InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ A Purity Short: Cacophony ❯ Darkness ( Chapter 1 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~A Purity Short~~
~Cacophony~


~Chapter One~
~Darkness~


~Bevelle, Maine~
~May 19, 2037~


~o~

Scowling at the illuminated screen of his cell phone, Derrick Cartham—Deke, for short, but best known as just Cartham—ignored the rumbling of thunder, high overhead, as he braced himself with a foot down on the ground upon the fully tricked-out, matte black 1962 Harley Davidson Sportster with burnt chrome fittings that he’d rebuilt from the frame up, standing within the thin ring of light from a street lamp above on the outskirts of Bevelle, Maine.  The motorcycle was dark for a reason, allowing him a level of anonymity—something greatly preferred in his line of work—and it looked fine as fuck, so, there was that, too . . .

Stop by ASAP.  The sooner, the better,’ it said.

That was it, and he was used to getting fairly short and to the point texts from Cain Zelig.  Even so, Zelig rarely used the term ASAP, never demanded his response in such a dire kind of way, and, since the North American tai-youkai gotten married a number of years ago, he’d stopped, going out of his way to drop by the mansion later at night, as he always had after Zelig’s daughter was born.

The tai-youkai had wished to keep them away from Bellaniece, not that he could blame him.  After all, he wasn’t exactly what could be considered acceptable company to keep around such a small girl.  Nowadays, he tried to keep his visits brief, even though Cain didn’t seem to feel quite the same, especially since his heir had been born, but Sebastian Zelig was still little more than a kit at just around five-and-a-half years old.  Eventually, he’d learn all the trappings that went along with the Zelig’s office, given that he’d inherit the position himself once day.

Then again, it was also a vastly different situation, he figured, given that the Zelig’s new mate was no stranger to the office of the tai-youkai.  Her people back in Japan were related to the Inu no Taisho.  She was, in fact, Sesshoumaru Inutaisho’s beloved niece and the cousin of the current Japanese tai-youkai, Toga Inutaisho.

Yeah, okay.  You going over there or are you going to sit here on the bridge, looking like some kind of freak until someone spots you and ends up, calling the fuzz to report a shady figure, lurking out here in the middle of the night like you’re scoping out some place?

Grunting low in his throat, he tucked the phone into the pocket of the beat-up-looking biker jacket, he paused long enough to dig a stick of Doublemint gum out, popping it into his mouth, before he kicked the bike to life, gaining a little speed and swinging around in a wide u-turn, heading back the way he’d come.  He’d picked up the gum habit a few years ago when he’d given up smoking.  He’d successfully kicked it, yes, but the gum had stayed.

It was a mild night with a myriad of stars, hanging low in the sky, reflecting off the waters of the bay with the sliver of the moon doing little to dispel the deep shadows of the New England landscape.  There were some houses out this way, but, for the most part, people tended to buy a lot of land, cherishing the illusion of wide-open space, and in this place, the land could still be smelled, could still be appreciated.  He suspected that that was why the Zelig chose to settle in this area, too.

As for him?  His family originally hailed from around the Boston area.  He could still remember isolated moments, more like photographs that only existed in his own head, and he supposed that was natural enough, given that he was just a kit himself back then.

He was born shortly after the youkai uprising that had ultimately ended in the death of the first North American tai-youkai, the first Sebastian, Zelig’s father.  His father had continued to work for the interim tai-youkai, Ben Rhodes, now Philips, for a number of years, and later, he’d offered his services to Zelig when he’d returned from Japan where he’d been fostered with Sesshoumaru.

In fact, Tarse Cartham, his father, had continued to hunt for the tai-youkai up until his untimely death when he’d been ambushed while out on a job.  The brother of a serpent-youkai had ambushed and shot him after laying a trap to lure him in.  When his mother had died less than three months later, Cartham was left on his own.  He was ten at the time.

