Chapter 9



A group of around five policemen stood in a cramped, windowless room, hunched around a small television, eyes locked on to the tiny screen in front of them. As the screen once again turned blank, loud, excited chatter suddenly filled the small confines of the rec room, each of the men trying to express their opinion in a higher voice than the next. And it was on this noisy scene that Chief Dennis, Kai, Tala and the junior officer walked in on.

The chattering men took no notice of the door opening, or of the steadily darkening expression on the chief's face when he caught sight of the commotion. For the chief, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. He'd been rudely roused out of his extremely comfortable bed on one of his days off, dragged in the wintry weather to a stuffy bank to discover that one solitary teen had managed to defeat four armed and dangerous men using nothing but his fists and a frigging wolf that appeared on his whim. Then, the upper level people had called him to keep Tala Ivanov in custody until they, themselves could grill him for God knows what. A reason would have been nice, seeing as how Kai Hiwatari calmly walked himself into the midst of the whole mess and started to demand things Chief Dennis was in no position to grant or deny. Now, his junior officers were making him look bad in the presence of said ruthless businessman. He'd had it.

"QUIET!"

The police chief bellowed in a most impressive volume. All activity stopped abruptly. Emphatic hand motions were stopped mid-gesture.

"Now," Chief Dennis bit out, "if you're all done acting like excited seven year olds, I would like very much to see this famous bit of recorded tape." He glared around at his subordinates. A moment passed. "Sometime today, if you don't mind...", he added impatiently, still glaring.

There was a flurry of activity as two of the officers darted forward to fiddle with the outdated equipment and the rest of the cops hastily moved themselves to the very back of the room. Chief Dennis pinched the bridge of his nose while walking forward to stand in front of the T.V, Kai and Tala following closely behind. He had known that he'd come to regret his decision of passing over early retirement. He should've grabbed it with both hands when he had the chance, dammit...

Behind the chief, Kai was sneaking glances at Tala. The redhead's cheeks still had a faint flush to them, although his demeanour was still as stoic as ever. To someone who knew Tala as closely as he did, it all but screamed out the fact that the redhead wanted to be anywhere but here. Crimson eyes narrowed speculatively as Kai connected the dots. Hmm. I wonder just what is in that tape...

Tala himself, was feeling extremely uncomfortable. Here there was a total of eight people who'd see (or, in the case of the cops except for the chief; already seen) his humiliating encounter. Including Kai. He flinched away from the thought. Maybe if he could launch his beyblade right into the VCR, he could destroy the incriminating evidence. Blue eyes crinkled slightly as he thought about it. He actually could do it... if he angled his launcher just so, and with just the right amount of force, there would be no one hurt by flying pieces of VCR, either. It could work, it could...

He caught Kai's thoughtful glance towards himself and promptly dropped that particular line of thought. If he knew the phoenix at all, he'd probably already figured out halfway just what Tala was so nervous about. Dammit.

Someone switched the lights off. Tala sighed and shifted his posture. Here we go again...


There was silence as the tape wound to an end. The lights clicked back on. Tala was subject to the fascinated gazes of seven men. He resisted the urge to step back behind Kai's protective stance. Their stares reminded him a bit too much of Boris and the team of scientists whenever he'd performed a particularly difficult task after being 'cyberized'. He schooled his features into an impassive mask. He had no intention of reliving all those memories at the present time. Finally, Chief Dennis broke the uncomfortable silence.

"You were lucky... good thing that you attacked them when you did, Mr. Ivanov... a few more minutes and they would've..." his voice petered out as he stopped short of saying aloud what was on everybody's mind.

Shot. Killed. Murdered while defenceless. Next to him, Kai became very still.

As fate would have it, the four robbers had stood right under the videocam mounted on the ceiling. As a result of which, everyone present could clearly see and hear the agitated conversation of the four robbers that culminated in their ultimately deciding to shoot Tala.

"No."

The cops looked at Tala, confused.

"It wasn't luck. I heard them talking."

Bewildered looks were exchanged between the junior officers. Chief Dennis frowned.

"That's not possible, they were standing too far away..."

