Author: raison d'etat (email@example.com)
Categories: Drama, Suspense
Summary: It is unwise to meddle in Count D's affairs. Especially if you meddle with Leon Orcot.
Disclaimer: Pet Shop of Horrors belongs to Matsuri Akino. I am making no money from this piece of fanfiction.
D better have some of that tea on ice today.
Because it was hot. Damn hot. Leon almost grinned to himself, going down the sidewalk, as he remembered that segment from Good Morning, Vietnam. Great movie. Probably go right over D's head, with that guy's freaked-out sense of humor. Leon would have to make him watch it sometime. And then his good humor evaporated, just like even his sweat seemed to be doing, because it was so fucking hot. And he had to wear this stupid jacket. No choice, if he didn't want everybody and his dog to know he was carrying a gun under his arm.
Oh well. He could take the jacket off in the shop. And somehow it was always just the right temperature down there -- never too cold, never so unbearably warm as it was out here. And get something cold to drink. D would bitch, but he'd give him something. He always did. "'Might I remind you,'" Leon muttered to himself, trying to mimic D's snitty tone and failing, "'that this is not a buffet?' Lesson might stick better if you didn't feed me every time, you dumb -- "
"Excuse me. Young sir?"
A hand touched his shoulder and Leon jumped about a mile in the air before whipping around to glare at whoever had grabbed him. Shit. That's what he got for having his head in the clouds. Anybody could sneak up on him, even -- he glared harder -- a short, fat, middle-aged Chinese man standing outside a fish market. God, it smelled bad. Of all the places to get held up -- "What do you want?" he growled.
The little guy's lips thinned, but he bowed. "My apologies, Mr. Detective," he said, and Leon stiffened. How the hell did this guy know he was a detective? Was his gun showing after all? "I don't like to disturb you," the man continued, "but may I be so bold as to inquire if you are going to the pet shop?"
"How the hell did you know that?" Leon demanded.
The man looked surprised, his dark eyebrows raising above equally dark eyes. "Mr. Detective, everyone in Chinatown knows that," he said. "You are always visiting the pet shop. It is a great credit to you, that you are such a friend of our esteemed Count D, and that you do such a good job of protecting him."
Leon opened his mouth to yell at the top of the lungs that he wasn't protecting Count D -- he was trying to arrest him, for Christ's sake, because he was as dirty as mud. Then his brain caught up with his mouth and he realized that it might not be a good idea to tell that to someone who called him "our esteemed Count D." It sounded like word got around in Chinatown even more than he'd realized, and the last thing he needed was to have every damn Chinaman on his back for trying to arrest the Count. So instead all he said was, "Oh."
"At any rate," the little man continued, "I hope you will forgive the interruption and understand me when I say that, because everyone appreciates your special attentions to the Count, I am only telling you to stay away from the pet shop out of the purest goodwill."
Leon took a few seconds to untangle that. "Special atten -- stay away from the pet shop?" Suddenly all of his hackles were raised. "Why? What's going on? What the hell is D up to now?"
The little man looked around, appearing both nervous and embarrassed. "Might I persuade you to step inside my shop?" he asked, gesturing at the fish place. "It is so warm out here, and of course to keep the fish fresh and cool my store is always -- "
"No way!" No, no way was Leon going in there. D would rag on him for weeks if he showed up smelling like a fish. And if Leon smelled too bad, D might kick him out without giving him any cold drinks. "Look, just tell me what you gotta tell me out here, all right?"
Now the little guy just looked aggravated. He gritted his teeth. "If you wish," he said, and lowered his voice. "Please believe me, Detective, it is for your own safety. There are those in Chinatown who do not approve of your patronizing the pet shop as you do. One of them is Shi Dan Wu, the eldest son of Shi Dan Li." The shopkeeper looked carefully at Leon. "You do know this name?"
