InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Shades of Gray ( Chapter 143 )

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


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'< i>I don't wanna love you now …
'If you'll just leave someday
'I don't wanna turn around
'If you'll just walk away …'

-'Mockingbird' by Rob Thomas


-Evan-


The sound of the cell phone woke Evan from a fitful sleep, and it took a minute for the ringtone to register in his sleep-foggy mind as he groped for the device on the nightstand.  "'Lo?" he asked, mid-yawn and without opening his eyes.  He could tell it was still dark outside, and if it were anyone other than a certain attorney, he'd have let the call go to voicemail . . .

"Twenty-two degrees," Valerie stated without preamble.  "Ten with windchill."

He chuckled and cracked an eye open to look at the clock.  Six-fifteen in the morning.  At least it was later than yesterday . . . "What?  Not even a 'good morning' or anything?" he teased.

She grunted.  "Sometimes," she said, her voice strangely muffled, probably by a coffee mug, "I hate this city."

"Sorry, V," he said, pushing himself into a sitting position before raking a hand through his hair.  "You want me to come over and warm you up?"

"Be serious, Roka," she grumbled.  "How am I supposed to go jogging when it's that cold outside?"

"Put on a few layers of clothing," he told her, "and I was being serious."

"Of course you were," she replied dryly.  "Oh, my whole day's going to be messed up if I don't go for my morning jog."

"I can go with you if you want," he offered after yawning again.  "You know, since I'm already awake."

She snorted.  "I thought you said you had a bunch of stuff to do today."

"Yeah, well, nothing until, like, noon."

"Ah, the life of a rockstar," she replied.  "So when are you leaving for Germany?"

Rolling out of bed, Evan shuffled out of the bedroom and down the hallway.  "Thursday morning . . . Like eight in the morning or some such shit," he told her, scratching the center of his chest with his knuckles.  "You sure you don't want to come along?"

This time, she sighed.  "I wish," she said, a hint of longing entering her voice.  "Is it warmer there than it is here?"

"Eh, it's roughly the same.  Maybe slightly warmer there."

"Maybe I should move to Florida."

"They have hurricanes."

"Louisiana?"

"Also hurricanes—and summer is humid as hell there."

"Hmm, Oklahoma then."

"Tornadoes—and hilljacks."

"California."

"Earthquakes . . . and entertainers."

She heaved a sigh.  "Kill all my best ideas, why don't you?" she grumbled.

"Sorry, baby," he replied, sounding anything but contrite as he stepped into the kitchen and headed for the coffee maker.  "I'm going to set my alarm for four a.m. tomorrow so I can call you and wake you up for once," he warned.

"Possibly," she mused.  "I'll just shut off my ringer before bed."

He chuckled, mostly because he figured that she really would.  "Yeah, yeah," he replied, dumping coffee into a mug.  Since Valerie had started coming around, he'd gotten into the habit of setting the machine to brew automatically.  "So what's on the docket today, counselor?"

"Ugh, I have a meeting with Glen Dirge and his overblown ego," she said with a groan.

"Yeah, I met him once," Evan replied, lifting the cup to his lips.  "Biggest dickless pecker I've ever met . . ."

"He's something, all right," she muttered darkly.  "Are you drinking coffee?"

He grinned.  "Yep," he told her, taking another healthy swallow to emphasize it.  "A-A-A-A-Ah . . ."

She gasped softly.  "That Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee?"

The grin turned into a chuckle.  "Yep."

"Oh, that's so unfair!" she insisted.

"I'll buy you some," he promised.

She sighed.  "No, you don't have to."

"I know," he said simply.  "I'll get you some, anyway."

"Absolutely not," she stated flatly.  "I'll just come over and have a cup of yours."

Evan laughed as he jotted down 'coffee' on the pad of paper he kept on the counter.  She could afford the coffee, sure, but he knew damn well that Valerie wouldn't actually spend seventy-five dollars for a twelve-ounce bag of beans.  There were times when she was far too frugal for her own good, but now wasn't exactly a good time to point that out, he supposed . . .

"So, how long is it going to take you to get over here to go jogging with me?"