From there, he’d gone to live with his aunt and uncle in Virginia, but he’d gotten into a lot of trouble.  Losing his parents had instilled an anger in him that he didn’t have the skills to deal with back then.  At first, his aunt and uncle had tried to rein him in.  That kind of control, however, just made things worse, and Cartham had rebelled in every possible way that he could.  Between his own hostility with their insistence that he behave and the way that his uncle tended to lord his authority over him, reminding him at every opportunity, just how grateful he ought to be that they’d even offered to open their home to him when he had nowhere else to go, he started trying to avoid the old homestead as much as he could.  By the time he was thirteen, he’d been kicked out of their home and was living wherever he found shelter, surviving on whatever he could beg, borrow, or steal.  In fact, it wasn’t until he was nearly fifteen, when he’d just happened to run into Ben Rhodes , that everything changed.  Ben, who had been in the area to meet with a few youkai, had caught him, trying to break into the one and only store in the tiny town where he lived.

It was Ben who had brought him to a friend of his, an old elk-youkai named Rhen Thornton, who lived, deep in the hills of Canada.  There, he’d trained Cartham in the old ways of fighting, in the ancient art of meditation, and slowly, those things had helped to reform him.  He’d spent hours—sometimes days—wandering through the forests, over the hills, down in the valleys of south eastern Canada.  He’d taught himself how to track animals and to forage for food, to thrive in a natural environment.  With the training had come a level of understanding that he hadn’t had before.  He’d also developed a healthy respect for the world at large and for his place in it

The anger that he’d felt so keenly slowly slipped away, leaving in its wake, a certain melancholy when he truly stopped and considered the idea that he really had no one and nothing.  Rhen, being the old man that he was, was so set in his ways.  He rarely spoke more than the bare minimum, never given to sharing stories of his old days, of the life he’d led for such a long time.

Cartham never actually knew what had happened to Rhen.  It had to have been almost thirty years after he’d first left the old mountain man, after he’d started working for Zelig that he’d gone back, only to find the small cabin, empty, obviously having been abandoned some time before.  Rhen had said once that when he was ready to go, he’d venture north, get lost, deep in those forests and mountains to find a good place to die.  If that’s what he did, Cartham never found out, but he’d also never seen his mentor again.

The only thing he had from Rhen, though, was a piece of paper that was folded up, laying on the table under the dirty old oil lamp.  It was the deed to Rhen’s property, left to him, and he still owned it now, even though he rarely ever went up there.  It wasn’t a conscious decision, no.  It wasn’t as though he were avoiding it.  He simply found it easier to stay closer to Zelig.  It was a lot more convenient, especially when Rhen’s mountain cabin was about as rough as it could be with no electricity, no real road into it, and he hadn’t had the time nor the inclination to update it, either.

He couldn’t rightfully say, when he’d first considered, following in Tarse Cartham’s formidable footsteps.  He supposed that, on some level, he’d always known where his future would lie.  The very first assignment he’d taken for Zelig was the hunt to find and eliminate Glen Franscis, the serpent-youkai who had killed his father.  Cain, to his credit, hadn’t wanted to send him on that one.  In the end, however, Cartham had insisted, and he’d been the one to take down that bastard—and he wasn’t sorry for it, either.  But after that . . .

He hadn’t been prepared for the strange sort of emptiness that accompanied his initial success.  It wasn’t until then that he’d even realized that he had banked so much of his future upon settling the score with the serpent.  Defeating him had brought Cartham a level of satisfaction, of course.  He just hadn’t understood how much of his very existence he’d dedicated to the idea of finding him and bringing him down.  When he’d finally done it?

In hindsight, that was one of the worst periods of his life.  He had no focus, no reason.  He’d just worked, barely noting the passage of time.  It really wasn’t until he was asked to assess a new hunter, Larry Rowland, that he had started to realize that what he did . . . It was important.  Larry was a quiet guy, but he had a certain enthusiasm for hunting, and when Cartham had asked him why, he’d said that it was because he could help other people come to terms with things through his ability to hunt down what he’d called, ‘the bad guys’, that if doing so meant that others could sleep better at night, then it was what he wanted to do.

And, Cartham had realized, it was true.

He’d learned his lessons, and he did his job well, and, while he couldn’t say he enjoyed his occupation, exactly, he would allow that there was a certain measure of satisfaction in knowing that the youkai that he brought to justice wouldn’t be out there, running rampant, either.

It was late, nearly midnight, by the time he stopped his motorcycle before the Zelig mansion.  Despite the hour, though, the lights in Cain’s study were ablaze, and  Cartham wasn’t surprised to see the darkened shape of the tai-youkai in the window.  Before he even managed to reach the wide stone stairs of the porch, the heavy door swung open, and Cain stepped outside, pausing long enough to light a cigarette before shuffling down the steps and onto the walk.  “Hey, Cartham.  Thanks for coming so quickly.”

