absorbed in cooking the steaks that he'd chosen for dinner.  He had a feeling that she was still worried about him, and that wasn't exactly a good excuse for her to hang around.  That was the real reason he'd told her that she ought to go home, after all.  Well, that and he'd kind of wanted to be alone at the time.

Not that he minded having her underfoot.  He didn't.  He just didn't necessarily want her to sit there, staring at the direct result of his inability to control his damn temper.

In truth, he'd been more than a little surprised when he saw the amount of damage he'd done.  The table and mirror had been bad enough—both of those were antiques that Gin had bought and restored by hand, just for him when he'd first bought his own place, but the wall . . . The grimace was back in spades.  Thanks to his temper, there was now a good three foot hole where he'd punched and dug through it, and he was pretty sure that he cracked one of the support beams, too.  If Valerie hadn't been there to stop him . . .

'Knock it off.  What's the point?  So she saw you at your worst.  There's not much you can do about it now, right?  Just don't do it again.'

How long had it been since he'd lost his temper like that?  Easily years, yes, and he had to really think about it to find the answer.  It was back when he was still in school—junior high . . . Madison had start seeing an older kid, and, while she'd made no bones about the idea that she was just having fun and didn't want a serious relationship, the boy hadn't quite gotten the message and had gotten all bent out of shape when he saw Evan and Madison goofing around after school.  Evan had his arm around her shoulders and was telling her about a party she'd missed over the weekend, and the guy hadn't liked it.  It was bad enough when he'd stood over her, screaming at her like a damn fool, but when the bastard made the mistake of slapping Madison . . . Well, Evan still didn't remember much of the fight that followed, but he knew exactly how much it had cost Cain for the hospital bill since Evan had broken the kid's nose, arm, three of his fingers, and a couple of his ribs, too.

Strange, wasn't it?  Cain Zelig was as upper-ass-crack as they came, and yet, all he'd said to Evan was that he should have broken the kid's damn legs, too.

That was also the one and only time that Madison had ever truly been angry at him.  She hadn't spoken to him for almost two weeks until he swore upon his mother's life that he would never fight anyone while he was in a rage again.

He'd scared her, too.

"Hey, Roka!"

Blinking away the unpleasant memory, Evan quickly flipped the steaks.  "Yeah?"

"I need a refill," Valerie called.

Evan smiled just a little and dropped the tongs over the handle after he closed the lid.  "Is that right?  Since when did I become your slave, woman?"

She shot him a knowing look, almost a smile, and shrugged.  "You like it, and you know it."

He opened his mouth to form a retort but snapped it closed, giving a little shrug and a nod as he wandered over to her.  "Will you be the queen of my harem when I'm old and gray?" he asked, wiggling his eyebrows, purposefully running the tip of his index finger over her hand as he took the glass.

She rolled her eyes and tried to splash him but missed.  "No," she said flatly.

"Aww, come on!  The queen of my harem?  Who wouldn't want that?  You'd get to lord your power over the other girls, and you could share my bed at least . . . twice a month, give or take . . ."

"You're already gray," she replied sweetly, reaching over her shoulder for a magazine.

"My hair is not gray," he informed her haughtily as he stalked over to the outdoor bar.  "It's silver—or platinum, if you'd prefer."

"Gray is gray is gray is gray, Roka.  You're a premature gray, and you might as well learn to deal with it."

"Actually, it's closer to white than silver.  Geez, Val, didn't you learn your colors when you were a child?"

"Shut up, Jeeves.  I'm getting thirsty," she said.  "You wouldn't happen to have one of those little service bells, would you?"

Evan chuckled as he poured more wine into her glass and carried it over to her.  "No, I don't, but I could get you one," he offered as he hunkered down beside the hot tub.

She smiled at him as she sipped the wine, but that smile dimmed then faded slowly.  "Are you sure that you're okay?" she asked, letting the teasing banter fall away, eyes clear and bright and somber.

Reaching out with the hand that was still wrapped in loose gauze, Evan smoothed an errant lock of hair back and tucked it behind her ear.  "I'm sure," he told her.  "V, uh, I'm really—"

"Stop it, Evan," she interrupted firmly, stubbornly.  "I already told you, you don't have anything to apologize for, remember?  They were wrong for doing what they did to you."  She sighed and shook her head, biting her lip as she scowled at the glass of wine in her hand.  "I really wish you'd let me look into it," she muttered.