"Yeah," Leon said slowly, getting a bad feeling. The Shi family -- one of the oldest and most powerful in L.A., period, never mind just Chinatown. Everybody at the station knew they were trouble. And now they were mixed up with the pet shop? Why was he not surprised? He should have suspected something like this all along. "What do you mean they don't 'approve' of me coming around?" Although he bet anything he knew. The Shis and D were collaborating on some dirty venture together, and it wouldn't be convenient to have a cop buzzing around the place all the time. Well, tough shit. Leon was still going to...
The little man was turning a delicate shade of red, and it looked more like embarrassment than heatstroke. He lowered his voice even more. "Wu has taken anin Count D. Normally his family frowns on that sort of thing, but well -- " he gestured helplessly, "well, you can see why one would make an exception in Count D's case. Ah. Well, of course you would understand that..."
"What?" That hadn't been what he was expecting. And he wasn't sure he knew what the hell it meant, either. "What are you talking about?"
The shopkeeper looked like he wanted nothing more than to shake Leon. "Forgive me for speaking so bluntly," he said through his teeth, and then began to enunciate clearly and precisely, while still keeping his voice low. "Shi -- Dan -- Wu -- is -- courting -- Count -- D. He -- does -- not -- want -- you -- around." The shopkeeper folded his hands into his sleeves. "Is that clear enough for you, Detective?"
Leon's jaw dropped. "What?"
"Apparently not," the shopkeeper muttered.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean? Why should I care if some guy wants D for his boyfriend? What's that got to do with me?" Leon kept his voice to a whisper too, now, although it was low and furious.
"Oh, Detective," the shopkeeper said, and shook his head. "Of course, it is possible Wu has the wrong impression." His expression said he doubted it. "But love is a jealous, unreasoning beast. He is very powerful in his family. It would be unwise of you to get in his way. Very dangerous."
"In his wa -- in his way?" Leon straightened his shoulders. "You think I care? You think I'm in his way? Whatever! D can screw as many mobsters as he wants in his spare time!" The little man gave a shocked gasp, covering his mouth with one hand. "Oh, come off it! See if I care! Leave me out of it, okay? You Chinese are fucking CRAZY!"
In Wu's 'way'? Like Leon was some kind of rival? Did everybody in Chinatown think that? Leon wondered as he stormed down the street in the opposite direction he'd been coming, getting the hell out of Chinatown as fast as his legs could carry him. Was that really the scuttlebutt? Did people actually think he and D were -- and now this Wu guy was -- was --
The heat was obviously getting to him, Leon thought as he rounded a corner. He was actually seeing red.
Leon finished up the day in as lousy a mood as he'd started it. He returned to the station in such a foul temper that the Chief kicked him out on patrol duty after an hour. Back out in the goddamn heat. For the rest of the afternoon, the most he could do to let his temper out was arrest a small-time pickpocket in the park. Not exactly satisfying.
That stupid shopkeeper's words kept ringing in his head. Leon should've gotten his name. Then he'd know whose face he was mentally cussing out every time he pictured it. Along with D's, of course, and along with the image of a faceless man named Shi Dan Wu.
"Shi Dan Wu is courting Count D. He does not want you around."
Well, what was Leon supposed to do? Go visit the pet shop out of pride? Get himself killed because of Count D -- worse, because everybody thought he and Count D were a thing? No. No way. Abso-fuckin'-lutely no WAY.
And it wasn't like he cared, he reminded himself.
He slammed the door behind him as he entered his apartment that night, loud enough that the neighbors next door yelled through the walls. Well, they ought to be used to it by now. It wasn't like he ever bothered them. He dropped his pizza box on the table and opened the fridge, looking for something to drink. Beer. Sweet, wonderful, beer. His truest friend. That was the kind of cold drink he should have been looking for today. Not tea. What the hell did he want with tea, hot or cold? Then he turned his air conditioning up full-blast, took a long drink from the beer can, and stood in front of the cold air, feeling almost human again for the first time in hours.
So. D had himself a gangster boyfriend. Married to the mob. That idiot. Did he even know what he was getting himself into, messing with the Shis? And why hadn't he told Leon about it? True, Leon hadn't been by the shop in a few days. Maybe this was something new. Really new. But if it was so damn new, how come everybody in fucking Chinatown knew about it already?
