InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Dead Leaves ( Chapter 104 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter One Hundred Four~~
~Dead Leaves~


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'I can't get no satisfaction
'I can't get no satisfaction
'Cuz I try and I try and I try and I try
'I can't get no – I can't get no …'

-'(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' by The Rolling Stones.


-Evan-


"Roka, you listening?"

Starting out of his reverie, Evan blinked and slowly shifted his gaze to meet the darkened eyes of the director.  "Sorry," he muttered without any traces of his usual bravado.

Ryder Talbot nodded slowly as though he were trying to figure out just what Evan was thinking.  "I asked if you had anything you wanted to add to the video concept I proposed."

"Uh, no.  It sounds fine," Evan said, waving away the question without another thought as he flipped the small storyboard closed and dropped it onto the coffee table.

Ryder's frown intensified.  For some reason, it almost made Evan laugh.  Something about the gravity in his expression seemed so horribly out of place on his boyishly handsome face.  Shoulder length dirty blonde hair hanging in loose curls to his lithe shoulders and falling into his face in a careless sort of way, the video director of the elite looked like he should be kicking back on a remote beach somewhere with a bleach blonde in one hand and a beer in the other instead of sitting in the living room of Evan's Long Island mansion discussing concepts for a music video that'd end up being all about sex anyway.  "I'm about as far from a therapist as I can possibly be," Ryder commented, measuring his words carefully, "but you look like you're wound tighter than my old man's ass."

Evan snorted since that was saying a helluva lot, as far as he was concerned.  Ryder's father, Martin was the junior senator from California, and, according to what Ryder had said before, he was even more upper ass-crack than both Cain and Bas, combined—or worse.  "It's nothing," he lied, forcing a smile that must've been as thin and weak it had felt because Ryder didn't look at all convinced.

"Your trial's coming up, right?"

Evan grimaced inwardly.  "It ain't a big thing," he lied, trying to brush off Ryder's concern with a nonchalant flick of his wrist.

"The hell it ain't," Ryder countered, his knee bouncing up and down.  It wasn't the first time that Evan had noticed that the dolphin-youkai was constantly in some kind of motion.  If he didn't know better, he'd swear that Ryder was on speed, but as far as he could tell, Ryder wasn't actually into using any kind of drugs at all and never had been.  "You gonna beat it?"

"Eh, it doesn't matter," Evan insisted, draining his beer and setting the bottle down with a heavy thud.  "Name one rocker who hasn't done some time."

Ryder didn't look entirely impressed.  "Jens Gutreich hasn't," he retorted.

"I said 'rocker', Talbot," Evan shot back.  "Jens isn't a rocker.  He's a poser."

Ryder grinned, likely because he'd just finished filming a video for Jens' band, Junkmale.  Evan knew from experience that Jens was as fake as they came since Mike had booked Junkmale to open for him a number of years ago in a handful of shows.  It should've been a longer gig, but Jens and Dieter hadn't gotten along very well, and by that, Evan meant that Dieter hadn't liked Jens at all because Jens had spent the majority of the time bitching and whining about the lack of attention that Junkmale was receiving.  Junkmale had a couple moderate hits that were more mainstream than rock, and they weren't a terrible band, but they certainly weren't headliner material, either.  Evan had ignored Jens' bitching for the most part, but Dieter had decided that the overfluffed, would-be diva would make a good target for some of his more malicious practical jokes, and when a photographer from Overkill magazine had snapped some pictures of a passed out Jens with a mouthful of Dieter's nutsack that the magazine had felt compelled to publish, well . . .

"Those pictures were classic," Ryder remarked, grin widening as his dimples broke free.  He didn't have to be able to read Evan's mind to know that he was remembering that incident, too.  "Laughed for damn near an hour when I saw 'em . . . For that matter, I still have trouble looking at Jens without laughing straight in his face."

Evan couldn't help the chuckle that slipped from him.  "Jens wasn't too happy about those, was he?"

Ryder snorted, digging a cigarette out of the pack in his pocket—Lucky Strike, non-filter—and lit it with a match before he replied.  "Bitching about that during the video shoot, as a matter of fact.  Kept saying that Dieter was a good guy, even if he was high all the damn time, but you know damn well that he was only saying that because it was the 'polite' thing to say . . ."

Uttering a terse grunt, Evan felt the familiar spark of anger flicker to life deep down but squelched it just as fast.  Ryder wasn't trying to piss him off, and he knew it, just as he knew that Jens Gutreich wasn't worth getting all bent out of shape over, and who the hell gave a rat's ass what he thought, anyway?