Evan blinked but smiled as he glanced at the clock.  "Uh, give me . . . half an hour?"

"Okay," she said.  "See you then."

Hanging up the phone, he dropped it on the counter and wandered over to retrieve a thermos out of the cupboard . . .


-Valerie-


"I'm a busy man, Valerie—you don't mind if I call you Valerie, do you—so how about we cut to the chase, hmm?  Is the DA ready to drop the charges?" Glen Dirge asked as he breezed into her office with the kind of privileged air that only the children of ultra-rich people could attain.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Dirge," she said, standing up and leaning forward to shake his hand.  He did—sort of.  He grasped her hand and squeezed slightly then let go and flopped into the nearest chair.  'Biggest dickless pecker that Evan had ever met?  Sounds about right . . .' she allowed.  Sitting back down, she regarded him coolly for a moment before pasting on a business smile and folding her hands together atop the desk.  "I don't think that the DA has any intention of dropping the case," she informed him.  "Given the evidence they have against you, my suggestion is to allow me to go talk to them about a plea bargain."

Glen looked like she'd just suggested that he lop off his hand and donate it to someone who might actually need one.  "Plea bargain?" he repeated incredulously, flipping his shoulder-length black hair out of his face impatiently.  "I didn't hire you to get me a plea bargain.  You got Zel Roka off, didn't you?"

She frowned.  "His case has no bearing on yours," she informed him, "and even if it did, I'm not at liberty to discuss it with you.  You understand."

"Of course, of course," he said, offering her one of his broadcast grins, the kind that was honed to present to a camera: not broad enough to made him look squinty, wide enough to seem genuine, even if she knew damn well that it wasn't.  Shifting in the chair, he leaned forward slightly.  "I tell you what, Valerie.  Why don't I take you to dinner so I can explain my side of the story a little better?  I'll send my driver, say around five-ish?"

"I don't think that's necessary," Valerie said, her smile tepid, at best.  "I'll be frank with you.  Your case is not good.  The store has you on surveillance video, breaking in with a crowbar—a crowbar that you allegedly left at the scene, and they were able to lift your prints off of it.  You have no real alibi to substantiate your claim that you were . . ." Trailing off for a moment while she flipped through the file, she pushed her glasses up her nose before continuing.  ". . . At home, asleep.  The police found some of the stolen goods in your apartment along with enough cocaine to get you a minimum of at least five to ten since it's your third drug charge—and that's if the judge is feeling benevolent that day.  Asking for a plea bargain really is in your best interest."

His lazy grin chafed at her.  "So you think they'll throw the book at me, is that it?"

"No," she replied, "I think you should try to be a little more realistic.  That's all.  If you don't want me to approach the DA regarding a plea bargain, then that's your choice.  As your attorney, however, it's my responsibility to council you in what I believe would be the best for you in the long run."

"Yeah, I get it," he said in a tone that stated that he was just humoring her.  Grasping the arms of the chair, he pushed himself to his feet and stretched.  Standing up, she strode around the desk to shake his hand again.  "Thanks for your time, Val," he went on with another of those grins she hated as his gaze slowly moved up and down her frame.  "You sure you don't want to hook up for dinner?"

"I'll have to pass," she replied, her tight little business smile back in place once more.

He chuckled in what she figured he thought was a sexy kind of way.  To her, it seemed overdone and entirely for show.  A few—very few—men, she had found, especially after meeting and getting to know Evan, were born with the innate ability to make every single thing they did seem easy, effortless. The rest of them? They might be able to fake it sometimes, but, more often than not, they just came off as silly and shallow and ridiculous . . .

"Hmm, why don't you give me a call when you change your mind, Val?" he said, voice lowering into what might have been an attempt at a sexy drawl.  It wasn't.

"Bye now," she said, escorting him to the door and breathing a quiet sigh of relief when he sashayed out of her office at last.

"Why?" she muttered to herself as she strode back over to her desk and snapped the slim-file closed.  Why did she put up with men like that?

'Because,' she thought rather cynically as she grabbed her cell phone and flipped it over in her hands, 'he pays me a lot of money; that's why—check that.  His father pays me a lot of money . . .'

