Kriminalist

Chapter Seven - A Lesson In Betrayal Part C

MATT

“So, you seriously still think Twinkle was having an affair with Appleby?”

“Of course I do. Twix Bar--”

“Twinkle.”

Twix Bar is a fucking model. Who wouldn’t do her, given the chance?”

“Me.” I reply, giving Mello a disgusted look.

“Really? I’m surprised, given how much you go on about her. Did you spend too long with Near?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, that albino freak is just a little bit too uninterested in girls, if you ask me.”

“What, and I am too? Shut up, Mells.”

“Just saying, just saying. We’re friends, you don’t need to hide it.”

I shift uncomfortably in my seat, focusing on making sure the ash from the cigarette I’m holding doesn’t fall inside the car. “Shut up. Anyway, you have to take a left.”

“A left? Where?”

“Back there.” I say casually, pointing to the last turning. Mello swears vehemently, and I smirk. Payback. The car performs an abrupt 180, causing more than one driver to reach for their horns, and Mello turns down the road I was pointing at.

“Where are we going, anyhow?” He spits, aggravated by my obviously deliberate ‘mistake’.

“To see a man about a dog. Naomi Appleby’s drug dealer.”

“Naomi? Oh, the Chanel slut. Right.”

“You’re so disrespectful.”

“Since when do you give a fuck?”

“Her father died.”

“Boohoo. So did mine.” Mello says, turning to meet my eyes. “So did yours, not that that was a bad thing.”

“Shut up, Mello.”

He snorts and goes back to driving. “Just saying.”

“I know you are. But don’t.”

It gets annoying sometimes, being so close to Mello. He knows too much about me. And I don’t know nearly enough about him.

When I came to the orphanage, to Wammy’s House, he was already there. And for some reason - I don’t know what - Roger told him to look after me. I was about seven. I remember Wammy himself being angry with Roger for putting us together, but then he seemed to understand. I guess we were the only two who could ever put up with being with each other, no one else would stand a chance with Mello and I was too anti-social for the others. I only cared about games. I buried myself in them so I could pretend everything else was just a game, too. The first time Mello hit me I was terrified. I though it would be just like being at home again. For a long time I thought that I was the problem, that Mello and my father wanted to hit me because I was stupid or I’d done something wrong. But when I finally got down to talking to Mello about it, in that unselfconscious way that children have, he made me see it wasn’t my fault at all. That some people are just messed up. So after that, I didn’t really mind when Mello got violent. I knew it was his problem, not mine. Probably because of that, and because he knew my past, he became more likely to threaten me than actually do anything.

But it still gets really irritating when he drags it all up.

We drive on in silence for a while, until I realise that Mello keeps glancing over at me.

“What?”

He shakes his head briefly, and focuses on the road again.

“Mells.” I repeat. This time he looks at me again. “What?”

“Nothing. Just…” Mello sighs. “You make me feel really fucking guilty sometimes.”

I stare at him for a moment, and then burst out laughing. Which only serves to irritate him further, of course.

“Oh, Mells. That’s classic.”

“What? Shut the hell up! Jeez, I try and be nice like you’re always telling me to, and all I get is this pain in the ass reaction!”

“Alright, alright. Sorry. I just didn’t expect that. From you, I mean.”

“Whatever. We there yet?”

Oh, hell. I’ve just realised what I’ve done. For a second there Mello was being genuine, willing to share his feelings, and… I screwed it up. Now he’s slammed his walls back into place, and there’s nothing I can do to get past him. I’m so stupid sometimes. I’ve known him long enough, I should be more careful. I know he can’t tolerate being made fun of. Damn it. It’s too late now, though, he’s clammed up like Near with a new Transformers toy, there’s no way I’ll get anything out of him.

MELLO

I don’t know why I bother sometimes. That little fucker. Laugh at me, will he? He can laugh at fucking bullets. All I was doing was trying to make him realise I didn’t mean it. Well fuck it, maybe I will mean it next time.

The druggie’s house is just a couple of roads away so we get there quickly. Then I jump out of the car and stride up to the door, and knock on it with my gun. I can speak this guy’s language. Matt’s running up behind me all frantic, telling me to put the gun away, but there’s no way I’m doing that.

When he answers the door I’m surprised. He’s wearing a suit and is clean-shaven, but the jacket is hanging over the banister behind him and his gun holster is out in clear view. I know I was right to show him mine. He looks at the gun and back at my face before saying anything.

“Yes, Ma’am?” He says eventually, in a casual way.

“Fuck you!” I shout, hitting him in the face and pushing him back into his own corridor. “Get inside. I have some questions for you.”