Seeing no choice but to fall into step beside Cain as he led the way down the meandering walkway, ultimately heading for the staircase that led to the beach below, Cartham ran a hand through his shaggy mane of black and white hair.  “You said ASAP, didn’t you?” he countered.

Cain nodded.  “So, I did . . .”

Cartham frowned.  It wasn’t really like him to beat around the bush, especially when it came to issuing orders.  Still, something was bugging Cain, though Cartham figured he’d get around to it eventually.  “All right.  What’s the job?”

Letting out a deep breath, turning his face toward the stars high above, Cain seemed to be concentrating on the dissipating smoke.  “To be honest, it’s not a regular job,” he finally admitted.  “In fact, it’s . . . It’s kind of more of a favor than anything.  I mean, you’ll still be paid, but . . .”

Something about the way Cain seemed to be dancing around the subject made his frown deepen into a full-out scowl.  After all, he’d never made much of a fuss, no matter what kind of tasks were set for him.  Now wasn’t really any different.  Or, maybe it was . . . “All right . . .”

“Bellaniece’s friend, Kelly . . . It seems like she’s been having some . . . some issues.  I just wanted you to see if you couldn’t find out, what’s going on with her.”

“Your daughter’s friend?  That’s the assignment?”  Blinking in mild confusion at Cain’s request, Cartham shook his head.  “You want me to check on her?  What, exactly, do you mean by, ‘issues’?”

Cain sighed, tossing the cigarette butt away and slowly turning to stare at him.  Even in the darkness, the tai-youkai’s eyes seemed to glow, seemed to gather the stingy light.  It was something that Cartham hadn’t actually noticed in many people, but something about Zelig . . . “Belle’s tried to talk to her.  Kelly always says things are fine, and then, the calls tend to end pretty fast, but she doesn’t believe her.  Kelly’s been through a lot . . . and then, she called today to tell me that Kelly’s phone has been disconnected.  The long and short of it is that Belle’s afraid that she’s in some kind of trouble.”

Cartham crossed his arms over his thick chest.  “So, you want me to check on her friend?  And do what?  Listen, Zelig, I’m not a babysitter.  In fact, I’m about the farthest from, so if—”

“I made some preliminary calls.  Her parents said that she refuses to see them—they don’t know why—and then, her father mentioned that she was evicted from her apartment a couple weeks ago.  They had to go and pack up her things.  He said that she didn’t take much of anything with her.  She’s just . . . just gone . . .” He sighed, shook his head.  “She . . . She’s in trouble, and I . . .”

Cartham pinned Cain with a dark glower, but it was directed more toward the situation than at Cain himself.  “You know, right?  You can’t save everyone, and even if you could, if she’s so hell-bent on destruction, do you think she even wants that?”

Cain’s expression mirrored Cartham’s.  “Didn’t you?”

“That’s different.  I was just a kit.  Might’ve thought I wasn’t, but I was . . . Anyway, you know, right?  If someone goes to the trouble of disappearing, chances are good they don’t want to be found.”

Rubbing his forehead, Cain shrugged, but it seemed more like a, ‘what-can-you-do’ type of gesture than anything else.  “Humor me, will you?  Just find her and bring her back, at least to talk to her parents . . . Or make sure that she’s in a decent place.  I have no idea, what’s going on, but Kelly . . .”

He grunted.  “Isn’t she the one who got burnt in that house fire?  The one Belle’s mate fixed up?”

“Yes . . . and she grew up with Bellaniece, too.  They were as close as sisters.  She was around often enough that she could have been her sister.”  Cain paused, heaving a heavy sigh, shaking his head as though he just couldn’t quite figure out, just what to say.  In the end, though, he turned toward Cartham, held out his hands before letting them drop to his sides once more.  “This isn’t just for Belle, Cartham.  It’s for me, too.”

-==========-

Dropping a dingy towel into the plastic bucket on the cleaning cart, Kelly Hendricks let out a deep breath that blew her light brown bangs up out of her eyes as she hooked the bottle of industrial cleaner and disinfectant onto the metal bar.  Then, she pulled a few wash cloths, a couple hand towels, and three thin, white bath sheets out of the cabinet and hurried over to the bathroom.