A knock on the door made her blink, and she let the phone drop from her fingers as she glanced at her appointment book with a frown.  She didn't have any meetings scheduled.  She knew she didn't.  "Come in," she called, reaching across the desk for another file—this one on Helga Weimar, a Broadway starlet who had been arrested after a domestic he-said-she-said episode with her on-again-off-again boyfriend, who, coincidentally, was the producer of the show she was currently starring in.

Anne stuck her head into the office and stepped inside when Valerie waved a hand at her.  "This was just delivered for you," she said, hurrying over to the desk with a very large basket wrapped in pastel pink cellophane.

Valerie rose to her feet and shook her head, reaching for the card as Anne deposited the basket on her desk and turned to go.  "Thank you," she said a little absently as she pulled out the note.

"No problem," Anne replied, lingering in the doorway.  "I'm going to run down and get a soda.  Do you want anything?"

"No, thanks," she replied.  A moment later, the door closed, leaving Valerie alone once more.

'Here's your coffee, V.  Told them to deliver four bags to your apartment per week, too.  E,' the note said.

She smiled.  Sure enough, there were four bags of Blue Mountain coffee in the basket along with a couple boxes of orange almond biscotti and a large, black mug that proclaimed, 'I did V with Zel Roka' on it.  Then she sighed.  'Twisted little monkey . . .' That coffee was insanely expensive, and as much as she might like to accept it, she was going to tell him to cancel the deliveries, and if he just laughed her off?  She made a face.  She'd figure out a way to make sure he didn't . . .

The problem was that Evan was so used to having money that it just didn't bother him to spend it without batting an eyelash.  It wasn't bad.  In a way, he tended to be one of the most generous people she knew.  Still, it just didn't seem right to her, did it?  After all, she was his friend because she wanted to be; not because he liked to spend money on her.

But it was awfully sweet of him, she had to admit.

The trill of her cell phone cut through her thoughts, and she reached for it with one hand, sticking the card back into the basket with the other.  "Hey, Roka.  What's this basket?" she asked without preamble.

"It's your coffee," he replied.

"Thank you," she said, staring at the basket with a slight frown.  "It's very nice, but I want you to cancel the deliveries."

"Yeah, I figured you'd say that," he admitted.  "Too bad I can't."

"What do you mean you can't?  Just call them and tell them that you changed your mind."

"Absolutely not," he informed her, sounded a little offended though Valerie had very little doubt that it was for her benefit.  "I prepaid, so you'll just have to deal with it."

"No, Evan, really—"

"Stop arguing with me," he interrupted.  "You've got no say in what I spend my money on.  Think of it as my way of telling you how sorry I am that you can't come out to Germany with me."

She still wasn't quite ready to let go of the fight.  "At least let me pay you back."

"Nope," he said.  "Don't worry about it.  Didn't you just buy me that dune buggy?  And I know damn well that it wasn't cheap."

"I told you that I wanted to buy that," she pointed out reasonably—maybe too reasonably.

He chuckled.  "And I wanted to buy you the coffee, okay?"

She heaved a sigh.  "Evan . . ."

"Seriously, V.  How about you just say, 'thank you'; I say, 'you're welcome', and we call it good?"

She was beaten, and she knew it.  He was too damn stubborn for his own good sometimes . . . "Thank you," she finally said.

Evan chuckled again.  "You're welcome."

Valerie snorted.  She didn't really want to give up, but she couldn't think of a good way to get him to cancel the order, either.  She'd just call the company later and see what she could do about it, she supposed.  "Oh, yeah, and in case you were thinking of calling and cancelling the order yourself?  I told them that only I could authorize changes in it, so you might as well give up.

She snorted again and heaved another sigh designed to let him know just what she thought of that bit of high-handedness.  In the background, she could hear muffled voices, but she couldn't make out words.  "Where are you?" she asked, figuring that she'd just think about a way to get him to stop the shipments later.

"They're auditioning a few bassists," he replied.  "Just taking a break for a few."

She winced.  "How's that going?"

She didn't miss his sigh, either.  "Not too bad," he said.  "A couple of these guys aren't too awful, anyway."