Or maybe -- maybe everybody didn't know, Leon thought suddenly. That shopkeeper had appeared out of nowhere. Who said he was a good representative sample? What if he was in real good with the Shis, what if Wu had told him to give Leon his little 'goodwill message'?
Well, there was one way to find out. Without letting himself think too much about what he was doing, or the fact that his pizza was getting cold, Leon picked up the phone and dialed a number he had memorized a long time ago, although he didn't think he'd ever actually called it before.
After three rings, there was the click of someone picking up the receiver, and then a calm voice said on the other end, "This is Count D's pet shop. How may I help you?"
"Yo, D," Leon said, flopping down on the couch, phone in one hand and beer in the other. "It's me. What's going on?"
A beat. Then: "Oh, hello, Detective," D said, sounding surprised. "My -- this is unexpected. It has been several days since we have seen you here at the shop. I hope nothing is amiss?"
"Yeah, I'll tell you what's amiss," Leon snapped, and took another chug of beer. "And it's likely to be several more days until you see me, unless you tell your badass boyfriend to get off my case." He sneered, even though D couldn't see it. Shame. Felt like a good sneer.
"My -- what? Detective, have you been drinking?"
"I'm not drunk, you idiot! I was coming into Chinatown today and some fishmonger dude stopped me and told me that Shi Dan Wu is 'courting' you. He said this Wu guy doesn't want me coming around. I guess that means if I head to the pet shop some thug of his'll bust a cap at my ass. I don't appreciate that, D."
There was a pause. Then D said, sounding stunned, "Ah -- neither do I, Detective. Who, exactly, told you that Wu is"
"So it's true?" Leon demanded. He heard a crunching sound, and realized he'd crushed the beer can in his fist. Causing beer to spill on him. Damn. What the hell had he done that for?
"Shi Dan Wu has beenin the past couple of weeks," D allowed. "But I have not encouraged him, and I had no notion -- he has threatened you? Who did you say you spoke to, again?"
"I didn't get his name," Leon said. "Some guy who runs a fish store."
"Oh. That would be Mr. Li," D said. "He is a good man. If he told you, it is undoubtedly true that Mr. Shi haslet certain matters be known in the community. Well." There was a long pause. "Well," D said again, after a moment.
Another pause. "So, you haven't encouraged him, huh," Leon said into the silence.
"No, Detective. I have not."
"Well -- okay. Okay then. That'sokay."
"Be careful, though, you got that? This guy is dangerous. Do you think things'll get ugly if you say no to him?" Leon sat bolt upright. "You need me to come down there? Believe me, the department would love an excuse to bust this guy -- "
"No, no, no, Detective," D said. "Please, do not trouble yourself. I admit that I am...annoyed...that Shi Dan Wu has presumed to interfere in my affairs in this way, but it is nothing I cannot handle, I assure you. Wu has been at the heart of many Chinatown conflicts recently," he added meditatively. "He has proven to be somewhat intemperate. I wager that I will not have to worry about him for very long."
"You sure about that?" Leon asked doubtfully. "Don't do anything stupid, D. If he's causing you trouble, I wanna know about it."
"Believe me, Detective," D said, in his driest tone of voice, "nobody of my acquaintance causes me more trouble than you do."
"Huh? Oh." Leon put the crumpled beer can on the cluttered coffee table, and propped his feet up next to it, oddly reassured by that statement. "Well...good."
D chuckled into the phone. "Indeed. How was the rest of your day, Detective? Better, I hope?"
"Are you crazy? You know this city is up to its ass in idiots, D. I got stuck on patrol duty by my damn boss. I found this one guy in the park -- "
It wasn't until after he'd hung up, after exhorting another promise from D to watch his back, that Leon realized he'd talked to D for over an hour and a half. Damn. Good thing it was a local call.
Count D slowly placed the receiver of the antique phone back in its hook. Then he rose from his seat, disturbing Q-chan, who had fallen asleep on his shoulder while he'd spoken to Leon.
D's eyes were smoldering and his hands were clenched into fists.