She’d already wiped down the sheet glass mirror over the stained and old sink and had sprayed disinfectant on the entire surface, replaced the partially used complimentary bottles of shampoo and soaps and lotion, and the only thing she had left to do in this room was to replace the soiled towels and gather the used ones.

It wasn’t too bad, as far as jobs went, she figured.  Since arriving in the city, she’d already tried working tables at a couple dive bars, but she’d discovered in short order that she really hated that.  Most of the patrons of those bars were the rejects from the casinos farther down the avenue—the fools who had lost, big, and had come in to squander what little cash they had left—and, as such, they weren’t always the nicest or the most generous patrons.  At least working at the Oasis Hotel—a place that wasn’t nice by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t the worst, either—she didn’t have to deal with people, and that, as far as she was concerned, was the best reason of all.  That, and they hadn’t really been too concerned when the address she’d given was that of a local women’s shelter, and they hadn’t cared that she didn’t have any real identification on her, either, other than an expired Maine driver’s license.

She hadn’t actually meant to end up here.  It was all just kind of luck, when it came down to it.  After court had issued the Writ of Possession that granted her a whole forty-eight hours to vacate the apartment that she hadn’t paid rent on in close to six months, she’d taken the money she had and had bought the first bus ticket out of Bevelle, Maine: a ticket that just happened to take her to Las Vegas.

It was good enough.  To be honest, she didn’t really care, where she was.

Everything she owned, she’d left behind.  She hadn’t brought a thing with her, just her wallet with five bucks in it.  She’d even left her cell phone behind.  After all, she hadn’t had the money to pay that bill in weeks, either, not since she’d lost the job she’d had, working as a receptionist at a local dentist office.  Of course, when she hadn’t bothered to go into work and hadn’t bothered to call in, either, it stood to reason that they would fire her eventually.

And she just hadn’t cared about that, either.

She didn’t really care about anything.

She didn’t want to look at her parents, didn’t want to talk to her best friend, living it up, halfway around the world.  She didn’t want to leave the apartment, but she hated to feel so cooped up inside it, too.  To be honest, she hadn’t actually talked to either of her parents in well over a year, at least, more than a perfunctory hello when it couldn’t be avoided, and even that was tinged with a level of cold detachment.  They’d given up on her, hadn’t they?  Even before the fire, when she was deep in the throes of her own kind of teenage rebellion . . . At some point, her shenanigans had become one trial too many, one instance beyond what they could deal with, and maybe one day, she’d forgive them for all but abandoning her, but she didn’t really know.  In the length of time since the fire, since those long and agonizing days, spent in the burn unit, through the four reconstructive surgeries and all the time she’d spent, staring at the clinically clean walls of the hospital room for hours and days and weeks at a time, her mother had come to see her once that she remembered.  Her father hadn’t come, even once.

Let me give you the name of a friend of mine.  He’s a psychiatrist.  Often, patients like you can feel a lot different than you thought you would, so I’d recommend, talking to him.”

That’s what Dr. Izayoi—Kichiro—had said just after her last reconstructive surgery.  She’s thrown the little card away as soon as he’d walked out of the room.  She didn’t need a shrink.  That was ridiculous.  After all, she was thrilled, wasn’t she?  Absolutely thrilled to have finished the last of the skin grafts to replace the damaged flesh from the third degree burns she’d suffered when her bedroom caught on fire.

Striding out of the bathroom and stuffing the used towels into the bag, hanging from the cart handle, she gave the bedroom a critical once-over.  She’d already changed out the bedding, vacuumed, and dusted.  Satisfied with her work, she pushed the cart out of the room, stopping long enough to lock the door, before moving on to the next one to repeat the process again.

It was stupid, really, and so very optimistic . . . At the time, she’d honestly thought that she could start living again, that her life had been restored.  She’d thought that everything could go back to the way it was before that God-awful fire.  She’d thought . . .

But she had been wrong—incredibly wrong—stupidly wrong.

Kichiro had told her that she’d have scarring for a while.  It was par for course with the surgeries she’d had to endure.  Those, he had assured her, would go away, given time.  She was youkai, after all, and her body would help her to heal.  He’d given her a few bottles of a special lotion that he claimed would help those scars fade a little faster.