Glancing at the clock, Valerie sucked in her cheek.  It was a couple hours earlier than she'd intended to leave, but . . . "Do you want me to come meet you?" she asked.

"It's okay, V," he assured her, but he sounded a little happier than he had, or maybe that was just her imagination.  "After this, I've got a photo shoot for some promo crap, a spot to do on Music HD, a radio spot for WRCK, and maybe—maybe—I'll make it home before the sun rises."

He didn't sound tired, but he did sound a bit wry.  She smiled.  "All right, but I'll be home later if you need to get a hold of me."

"Okay," he said then chuckled.  "I'll check in before you go to bed."

"Take it easy on the new bassists," she warned.

He snorted.  "Keh!  As if I wouldn't."

She rolled her eyes and ended the call, staring at the coffee basket thoughtfully.  She'd like to think that he'd be all right, but she knew all too well how much trouble he'd had before when faced with finding a bass player for the backup band.  It was hard for him.  In his mind, telling someone that they could have the gig permanently was akin to letting go of Dieter forever, wasn't it?

Pushing the basket off to the side, she sank back down at her desk with a frown.  She had a few appointments to keep tomorrow morning, but maybe Evan would have time in the afternoon so she could swing by and check up on him . . .


-Evan-


Rubbing his face as he stumbled into the house, Evan let out a deep breath and leaned back against the closed door.  Head throbbing to a beat that only existed inside his skull, he savored the silence that cosseted him for a long minute.

After sitting through hours of listening to different bassists, Mike had gotten a call from a friend of his who just happened to manage a relatively new band called Body Talk.  Their debut album had just been certified gold, and Rick Falkner had suggested that Philansoclantes talk to Body Talk's bassist, Dane Ardberry.  He apparently didn't have anything scheduled during the time that they'd be in Germany, and more importantly, he'd filled in for Dieter while he was in the can before.  Dane wasn't interested in leaving his current band, which was fine, but he said that filling in for the Germany show wouldn't be a problem at all.

It was a huge relief, but it didn't really solve the problem of finding a permanent replacement for Dieter, either.

That thought made him grimace.  It always did.  It wasn't so much that he felt as though it was somehow a slight to Dieter's memory, but when he remembered all the things that the two of them had done over the years . . . Yeah, he had to admit, it was hard—damn hard.  Eventually, however, something did have to be done about the vacancy, but there was a lot more to it than just picking someone based on skill.  If the person in question didn't gel with the other members of the band, the trouble that could arise would far outweigh the benefits of having a permanent member.

Pushing himself away from the door, Evan shuffled out of the foyer and into the living room.  His headache had already begun to diminish.  All he really needed was a little bit of silence.  Noise didn't often bother him often, no, but occasionally it did.  He figured it might have something to do with the idea that the island had been so quiet that he'd gotten kind of used to it during his vacation.  Give him a few more days, and he'd be right as rain again . . .

The clock on the mantle chimed the hour.  Two a.m.—much earlier than he had figured he'd be done for the night.  For a second, he considered calling Valerie, but she'd sounded sleepy when he had talked to her around nine, so he discarded that idea, veering off into the kitchen to grab a beer before striding over to his desk and turning on the computer.  He hadn't really bothered to check his email while he was on vacation.  He could've done it when he was in Mayaguana, but it hadn't really crossed his mind at the time.  Besides, he didn't actually get much in the way of email usually.  The people he cared to hear from usually just called him instead.

Not surprisingly, there wasn't much to check.  A few emails that Bugs had thought would amuse him, a couple from a guy he'd talked to before about collaborating with to write a few songs as Evan Zelig . . . a few more emails that weren't really noteworthy, and it only took him a few minutes to go through those.

Still, he felt more restless than sleepy.  His logical mind told him to go on to bed since Valerie seemed to like to wake him up early.  Too bad he knew well enough that he'd never get to sleep even if he did lie down . . .

His eyes fell on the folder on his desk, and he frowned.  It was the file that Bas had given him over Christmas—the one with the information that he'd gathered.  Evan hadn't bothered to look at it yet.  He already knew the important stuff.

Leaning forward, extending his hand, he stopped suddenly, pulled his hand back.  Even if he knew what was in there, did he really have the right to read it?  After all, it was information for her, for Valerie, and the information that Bas had gotten didn't really concern him, even though he wanted it to.