Besides, there used to be a time when Dieter was pretty fucked up, and Evan knew that, too.  "He can suck my left nut," Evan muttered then broke into a shit-eating grin.  "Oh, wait.  He already did that, didn't he?  Just didn't have any fucking cameras around to catch it that time."

"You're a sick fuck, Roka," Ryder remarked with a wince and a shake of his head, but his smile widened.  "A really, really sick fuck."

Evan's smile faded, and he let out a deep breath as he stood up and headed toward the kitchen to grab another beer.

He hadn't seen Valerie in almost a week; not since the evening when she'd walked out of his house after he'd refused to tell her anything else about the night of the accident.  Oh, she'd called him, and he'd called her, but she'd maintained that she needed to go into her office to work, and he hadn't pushed the issue.  There was a certain distance that he could feel, and whether it was all in his mind or not, did it really matter?  She wasn't pushing him away, no, but he couldn't help but feel guilty over the things she'd said to him before she'd left, and maybe that was the real reason that he felt so far away from her . . .

"How am I supposed to help you—to save you—when you have no interest in doing anything for yourself?"

That was the million dollar question, wasn't it?

A sardonic little smile that was as full of irony as it was devoid of any real amusement twisted his lips as he yanked two bottles of beer from the cooler and shoved the drawer closed a little harder than he needed to.

"That chick you took out on tour with you—your attorney, right?" Ryder asked as he sauntered into the kitchen and took the beer that Evan offered to him.  Evan nodded as he gave the cap a twist and tossed it into the trashcan.  "What's the story on her, anyway?"

"No story," Evan lied.  "Just my attorney; that's all."

Ryder snorted and rolled his eyes good-naturedly.  "Don't bullshit me, man," he challenged.  "Bone said that she's your V."

"Bone talks a little too much," Evan muttered, tipping the beer to his lips.

"Yeah, maybe," Ryder agreed.  The expression on his face was carefully blank, as though he'd schooled his features to keep his thoughts from showing at a glance.  "All over the newspapers, right?  She was beating on you?"

Evan grinned slightly at the reminder of that picture.  He'd almost forgotten about that . . . "She must've taken offense to something I'd said," he deadpanned.

Ryder grinned, too.  "Go figure, eh?"

He chuckled.  "Yeah, go figure."

"So-o-o," Ryder drawled, shuffling his feet as his grin widened by degrees, "is she the one?"

"The one?" Evan repeated with a shake of his head.  "Is there really such a thing as 'the one'?"

"Hell!  If my old man can find his 'one', then I guess that someone like you can do it, too," he scoffed.

"She's engaged," Evan admitted.  Keeping the hint of irritation out of his tone, however, was just beyond his abilities, or so it would seem . . . "Engaged to a guy named Marvin Pinkle, if you can fucking feature that."

Ryder blinked once, twice, slowly lowering the beer that he'd been starting to tilt to his lips.  "No . . . No goddamn way," he breathed like he was afraid to say it louder.

Evan snorted and drained his beer.  "Way," Evan countered, thumping the empty bottle onto the counter before reaching for another.

"Fu-u-u-uck . . . and I thought that it was harsh, being named 'Ryder' . . ." he said with a commiserating grimace.  "Think he got beat up a lot in school?"

"Probably not," Evan grumbled, unsure why he'd bothered to tell Ryder anything about Marvin, in the first place.  "Wedgies maybe . . ."

Cracking a grin, Ryder took a deep swig of the beer in his hand.  "So, she's just your attorney."

"That's right."

"That's cool.  She's hot, though.  I didn't realize they made attorneys as hot as she is," Ryder went on.

Evan finally grinned, too, and the chuckle that slipped from him a moment later was warm, even if it did border on rather nasty.  "Yeah, she is," he agreed.  "She's got an even hotter temper."

"Sounds like you've seen it more than once."

Leaning back against the counter, Evan's smile widened.  "You got no idea, man . . ."

Ryder chuckled, but shook his head as his grin faded, only to be replaced by a determined sort of expression.  "All right; all right.  Enough of the fun and games, right?  Shall we get back to work?"

"Yeah," Evan agreed, feeling a lot more like himself than he had in a few days.  "Let's do it."


-Valerie-


Valerie dropped the report onto the desk with a dull thud and braced her hands against the desktop to push herself to her feet.