And then, he’d walked away from her, had flown back to his life in Japan, and to Bellaniece, too.

She met a guy a few months later at a local bar in Bevelle.  She’d stopped in just to get a quick drink to unwind after work on a Friday night.  Pete had seen her across the room, had bought her a beer, and they’d hit it off.  They dated for a couple months—he was fun, after all, even if he was human—and she liked him well enough, even if she knew, deep down, that he wasn’t her mate.

They’d slept together on Valentine’s Day, which, looking back, was entirely cliché and corny, but it was dark enough in the room, and she hadn’t really considered it then.  In the morning, however, after her makeup had been rubbed away, when he’d gotten a good look at her naked body—at the scars that were still angry and red, the scars on her face that the makeup normally hid . . .

She saw his revulsion in his eyes, in every delineation in his expression.  He’d hurriedly gotten dressed, had mumbled something about calling her later, and she’d watched him leave, knowing, full-well, that he wasn’t going to call, and he wasn’t going to come back, either.  The guy she’d lost her virginity to, and he . . .

And yes, she’d blamed Belle, hadn’t she?  She’d told her that condoms would prevent accidental mating.  If she hadn’t known that, maybe it would have saved her from that awful little scenario.

Then again, maybe not.

It happened a couple more times before she gave up, and even when she was in the midst of being angry about it, she knew, and she couldn’t rightfully blame any of them for it.  Who in his right mind would want to date Frankenstein, anyway?

She’d stopped going out, stopped going to work, stopped going anywhere if she could possibly help it, and she’d smashed every last mirror in her apartment, too.

That was when she’d quit her job, had stopped paying rent, stopped caring about anything.  It got to the point where the very idea of leaving her apartment had left her in fits of near hyperventilation.  She’d drawn curtains, pulled blinds, avoided anything that would make her leave her security, and when she did have to venture forth, she always did so in the dead of night, and she always wore clothes that covered her from head to toe, no matter what the temperature was.

She hadn’t realized, had she?  At the time, she’d thought that having the reconstructive surgeries done would make her life normal again.  It hadn’t occurred to her that the scars that traversed her body, that the itchiness that often erupted, deep under the skin, would be so hard to deal with.  Because she was burned so badly over so much of her body, Kichiro had to use a new type of ‘skin’, created by the cultivation of stem cells in a process that she didn’t really understand, but the resulting layer was semi-permanent, he’d said, and, eventually, her own skin would meld with it.  Unfortunately, though, because she was youkai, he wasn’t able to completely close the wounds and had to use a different method to affix the new skin, and the end result had been scarring that was so much worse than a human would have to deal with after a traditional skin graft.

He had no idea, just how long it would take for the residual scarring to heal.  Really, it depended upon her own youkai’s response to the grafts, and the result was the hideous network of scarring.  For weeks after the grafts, she’d had to wear what was best described as full body socks that were designed to hold the new skin in place as her body assimilated it enough to keep it in place.  When she’d said something about the itchiness that kept her awake, sometimes for days at a time, Belle told her that Kichiro had said that it was a good sign; that it meant that the skin was merging with her own as it grew and developed . . . All in all, it wasn’t really that much of a consolation, not when she just wanted to rip herself out of her own flesh, literally.

In the end, she supposed, that she just couldn’t deal with the idea of trying to be herself, not when she couldn’t even recognize the person that stared back at her in the mirror.  The things that she might well have done in the past weren’t a part of her anymore, and seeing that stranger was hard enough, but when she realized that she couldn’t even reconcile her own thoughts as really belonging to her?

All she’d known is that it was a strange and welcome sense of peace that had come over her as she’d settled herself in a corner next to the window in the back of the Greyhound bus.  She’d watched through the windows, hidden under the hood of a misshapen old sweatshirt as a family gathered, crying, laughing, wishing a girl—their daughter?  Sister?—well before they parted.  There was no fanfare with her departure, no family to bid her goodbye, to tell her to be safe, to be strong, and that was fine, too.  Somehow, she just needed to do this, to find a place to start over, to create herself once more, even if she had no real inkling as to how to do it . . .

-==========-

“I don’t know where she is.  Why are you looking for her?”