"I would if I thought it'd make a difference," he told her.  "I'll get over it, V.  Don't worry about it."

She stared at him for a minute, a probing kind of expression on her face.  Trying to figure him out, maybe, and he wondered fleetingly just what she saw—Zel Roka the incorrigible rock star or Evan Zelig the man . . .?

The trill of his cell phone cut through the moment, though, and with a sigh, Evan pushed himself to his feet and strode over to retrieve the damned device off the prep table near the grill, but when he saw who it was, he nearly opted not to take the call.  Unfortunately, he'd keep calling since he never had been good at taking hints, and in the end, he flipped the phone open and brought it to his ear.  "What, Mike?" he barked in lieu of a greeting.

Mike sighed and cleared his throat, probably anticipating an argument.  Evan squared his shoulders.  "Yeah, listen, Roka . . . Can you talk?"

"About what?"

Mike exhaled slowly.  Evan figured that he was puffing on one of those smelly-assed cigars that he favored whenever he was trying to deal with something that wasn't particularly to his liking.  "Okay, fine.  Then just listen to me.  You wanted me to keep tabs on Matthis, right?  Well, I just got off the phone with one of the nurses, and she let it slip that he's being moved to a nursing home tomorrow."

"What?  Why?" Evan demanded, abruptly striding toward the doors.  "That doesn't make sense."

"Yeah, I know.  She said that Matthis' insurance won't cover the rehabilitative services that he needs, so the hospital doesn't have a choice.  Seems that Matthis' attorney came by the other day, and she overheard them talking.  His attorney says he doesn't have much of a civil case against you since you weren't technically at fault even if you were higher than a damn kite at the time of the accident . . . and she said that Matthis seemed all right with that—said he didn't want to sue you, anyway."

"Sounds like the nurse has a problem with loose lips," Evan snorted, glancing quickly out the window to make sure that Valerie hadn't noticed his hasty departure.  She had settled back in the tub once more, eyes closed, head back . . . "Is that right."  It wasn't a question.

"It's fucked up, if you ask me.  Matthis isn't that old.  He'd be fine if his damn insurance would just suck it up, but no, they'd rather toss him into a nursing home—a nursing home, for Christ's sake!  Like a damn roach motel—they check in, but they don't check out . . ."

"All right, Mike.  I get your point.  I'll take care of it."

"No, Roka, you can't!  You waltz in there and offer to cover everything, and he'll soak you for everything you've got!"

"You just said that he told his attorney that he didn't want to sue me," Evan muttered.

Mike snorted and exhaled sharply—definitely those damned cigars . . . "And maybe he was just saying it loudly enough for the nurse to overhear on purpose!  Ever think of that, genius?"

"And maybe he didn't," Evan shot back.

"He's right, you know.  It wasn't even your fault, and—"

"Forget about that," Evan cut in coldly, his temper soaring for entirely different reasons.  "I mean it, Mike."

"All right, fine.  Whatever.  Just don't do anything stupid!  Think about this for once, will you?"

"Don't worry about me," he insisted stubbornly.  Clicking the phone off while Mike was still in mid-tirade, Evan shut it off completely for good measure.  Sure, he had a valid point.  It happened all the time.  Anyone who had achieved the level of fame and notoriety that Evan had tended to become a prime target for that sort of thing, and he knew that.  That didn't really absolve him of his responsibility, though, and even if it did, Evan knew damn well that Bill Matthis had a wife and two kids, one of whom was still in high school, the other in college, and there wasn't any way in the world that he'd be able to provide for that family if he was stuck in a nursing home.

No, he didn't really have a choice, did he?  As much as Mike would hate it, it was something that Evan had to do, and it was for himself as much if not more than it was for Bill Matthis . . .

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~ =~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
'Desperado< /i>' by The Eagles first appeared on their 1973 release, Desperado.  Song written by and copyrighted to Glen Frey and Don Henley.
== == == == == == == == == ==
DonthatemecuzImbeautiful —— monkeyseemonkeynodo —— fanfic7inu —— JKD1989 —— FireDemon86 —— Nozome —— mynera  —— theblackthorn —— iloveanimecartoons —— CandyEars —— lilswtheart9811
malitiadixie —— Proforce —— fasttimeport —— cutechick18 —— MouF —— sueroxmysox
Thought from Mike:
Damn stupid kid …!
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 65
Chapter 67
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