"My God," she muttered with a long sigh as she moved over to the window that overlooked the busy street fifteen stories below.  Pedestrians hurrying down the sidewalks on both sides while a steady procession of traffic moved up and down the way, and she saw none of it; none of it . . . "Evan . . ."

What the hell was going on?

She'd spent the last week going over that report, carefully reading everything once, twice, to make sure that she hadn't missed anything, making sure that she completely understood exactly what was documented.

Unfortunately, the things that were alluded to in the report were even more perplexing.

A long, slow breath eased out of her, and she shook her head.  If only she could get some answers out of the stubborn man, things would make more sense, but . . .

But they didn't, and no one was willing to say anything, either.

The beep of the intercom broke through her musings, and Valerie's head snapped to the side at the interruption.  "Yes?" she said after stalking back to her desk and leaning down to push the button.

"Valerie?  I've got Mr. Thompson on the line."

Rubbing her forehead as she slipped into her chair once more, Valerie nodded.  "Thanks, Anne.  Put him through, please."

It took a moment to connect the call.  Valerie drummed her fingernails on the cover of the report while she waited.  She'd tried to get a hold of the man earlier, but he was out at the time, but she wanted some answers regarding a few things she'd read in the report, and he was the only one who could answer them.

"Ms. Denning?"

"Yes, hello, Mr. Thompson," she greeted when his voice came over the line.

Mr. Thompson chuckled.  "I figured that I'd be hearing from you soon," he remarked.  "I take it you finished reading through the report."

"Yes, and I had some questions," Valerie replied, rubbing her forehead as she tried to make sense of everything that she'd read.  "I realize that it's short notice, but I wondered if you'd have time today to talk to me?"

"As a matter of fact, I do have a little bit of time," he said.  "Give me an hour or so to go over the report again to refresh my memory, and I'll meet you after that?"

Glancing at her watch, Valerie frowned.  "I wondered if it'd be possible for you to show me everything on the vehicle?  It'd help me to make sense of it all.  It's still being held in impound, correct?"

Mr. Thompson didn't answer right off.  She heard the shuffling of papers on his end, but he finally sighed.  "Sure.  I'll meet you there?  Say, around three?"

It was two o'clock now, and Valerie frowned.  It'd take her a good half hour at least to get there, more if traffic was heavy, but she figured that it was possible.  "All right," she agreed.  "Thanks, and I'll see you shortly."

Hanging up the phone, Valerie's frown grew darker.  Madison was likely the one person she might get some real answers out of, and she'd intended to give her a call, but it would be better to have the concrete answers before she called her in.  Considering Madison had already given her sworn statement to corroborate Evan's, Valerie didn't delude herself into believing that getting the hairdresser to recant her story was going to be a cakewalk by any means, but given the evidence that she'd read in that report . . . Well, maybe Madison would change her story, after all . . .

With a slight scrape, the chair slid back as Valerie stood up and grabbed the report along with the notebook where she'd scribbled her questions to stuff them into her attaché case.  Glancing at her watch, she let out a deep breath.  If traffic wasn't too bad, and she was hoping that it wasn't, she'd have just enough time to go over her notes before she met with Mr. Thompson.

"Anne, I'm leaving for the day," Valerie said over the intercom as she absently checked the contents of her case to make sure that she'd grabbed everything that she'd need to look over things once she went home.

"All right," Anne replied.  "Have a good afternoon."

Grimacing as she headed for the door, she stopped short, only to pivot on her heel to retrieve her cell phone off the desk.  She flipped it open long enough to make sure that she hadn't missed any calls.  She hadn't, and that idea made her sigh.  Ever since the failed game of truth or dare with Evan, she'd noticed that he didn't seem to call her as much as he had before, and that bothered her.  She figured that he simply didn't care to be asked about the accident anymore.  Still, she had to admit, at least to herself, that she missed spending time with the unpredictable man.  Of course, she'd never tell him as much.  No, he really didn't need that kind of encouragement, now did he?

Letting out a deep breath—she was finally satisfied that she hadn't forgotten anything—Valerie strode toward the door, pausing only long enough to flip off the lights and nab her long tweed coat off of the hook before stepping out of her office and pulling the door closed behind her.

"I'm sorry.  Ms. Denning is leaving now for the afternoon," she heard Anne saying as she carefully juggled her attaché case and purse while she shrugged on her coat, one arm at a time.

A woman's soft voice that Valerie didn't recognize . . . "Then is there a number where—Oh!  You're V, right?"