"That presumptuous...arrogant...insufferable...idiot," he whispered after a moment.
Q-chan immediately chirped his complete agreement.
D turned to glare at him. "I didn't mean Leon!"
"Master Wu," the maid said respectfully, "you have a phone call."
Shi Dan Wu looked up from his copy of the Wall Street Journal with a frown. "It's late. I said I wasn't to be disturbed."
The maid bowed. "Forgive me, sir. It's Count D. I thought perhaps"
Wu set down his paper quickly. "Count D? Did he say why he called?"
"No, sir. He only asked to speak to you."
"All right. I'll take it in here. Thank you." The maid bowed again and left. Palms beginning to sweat with excitement and nerves, Wu headed for the phone. The Count was calling him, at night, at his private residence? Did that mean the frost was finally beginning to thaw? He could only hope. Wu had never thought of himself as a lover of men -- but then, one momentous day, he had seen the Count in the open air market, his graceful figure standing out in the throng like a swan among ravens. The tilt of his head, his delicate hands and feet, the small, mysterious smile that never left his faceWu had been unable to get these things out of his mind. It was what his Italian friends called being 'hit by the lightning bolt' -- certainly, he was not to blame. Not for that, and not for his many efforts since then to attract Count D into his bed. But nothing worked: not flowers, not gifts, not even extravagant pastries and chocolates. The Count had never seemed interested in his attentions...until now.
That oafish police officer had not visited the Count for days, however. And his sources told Shi that he'd been seen in the area today, but had left quickly, without ever approaching the shop. Good. Very good. If the fool could avoid situations where he wasn't wanted, that meant Wu wouldn't have to deal with the complication of killing him. That would be most satisfactory. Perhaps the Count was finally irritated with that boor and had realized that a worthier man pursued him.
Wu picked up the phone. "Hello?" he murmured into the receiver, in what he hoped was an inviting tone. Inviting -- yet polite. That was what was needed.
The Count's voice answered him, but it was the Count's voice as he had never heard it before: warm, welcoming, seductive. "Good evening, Shi Dan Wu. I trust I find you well?"
Wu's heart began beating double-time at the sound of that honeyed voice, speaking his name so tenderly. "Never better, Count. Please, do not feel that you need stand on formality with me."
"Of course not...Wu," D said, and Wu had to sit down.
He mopped off one palm on his pants leg. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this call?" he asked. "You sound more...approachable, Count. Dare I hope...?" His voice trailed off.
"You know that I have resisted your advances for some time," D said.
"Oh, yes, I know it," Wu said, with an attempt at a laugh.
"Yes. I hope you will forgive me, Wu." Wu shuddered. So sweet, so low -- what that voice could do to a man -- "For a time, I had some difficulty believing that such a man as you could be interested in me."
"Your modesty does you credit," Wu managed, "but you cannot be serious. You know your own beauty -- you must know I'd give anything to enjoy your favor -- "
"I did not believe it, until today," D said, "when I found out what...measures you had taken to secure my attention. Running off the police detective like that...that was the work of a man of action."
Wu paused, suddenly unsure. "You found thatpleasing?" he asked, cautiously.
"I found it forceful," D said, his voice slightly breathy now. Wu's heart began beating even harder. "To think you would go to such lengths for me...I can scarcely credit it."
"I would go to any lengths," Wu choked. "You know that. You must know that. Just say the word. That disgusting pig has never deserved to approach you -- just the thought of it sickens me. Say the word, if he has offended you, and I can -- "
"You can what?" D asked sweetly.
"I can anything," Wu said. "Anything you desire."
"How interesting that you should put it like that," the Count said. "My desires are precisely why I have called you tonight."
Wu closed his eyes. "Yes?" he whispered.
"Are you at liberty to pay me a visit this evening?" D asked, his voice dropping lower, becoming smoky, filtering through Wu's veins like a drug. "For an hour or two...or three?"