Staring at the file for several minutes, he couldn't make up his mind.  On the one hand, whatever those reports contained was intensely personal.  On the other?  If he really wanted to help her, didn't he need to know what she was going to be facing?

In the end, he reached out again and pulled the file across the desk, drawing a deep breath before he could open it.

Stacks of papers in no real order . . . Bas had just given Evan everything instead of trying to put it in order in a slim-file, and that was fine.  Doubtless he'd figured that Evan wouldn't want to wait any longer than he had to.  Handwritten copies of police reports—damn, there were a lot of those.  Reports from social services, mental evaluations . . . 'Valene Duyer is a very serious, introverted child.  Doesn't like to be too close to other children of her age group.  Will answer questions in very concise terms, usually simple yes or no.  Recommendation: one on one therapy' . . .

That report was dated December 2052.  She had just turned seven years old.  According to what she'd told him, that had to have been shortly after she'd been taken away from her parents.  He snorted as a flash of anger erupted deep inside him.  Her entire world had been turned upside down, hadn't it?  Introverted?  Was that really surprising?  Really?

Pushing himself to his feet, he paced the floor as he leafed through the stack of papers.  Her father had been arrested a number of times, had spent a few weeks in jail here and there.  Valerie didn't remember those, did she?  Or were they just not important enough for her to have mentioned at the time . . .? Some of the reports were dated after Valerie was likely taken from them.  No wonder they hadn't always made it for visitations.  Hard to go anywhere when you were locked up in the can . . .

Tamping down the raw edges of frustration, Evan pulled a paper from underneath some other reports.  It was the one he'd been looking for, wasn't it?

Police report dated November 13, 2052 . . . 'Male identified as Jack T. Duyer, 23, 12 Paradise Palms, Lot C, Durkes.  Charged with resisting arrest, domestic violence threats against minor child (daughter), possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of crack . . . Female identified as Rhonda C. Duyer, 22, 12 Paradise Palms, Lot C, Durkes.  Charged with obstruction of justice, possession of drug paraphernalia, threatening officers on the scene . . . Minor child: female identified as Valene Duyer, 7, 12 Paradise Palms, Lot C, Durkes, remanded into the care of CPS . . .'

He sighed and rubbed his eyes.  Damned if it wasn't exactly how Valerie remembered it . . . He hadn't thought that she was lying, no, but he'd kind of hoped that she'd somehow gotten it wrong . . .

Heaving a disgusted sigh, he tossed the stack of papers onto his desk.  A small bit of paper slipped out of the stack, only to flutter to the floor without a sound.  Bending down to pick it up, Evan scowled.  A picture?  Yeah, that's what it was.  Two teenage kids—a boy who looked like he might've been sixteen, maybe, and a girl who didn't even look that old . . . but the girl was holding a tiny bundle, wasn't she?  A tiny thing wearing a pink ruffly dress . . . a tiny thing with dark eyes and a head full of flyaway white-blonde hair . . . "V," he rasped out, staring at the picture.  It had to be, didn't it?  The infant in the girl's arms . . .

He didn't know how long he stared at the baby.  The rest of the picture seemed to dull in his eyes.  Such a pretty baby, wasn't she?  Pretty . . .

Dragging a hand over his face, Evan finally shifted his attention to the rest of the picture.  Something was weird about it, wasn't it?  Staring at it, he frowned.  The anger that had been eating at him while he'd read through the file stuttered then slowly died as another emotion rose inside him—something far more difficult to swallow.

She'd told him before, hadn't she?  She'd said that her parents were young.  Somehow, that was easy to discount as he'd listened to her story that night on the tour bus.  Staring at the picture, however, he couldn't help but realize just how very young her parents were.  Just babies themselves, weren't they?  Babies with a baby in their arms, looking scared of the future, looking terrified of the harmless little infant between them . . .


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A/N:
'Mockingbird ' first appeared on Rob Thomas' 2010 release, Cradlesong.  Song written by and copyrighted to Rob Thomas.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
How the hell …?
==========
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 142
Chapter 144
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