Valerie blinked as her chin snapped up at the mention of the nickname that Evan had given her.  Eyebrows drawing together as she came face to face with Miss Reichardt, Valerie nodded.  "Miss?  Hi . . . Is there something I can do for you?" she asked, glancing at her watch and realizing that the already small window of time that she'd been given was shrinking fast.

A strange kind of expression flickered over Miss' pretty face: almost a sad kind of look but bolstered by an uncanny sense of resolve . . . "You were on your way out, right?" Miss began, wringing her hands in a nervous sort of way.  "I really, really need to talk to you," she blurted.

Valerie made a face, hating to blow the woman off, but desperately needing to get to the meeting that she'd set up with Mr. Thompson.  "I, um, I'm sorry, Miss," she said with a placating little smile.  "Maybe you could come by tomorrow morning?"

Valerie blinked when Miss grasped her forearm before she could pass.  Staring at the woman's thin hand for a long moment, she slowly lifted her gaze to meet Miss' far more imploring one.  "Please," she whispered, unable to keep the hint of urgency out of her tone, leaning toward Valerie, her eyes wide, dark.  "It's about Zel."

She couldn't help the clanging alarm bells that shot off, one by one, at the mere mention of Evan's stage name.  Had he done something else?  Was that why she hadn't heard from him much the last couple days?  A guilty twinge twisted her stomach, and she had to school her features to keep it from showing.  "O-Okay," Valerie agreed, turning to lead the way back to her office.

Miss said nothing more as she let go of Valerie's arm and followed her back into the office again.  She said nothing when Valerie set her things down and shrugged off her coat, hanging it back on the rack beside the door.  She said nothing while Valerie flicked on the lights once more and strode over to her desk, leaning on the front of it, ankles crossed, and she waited.

Pacing over to the windows behind the desk and back again, rubbing her forearms through the black leather jacket that was about ten sizes too big for her tiny frame, Miss seemed to be trying to gather her thoughts.

Biting her lip, Valerie glanced at her watch again and grimaced inwardly.  She still had time to make the meeting with Mr. Thompson, but barely, and as much as she hated to rush Miss along, if she wanted to get to that meeting, then she'd have to . . . "Uh, Miss," she began slowly, carefully.

"I wanted to thank you for coming to Dieter's funeral," Miss suddenly blurted, as though she hadn't heard Valerie start to speak at all.  "He, uh . . . He said that you were nice.  He said that Zel liked you a lot."

Valerie frowned.  She got the feeling that Miss was just making small talk while she continued to try to figure out what she wanted to say.  In the end, though, Valerie didn't really have the heart to put an end to the stilted conversation, either.  "I liked Dieter, too," she murmured softly.

Miss smiled but the expression was tempered by a rawness, a soreness that still hadn't quite faded.  "Y-Yeah.  I mean, Dieter could be a little weird at first, but once you got to know him . . ." Trailing off, Miss abruptly waved a hand as she turned away from the window.  Face pale, drawn, she looked like she hadn't gotten a good night's sleep in a while—or a good meal, either, for that matter.  "Y-You're in a hurry, right?"

Valerie nodded once but smiled apologetically.  "I'm going to go meet with the forensic expert who looked over Ev—Zel's car.  There are some inconsistencies . . ."

Miss nodded quickly.  "About that," she blurted, stepping away from the windows, digging into the inner pocket of the leather jacket, "He can't . . . Zel can't go to jail for that.  Don't let him.  You can't let him."

Heaving a heavy sigh, Valerie crossed her arms over her chest.  "There's nothing I can really do about it," she intoned.  Something about the young woman's behavior, though . . . "According to everyone who was there at his house that night, Zel—"

"He wasn't driving," Miss cut in, her voice rising as the sense of stubbornness grew stronger.  Swallowing  hard, she ducked her chin suddenly, and Valerie knew that she was blinking back tears.  "Zel," she finally murmured, her voice barely above a whisper.

Valerie felt the breath whoosh out of her lungs, a feeling of lightheadedness making her dizzy, and for a moment, she wasn't quite sure she'd heard Miss correctly.  "Wh . . . What?"

"Zel wasn't driving," Miss said, clearing her throat nervously, and she finally lifted her chin, her gaze steady despite the brightness that lingered in her eyes.  "Zel wasn't driving," she repeated again, a slow sense of resolve lending strength to her words.  "Dieter . . . Dieter was."


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A/N:
'(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' originally appeared on The Rolling Stones' 1965 release, Out of Our Heads.  Song written by and copyrighted to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
He wasn't driving …?
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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.
~Sue~

Chapter 103
Chapter 105
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