“God, Mells!” Matt says, trying to grab hold of my arm. “Calm down!”

“Fuck off. Sit in the car if you can’t handle it.” I tell him, forcing the guy through the first door we come to. It looks like some sort of lounge, so I make him sit down.

“First things first. How much does Appleby owe you?”

“Nothing.” The little weasel replies immediately.

“Don’t play games. How much?” I snap at him.

“I’m not playing. It’s true. He paid it all off.”

“He?” Matt interrupts, leaning closer. “Who’s ‘he’?”

“Appleby.” The dealer replies, giving him an odd look. “That’s who you were asking about, right? He paid right before someone knocked him on the head.”

“Naomi.” Matt says. “We were asking you about Naomi Appleby.”

The guy shrugs. “I’ve never dealt with her, only with him. If she’s using the drugs he buys, it’s not my problem.” He answers. “Anyway, the account got settled. Shame he’s dead, but not something I can’t recover from.”

“Fuck it. This thug didn’t do a thing.” I say, getting up and letting go of the weasel. Matt looks at me reproachfully, like I give a damn, and I just get up out of there and leave.

Outside, I get straight back in the car and drive home, with Matt sullenly tucked into the passenger seat. Looks like we’re one suspect down. But all this, about the drugs and who was paying, is a little unexpected. It seems like there’s more digging to be done, but it looks like there’s no way I can leave that to Matt and his oh-so-delicate ways.

MATT

I can’t stand it when he gets like that, so unnecessarily violent. People get hurt when he’s like that. People die. He doesn’t care.

When we’re halfway home, he suddenly switched lanes and goes off in a different direction without even saying anything. After a few moments I take a deep breath and decide to try and get some sense out of him.

“Mello? Where are we going?”

“Appleby’s house.” Mello says, quieter than I expected. “I want to talk to Naomi again.”

“Again? About the drugs, this time?”

“Yes. And about the affair her father was having with Twix Bar.”

I sigh. “Mello, I still don’t think you’re right. He had a loving family. Why would he have an affair with his best friend’s wife?”

Mello looks at me out of the side of his eye, and says nothing. Somehow I think that I was meant to understand, but I don’t. I think he’s wrong and I will go on thinking he’s wrong, because he is. Twinkle certainly didn’t kill Mr Appleby. She’s innocent. I may not have met her, but I know she is.

When we arrive at the Appleby mansion Mello doesn’t waste a moment before he’s at the door, knocking loudly and impatiently to be let in. I reach the door just as it opens and both of us are ushered in to our private audience with Naomi.

“Pauline Archer.” Mello says, straight away, before she’s even sat down. As she does so, she sighs, and there’s a certain defeated look in her eye.

“Yes?” She asks, as if unaware of what he is suggesting.

“When did you find out your father was having an affair with her?”

She looks down at the carpet and folds her manicured hands in her lap, taking a moment before answering. I hold my breath, waiting for her denial, but instead I hear, “A few months ago.”

God. He was right. I can hardly believe it, but he was right all along. So, then, if Naomi knew…

“You killed your father?” I say incredulously. Naomi looks up sharply and opens her mouth to speak, but there is no need. Mello gets there before her.

“No, she didn’t. She blackmailed her father into supplying her with drugs and letting her out of rehab so that she could take them. Isn’t that right, Miss Appleby?”

“Yes.” She says quietly, meeting our eyes in turn, not pretending any longer. “Yes, I milked him for all the money I could get. And then, when he refused to give me any more…”

“You told your mother.” Mello says, sounding satisfied at a truth well guessed.

“Yes, I did.” She replies, and stops, no longer needing to elaborate.

“And I would kill him again if I needed to.” Mrs Appleby says from the door, where, it seems, she has been listening all along. “The bastard spent his entire life using me and showing me around town, and I gave him a daughter and a home to return to. Then as soon as I start to form wrinkles he drops me for the next pretty young thing, and doesn’t even have the decency to divorce me and give me what I deserve. It’s his own mistake. Now I have all his money, and not just half.”

Dramatic speeches aside, as the police cart her away it gives me pause for thought. I never thought of love like that before. It’s supposed to be magical and happy and make everything right. But this… it’s disturbed, and violent. Even a marriage vow doesn’t mean eternal fidelity and loyalty. It’s brutal. Is love really so dangerous? Is it something that can twist a young, beautiful woman into a bitter murderer within thirty years? Until I saw the look in her eyes I never imagined that real love could have that effect on something. But I saw her face. She loved Richard. She loved him so much that she killed him. And that scares me.


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