Crossing his arms over his chest, Cartham frowned at the diminutive ermine-youkai woman, Helen Hendricks.  Pushing her golden hair out of her face with the back of her hand and holding it there since the breeze had picked up earlier this morning, she didn’t look particularly alarmed or surprised by the idea that he was there, asking questions about her daughter’s whereabouts. No, if anything, she looked rather irritated . . .

“I’m here on orders from the Zelig,” he explained in a low growl that was neither friendly nor was it unkind.  As far as he could tell, Kelly’s father wasn’t home.  Maybe he’d already left for work for the day.  It didn’t matter, really.  After all, he’d just stopped by on the off chance that they had an idea where he ought to look for Kelly, in the first place.

“The Zelig?” she echoed, her eyes widening in alarm.  “What did that fool girl do this time?” she demanded, deep brown eyes, narrowing as her youki crackled around her.

“To my knowledge, she didn’t do anything,” Cartham admitted, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, the clink of the metal chains that hung from his leather jacket, embellishing his movements.

She digested that, but she didn’t look like she believed him completely as she smoothed the nondescript white sweater over her hips in a decidedly nervous kind of way.  “He’s not . . . There hasn’t been a hunt or something issued for her, has there?”

“Nope,” he replied. “Zelig just wants me to check on her.”

Frowning, she crossed her arms over her chest, seemed to kind of collapse against the door frame where she stood, and he could sense her relief, even if her expression didn’t show it.  “Like I said, I don’t have any idea where she is,” she finally said, though her tone had lost much of the brusqueness that was there before.  “She just up and took off . . . Left her father and me to clean out her apartment, too—left everything behind in a goddamn mess—every dish, dirty, all of her clothing, unwashed, just tossed around the place . . . She didn’t have much, but still . . .” She sighed, rubbed her forehead in an infinitely weary kind of way.  “Classic Kelly: always leaving behind her messes for everyone else to sort out . . .”

“So, you’d have no idea, where she’d be,” Cartham concluded.  “Would you mind if I took a look at the things she left behind?”

Mrs. Hendricks offered a little grunt and flicked a hand toward the attached garage.  “Sure.  The boxes are in there.”

He gave a curt nod and turned to step off the porch of the modest but neat little house.  “Is the garage unlocked?”

“Yeah, should be,” she replied.  “I’ve got to get ready for work, so go ahead and lock it up when you’re done, please.”

He nodded to indicate that he had heard her, wasting no time as he strode down the sidewalk and grabbed the handle on the garage door, giving it a firm turn.

The inside of the garage, just like the rest of the outside of the property, was neat and clean.  There were a couple metal shelves on the far wall with plastic bins of varying sizes along with a few drawer blocks, arranged upon them.  On the opposite wall near an older but clean chest freezer were three neatly stacked boxes, and in neat print of black permanent marker, each one was labeled, ‘Kelly’.

It didn’t take long for him to look through two of them, running the claw of his index finger neatly through the tape that held them closed.  The first one contained nothing but clothing and a couple towels, a pair of sheets, and all of it had been washed and neatly folded and smelled of detergent and fabric softener.  A pair of old but clean tennis shoes, a few odd toiletries, all carefully wrapped in plastic Ziploc baggies and taped closed . . .

The second box held a few kitchen items: a skillet, a pot, two plates, two bowls, a couple glasses, and a bundle of silverware, also all meticulously clean and wrapped to prevent breakage . . . a couple paperback books, some kitchen towels, a small wooden plaque with, ‘Always add a pinch of love to everything you bake,’ painted on it . . .

The third box contained the odds and ends: some CDs, a discman . . . a remote for the very small television that was wrapped in an old blanket behind the boxes, a few more dog-eared books, a few blankets, some things—knickknacks, maybe—wrapped in newspaper.

There was nothing there to give him even the smallest hint as to where she’d gone, and he scowled, reaching for the books to repack into the box.

And then, he stopped.  Narrowing his eyes as he looked closer at one of the pages of newspaper that had been wrapped around something for packing, he noticed that something was circled in blue ink, and he lifted the item to get a better look.  The page was dated a couple weeks ago, but the phone number, circled on the ad—no more than a very small blurb in the classifieds, caught his attention and held it.  ‘Spring specials.  Call for prices.  Nationwide stops,’ and a phone number—the local bus station, it said.