"Yes," Wu gasped. He could hardly believe it. After weeks of wishing -- was it really about to come true? "I am at your disposal -- your convenience -- "
"My convenience is now," D said, and it was with difficulty that Wu restrained himself from jumping out of the chair and dancing around the room like a fool. "I ask only one thing."
"Anything," Wu replied immediately.
"Tell no one. Come secretly, and by yourself."
Wu paused, his joy halted by caution that had been honed to a fine edge over the years. "May I ask why?" he asked, hoping his suspicion didn't bleed through his voice.
"I suppose," D said, and sighed a little sigh. "You must be curiousvery well. The truth is, Wu, I am quite ashamed of myself. I have rejected you so foolishly, and for so long...the fault is mine. But to accept you now, so suddenly -- it would cause talk. I would be embarrassed."
"I would never wish to cause you shame," Wu said carefully.
"I know," D replied, his voice soft and warm. "Therefore -- come to me tonight." The words sent a shock of electricity down Wu's spine, made him forget all that stupid, inhibiting caution. "In the coming days I will be kinder, more receptive to you in public; you will court me gradually, and it will not seem that I was unable to...control myself. Though I confess I cannot." D's voice dropped into a caressing whisper. "Perhaps it is shameful, but I simply cannot wait a moment longer. Come to me. Come."
Wu was already on his feet, scrambling for his jacket. "Of course," he gasped. "Of course, I understand. Absolutely. I will be there as soon as I can."
"And I have your assurance of discretion?" D asked.
"Yes. Of course!" It was a pity, really -- Wu wanted to shout his triumph to the skies. But when that voice spoke to himto displease it, to disgrace it, to disregard its wishesthe idea was somehow unthinkable. "Your honor is always safe with me, my -- my dear, I assure you."
"I am pleased to hear it," D said, and he sounded very pleased indeed: almost like a purring cat. "I am waiting for you, Wu." There was a faint click and then silence.
Wu started for the door -- then looked at his jacket, and realized that it was a little too-recognizably his jacket after all. He'd take this other one instead. And wear this hat, and go on foot. No one was accustomed to seeing him without his Porsche. It was only a few minutes' walk, after all, and he wouldn't have to bother with parking
The door shut quietly behind him as he slipped down to the street, without a word to anyone.
The walk seemed to take forever. More than once he jumped at the shadows, thinking nervously that he should not have really left his home without some form of protection. This was what desire did to a man. There were people in Chinatown who would be all too glad to find him alone on a dark night. But he kept his hat pulled down low over his eyes, and slouched his shoulders, and was unmolested by the few people still on the street at this hour. And then -- thank all the gods in heaven -- the stairs to the pet shop were in front of him, and he was going down them, and the great carved doors were swinging silently open to welcome him...
They shut just as silently once he was inside. How had Count D managed to make them do that? Was there some kind of motion-sensitive mechanism that operated them? Wu looked around the darkened room, lit only by a few red lanterns. "Hello?" he called, hearing his voice shake with impatience.
"Wu," a soft voice greeted him. Wu turned, and felt his heart stop in his chest as Count D emerged through a beaded curtain, smiling demurely, his curved lips painted a perfect rose color. "I almost thought you weren't coming."
"I walked," Wu said, through the dryness in his mouth. "Less noticeable."
"How clever of you," Count D cooed, clasping his hands together as he glanced at Wu through the dark curtain of his hair. He was dressed beautifully: the sleeves of his quipao were long and sheer, letting Wu see his pale, graceful arms beneath the filmy material. The collar was unbuttoned, showing a long expanse of creamy throat. He seemed to glow, his mysterious, odd-colored eyes gleaming in the low light. Gazing at him, Wu nearly groaned out loud.
"You have waited long enough," Count D whispered. "It is time I gave you what you deserve."
"Yes," Wu managed, stepping forward. "Oh, yes."
D smiled at him as he turned back towards the curtain. "Then follow me, Wu. This way."
Deaf, dumb, blind to everything but his desire, Wu followed him through the curtain of beads, into the darkness of the hallway beyond.
"Well, it's goddamn weird if you ask me," Leon said.
"If I ask you what, Detective?"
