Chapter Six - A Lesson in Betrayal Part B
Walking through the city at night is stimulating. It gets the blood flow going. It gets the heart pumping. You know what’s better? Standing on the top of a building you just had to break into so you could look over everything, eating chocolate, letting the cold moonlight show you for the cold bastard you really are. Fuck, yes. Standing on the highest point all around so you can look over everyone who’s beneath you, saying to the world, Yes. This is me. You don’t like it? Fuck off. Go find someone who cares. Because this - this is me.
It’s a habit of mine. Some kind of power trip, you might think. I don’t care. It’s just my way of being me. Then coming home to Matt, to a friend, someone who will always be there no matter not. The only other person who truly knows me.
Tonight I’m feeling good. When I get home I push through the doors and find Matt (sulking, most likely) stretched out across the floor with a cigarette in his mouth and his gameboy securely in the “on” position. There’s also a pile of documents next to him. He doesn’t even glance up when I enter the room.
“You’re smoking inside.” I point out, a little out of habit, because I’m in a good mood and I guess if it really makes him happy then he can smoke.
“Yup.” Matt mutters, his mouth curved around the cigarette to hold it in place while he plays. “You left.”
“I had stuff to do.” I say, crouching down in front of him. “You finish everything I said?”
“Yes.” He replies, grumpily. I grin and ruffle his hair. Eventually, probably thinking I’m mad or something, he pauses the game and looks up at me suspiciously.
“What?” I say, still grinning.
“Why do you look like that?”
“All…” He does an impression of a huge grin, presumably meant to represent the one I’m currently wearing. “What did you do?”
“I went for a walk.”
“How many people did you kill?”
I laugh. “Not that kind of walk. A real walk. I didn’t even speak to anyone.”
He snorts. “That doesn’t reassure me. Bullets don’t require verbal communication.”
“There was no communication of any sort, deadly or otherwise.” I say. “What? I’m not allowed to be fucking happy?”
Matt pauses, and looks back at the game grumpily. “No. It’s weird. You’re acting weird.”
“Seems to me that only a really weird person would think being happy is weird.” I mock-huff.
“Alright, be happy.” Matt sighs. “I’m glad, I didn’t mean to sound like I’m not. It’s just there’s usually a reason.”
“There is.” I reply, serious again. “And I’m looking at it.”
Matt looks up slowly, goofily. He makes me laugh. I ruffle his hair again. It settles right back into place.
“Well, I wouldn’t even be here if not for you. So, what’s the case update?” I elaborate, still smiling.
How… weird. Seriously. Mello doesn’t get all happy like that, it’s not usual. I’m left in shock, seriously. When he asks me about the case I almost don’t know what to say. But then I do, because I’m prepared and everything is waiting for his approval.
“Right. The friend from the pictures is Arthur Archer, married to Pauline, a younger English model. She’s known as Twinkle in the business, don’t ask me why. Anyway, so Archer and Appleby were friends since their youth, and business partners on quite a few ventures. Close friends, you might say. Except Archer didn’t show up to the funeral, or the wake. In fact, he was nowhere near.”
Mello raises an eyebrow, looking interested, but doesn’t say anything. I take this as encouragement to continue.
“Here’s the best part: Twinkle didn’t go to the funeral either, but she did turn up at the wake. And apparently, she was seen at the graveyard right before she went there. Looks like she went for the private mourning option - bit odd for an attention-seeking model, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yeah. So, what, she’s with Archer for the money?”
“I’d say so.” I show Mello a picture of the two of them, him middle-aged and greying, her young and blonde and gorgeous. He whistles between his teeth.
“Yeah, she’s definitely fucking him for the money. Which makes me wonder who else she’s fucking.”
“You’re taking that route?”
“Yeah. You’re not?”
“Well, I just think we should explore all the options.” I say. “For instance, Appleby’s latest venture failed. He, Archer, and another man lost considerable amounts of money. The other guy was a silent partner, but I’m working on getting an identity.”
“So you think it’s money, not sex?”
“That or drugs.” I say, and grin. “Appleby’s daughter, Naomi, apparently has an expensive habit. I hacked a few emails and it looks like she didn’t pay for her last big score. She went into rehab for a few weeks and then just never paid up. I presume she’s using again now, but not from the same supplier.”