Was that what she’d done?  Hopped on a bus and got out of town?  It wasn’t a sure thing, by any means, but it was the closest thing to a lead that he’d found.

He was just packing things back into the box when the door from the house opened, when Kelly’s mother stepped outside.  She’d changed into her work clothes, he supposed—a pair of light brown slacks and a nondescript white, button-down shirt . . . a thin, gold chain around her slender throat, a touch of lip gloss, a hint of mascara—and when she saw him, she sighed and, after a moment of silent deliberation, she squared her shoulders, crossed her arms over her chest, her purse, pushed back behind her elbow, and she slowly approached him.  “Did you find anything?” she asked, and, despite the guarded tone in her voice, he didn’t miss the underlying anxiety she was trying to hide.

“Maybe,” he replied.  “She circled an ad for the bus station.”

Her mother sighed.  “You going there?  See if you can’t find her?”

“That’s what I’ve been told to do,” he said.  “Do you have family somewhere?  Someone she’d want to go see?”

The look she shot him was inscrutable, unreadable, and she hurried across the garage to retrieve a roll of packing tape out of a plastic tub on the shelf.  “Not really.  Our families aren’t really close . . .”

Somehow, that didn’t surprise him, but he kept his opinion to himself as he watched her retape the boxes once more.  She said nothing as she worked, as she returned the tape back to the bin where she’d found it.  It was hard to tell if she was just one of those compulsively neat people or if it had more to do with underlying things that she hadn’t given voice to.

Digging into her purse, she pulled a picture out of a plastic sleeve in her wallet, staring at it for a long moment before handing it over.  “It’s . . . It’s an older picture,” she said, her tone, somewhat apologetic.  “No one ever got a picture of her after her reconstruction surgeries.  I mean, I tried once, but she . . .” Trailing off, she quickly shook her head, seemed to dismiss whatever it was that she had started to say.  “I mean, she doesn’t look that different—well, some, sure, but . . . Her hair color’s the same, and so is her eye color . . .”

Cartham shook his head and didn’t take it from her.  “Cain gave me one to go on,” he explained.

“I see,” she said, sparing a moment to stare at the image once more before slipping it back into the sleeve in her wallet once more.  “Of course, he did.  That makes sense . . .”

“Can you tell me more about her?  Kelly?  Zelig just gave me a brief overview, but even then, you’re her mama, so . . .?”

“Can’t say I know much more about her than anyone else,” Helen said.  “From the moment she could, she was trying to run away from us, and the older she got, the less she talked to us, anyway.  I don’t really know when she stopped wanting to . . . to be my little girl,” she admitted quietly.   “She doesn’t return phone calls or texts.  She never asked for help with her bills.  I mean, even if Ford didn’t want to help her, I . . . Well, I guess she figured he’d lecture her or tell her it was her problem.”

“All right,” he concluded since he wasn’t really getting much information that he could use.  “Thanks for your time.”

She sighed again.  “Look, it’s not like I don’t care about her.  I do.  I’m her mother.  But she . . . Well, she takes after me, I guess.  Too stubborn, you know?  And then, she’s like her father, too—to unwilling to ask for help, and then, she gets ideas in her head, and she doesn’t let them go, even if they’re nothing but trouble.  She’s never wanted to listen to me when I’ve tried to tell her that she shouldn’t do certain things.  She’s always had to learn it all the hard way, and one day, it’s going to be her undoing . . . My husband . . .” She winced, rubbed her arms, her cheeks, pinking as she slowly shook her head.  “He said that he’s done with her, that if she wants to fail, that she might as well learn how to pick herself up again.  He . . . He loves her, too.  It’s just . . .”

Trailing off, she gave a rather helpless little shrug, like she couldn’t quite figure out, how to put it all into words.  In the end, she heaved a frustrated sigh, shook her head.  “She won’t call us if you find her,” she predicted, letting go of her prior train of thought.  “Just . . . If you do?  Could you . . .?”

Cartham stared at her for a long, long moment, but finally, he nodded.  “I’ll let you know.”

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A/N:
Here’s the first chapter of the short I want to write.  I will update it when I feel like it, but feedback would be GREATLY appreciated.  God bless!

Cacophony: harsh discordance of sound; dissonance.
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Final Thought from
Kelly:
A new start
==========
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Cacophony):  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~