D bent gracefully over Leon as he refilled his glass from a porcelain jug, the hot liquid clacking and hissing over the ice cubes. The jug had little blue flowers on it. Probably cost more than he made in a month, Leon thought grouchily. For tea, they were eating little petit-fours Leon had picked up from some frou-frou place on his way over. D loved them, of course, although they were way too sweet for Leon. He wouldn't be getting them again.
Still, it was sort of...not too bad...to be sitting on the sofa at the pet shop again, with a cold drink in his hand and D fussing over a tea tray, just like always. Which brought him back to his point, sort of. "I mean Shi Dan Wu just dropping off the face of the earth like that," Leon said. "We were just talking about him a couple of days ago."
"Were we?" D asked, sitting down and sipping at his own glass. "Oh, that's right. I had nearly forgotten. Yes, it is most strange. You say the police have found no trace of him?"
"Not since his old man called him in missing a couple of nights ago," Leon said. "He hasn't tried to contact you?"
"I haven't heard a word out of him in the time you've mentioned," D said. "I must admit, it is something of a relief. His attentions were most tiresome."
Leon rolled his eyes. 'His attentions were most tiresome.' Who the hell even spoke like that, anyway? "Yeah, well, you don't see me crying, either," he said. "Any punk who threatens to ice me for no reason -- good riddance, in my book."
"That is even stranger, don't you think?" D inquired, looking at Leon through his lashes, over the rim of his glass. For some reason, Leon felt his face turn red. But that was just stupid. "That he threatened you for no reason, I mean," D continued. "Wu did not strike me as the kind of man to do that. When you spoke to Mr. Li, the man who owns the fish shop...did he tell you why Wu did not wish you to come here anymore?"
"No!" Leon felt his face turning even redder. "Uhno. But, I mean, it's pretty obvious, isn't it?" he added, suddenly inspired. "Here's Wu, and everybody knows he's up to his neck in illegal shit, and he wants to get with you, and a cop's always hanging around your place. Of course he didn't want me coming around anymore. Stands to reason. I would have totally busted him."
D nodded, his eyes going very large. "I can see where he would have found you quite intimidating, Detective."
Leon glared at him, but could see no trace of mockery in that open, sincere gaze. "Well...damn straight," he muttered, and took another long drink. "This is some funny-tasting tea, D. Not bad, though. What is it?"
"Blood tea," D replied.
Next thing Leon knew, he was doubled over and coughing, spitting into a napkin. "What?" he croaked. "Blood of what? Holy Jesus fuck -- " He hadn't even noticed that it had kind of a reddish tint to it, and didn't taste as sweet as usual...oh, gross, it couldn't really be...could it?
D tittered as Leon swiped at his face with the napkin again. "You are so silly, Detective," he said. "Tea comes from leaves, does it not?"
"Yeah," Leon said, grasping desperately at the words. "Yeah, that's what I thought."
"And do leaves bleed?"
"No," Leon said. "Of course it isn't real blood. I knew that. Stop trying to fuck with my head. Dammit!" He wiped at the tea stains on his jeans. "Look what you made me do! What a stupid name for tea, that's just bound to freak people out -- "
"Of course it is," D said soothingly. "It was very wrong of me to tease you like that. Although I am glad you like the taste." His eyes gleamed. "I brewed it especially for you."
"That's nice," Leon muttered, scrubbing at his stained jeans with the equally-stained napkin. "Damn. How am I supposed to get this out?"
"I would be happy to take care of them for you," D offered.
Leon glared fiercely at him, and this time he felt the blush going all the way up to his hairline. "I'm not taking my pants off for you!"
"Oh, there is no need to be so crude," D scolded, though as he bent over the petit-fours again, Leon could have sworn he was trying not to smile. "I declare, Leon, you do have the filthiest imagination."
Face still on fire, Leon muttered, "So? I'm not the one who had a mob boss chasing my ass."
"Indeed you weren't," D agreed, and selected a little pink, sugared square to nibble on. He smiled engagingly at Leon. "More tea, my dear Detective?"
Comments and criticism welcome.