“Interesting.” Mello says, and stretches his arms out above his head. “Right. What time is it?”
“Just gone one a.m.”
“See you in seven hours, then.” He says and gets up and walks out, I’m guessing to bed (although you never can tell with Mello). So I switch off the gameboy for once and finish the cigarette, flicking it into an ashtray. Bed sounds good right about now. Within about ten minutes I’m tucked up nicely, but for some reason I can’t sleep easy. I haven’t been able to since we got here. I’m getting this growing suspicion that I can’t sleep because I’m not near to him any more. In the orphanage he was right next door. In the flat he was right next door, too, sometimes right next to me if we fell asleep while working. Now he’s a long way away, right at the other end of the house. I don’t like it. It makes me nervous. I had insomnia when I found out he’d joined the mafia. He’s a much bigger hazard to my health than smoking. I’m more likely to die of Mello than cancer. One day he’ll give me a heart attack. Or, I mean… well. Not in a Kira way. Just in an incredibly stressful and annoying way.
Tossing and turning, I finally manage to sleep, but not before wondering if Mello is sleeping. God knows what he does or where he goes when I’m not with him. He’s a mystery to me sometimes.
In the morning I wake a couple of hours early, dress, and go downstairs to wait for Matt. The sun rises while I’m sat at the window. I find myself lost in the colours that spread so slowly across the sky, until I feel a hand on my shoulder and look up to see Matt. His hair is wet from showering.
“It’s eight.” He says softly. “Time to get going.”
“Alright.” I get up, and run a hand through my own hair, sweeping it off my skin for a moment. The early morning air coming through the windows is cool on the scar. “Where first, the gold-digger and the businessman or the family to dig for more?”
“Gold-digger.” Matt says, not questioning my choice of words. “Car?”
“If we must.” I concede, though the motorbike seems more appealing. “Let’s go get that bitch.”
The drive passes uneventfully, Matt smoking out of the window while I grind chocolate into tiny little pieces. I love the snapping noise it makes. It was hard to learn how to eat and drive at the same time, but I mastered it. Sometimes Matt changes the gears for me. But I always drive.
The gold-digger house is just as impressive as the dead guy’s, and a butler greets us at the door. An English butler. It seems Miss Lingerie brought a few home comforts with her.
When we get to see the old guy he’s in some sort of smoking room, and instantly offers both me and Matt a cigar. Matt takes it, but I stick to the chocolate. It’s nicer. And it doesn’t smell quite as bad.
“So, how was your relationship with Mr Appleby?” Matt asks.
“Oh, we were the best of pals. It’s such a tragedy, what happened. Rich and I go way back, we were close.”
“You knew him well at the time of his death, then?”
“Oh, yes. We never fell out in our lives, not once.”
“Alright.” Matt looks at me from the corner of his eye. “Then you must know who had a big enough grudge against him to kill him.”
“No!” The wealthy idiot exclaims. “Everyone loved Rich. It’s a great blow to the community. Only his wife and daughter really gained anything - the money, of course. Everyone else has lost a great businessman.”
“Rivals?” Matt suggests.
“No, we always made a habit of looking after those around us. Enemies never helped anyone, but allies can pick you up when you need it. Besides that, the stronger the industry is, the more money we make.”
“I see. Well, thank you for-”
“Hey.” I cut in, for the first time, leaning in to meet the guy’s eyes. “If you were so gay for Richie boy, why didn’t you go to his fucking funeral?”
He colours, and looks angry at me. “I resent that implication. We were great friends, great friends. I couldn’t handle the sight of his coffin. Can you blame me?”
“No, I’m sure that’s perfectly acceptable.” Matt says quickly, standing up and pulling me up with him. “Thanks for talking to us. And the cigar. It was good.”
Before we get glared out of the house we leave, and Matt seems a little pissed off with me. He doesn’t say a word about it. Halfway back to the house he finishes a cigarette and goes to pull out another.
“Did you see the pictures?” He says, suddenly, by which I understand he’s not pissed off any more.
“Appleby with his arm around Miss England? Yeah.”
“What do you think?”
“Exactly what I said before.”
“I still think it’s money.”
“Sure you do.”
We look at each other for a moment, and then look away, each hiding a grin we hope the other didn’t see. But of course, we did. We don’t miss a trick, Matt and me.