"Enhanced senses," he replied shortly.

And that was that.


A short while later, Kai and Tala walked out of the bank, with a copy of the security tape and having assured Chief Dennis that he could contact Tala through Kai. They stayed out of the way of the clustering mass of news crews camped outside and quietly made their way into Kai's limo. Once inside, Kai indicated a thermos flask that had been lying angled against the seat.

"From Ilya," Kai responded to Tala's questioning look. "Didn't say anything except that it was for you. Although I can venture a guess..."

Kai watched, smiling slightly as Tala slowly started to open the flask, hope brightening the brilliant blue eyes. Tala finally opened the flask and let the rich, unmistakeable odour of freshly brewed coffee escape. He.closed his eyes and breathed in deeply to savour the warm scent before whispering in an almost reverential tone, "I am perfectly willing to remain her slave till the end of my life if she makes me coffee like this everyday."

Kai smirked in amusement as he watched the redhead practically inhale the coffee, mindless of its high temperature. "In withdrawal, I see."

Tala spared him a grin as he turned back to his coffee. "You have no idea, Hiwatari."

Kai shook his head and took out his cell pone.

"Ian," he replied in response to Tala's enquiring look, dialling as he spoke. "He was pretty worried, " he continued, smiling slightly at Tala's disbelieving snort as he put the phone to his ear.

"Hello," a harried voice queried. "Look, whoever you are, you'll hafta call back later, this isn't exactly a good time..." In the background, Kai could hear the sounds of a scuffle.

"Spence?"

"...so bye then...wait, Kai?"

"None other. What's going on?"

"Oh, just the usual... is Tala okay?"

"Yeah, fine. He's with me right now... probably listening in." Tala smirked at him, underlining the accuracy of that observation. Kai rolled his eyes.

Spencer said something in response to that, but it was drowned out by a wave of sound from his end. Kai and Tala regarded each other with raised eyebrows before Tala sighed and said one word. "Ian."

Spencer's voice came on the line again. "Hey Kai, I'll be back in a mo, 'kay? Something's come up." And from the clattering sounds issuing from the cell phone, it sounded like Spencer had dropped the receiver rather unceremoniously on a table somewhere. In the car, both Tala and Kai sat back in weary acceptance and waited for the fireworks. Kai held the phone slightly away from his ear, and well, since Tala could hear voices on the phone pretty well even if they were speaking quietly, it was no trouble at all to hear exactly what was happening there.

A low growl, absolutely seething with suppressed rage. Bryan.

"Ian, I'm warning you..."

"No, not till you promise - no killing them! Or even seriously injuring them! Dammit, Kuznetsov, just promise me and I'll give it back!"

"You drop it and I'm gonna carve out your innards with a rusty spoon after gouging out your eyeballs, stuffing them in your mouth, and then I'll take out your intestines and hang you with them on a goddamn tree!"

"Er, and no killing me either... Or Falborg here gets it!"

"You little..."

There were more sounds of fighting. From the shouts and the yells, it seemed like Bryan had lunged for the Wyborg blader and Spencer had intercepted his tackle. Tala and Kai looked at each other wordlessly. Ian had taken Falborg from Bryan? This was going to new heights, even for the midget ball of mischief that was Ian.

"You can give the eulogy at his funeral." Kai announced flatly.

Then the breathless voice of Spencer came to their ears.

"Bryan, stop that. Ian, give Falborg back. I'm sure you wouldn't be too reasonable either if it was your blade that was being held over the toilet bowl."

Tala choked.

"No way, Spence, I'm not budging till I got his word - no killing them, no killing me, and no taking Wyborg away from me."

"The little shit's demands keep increasing, don't they?" The taut voice of Bryan's disembodied voice floated over the phone. "I'll show him no killing..."

Kai snickered.

"C'mon, Bry, you like me, really... er, deep, deep, really deep down... you don't mean that, buddy..."

"Oh, I mean it... give Falborg back, you little bastard!"

"Promise me, and I will! Don't... and... and I flush it down the toilet, don't think I won't!"

Tala and Kai stared at each other. It was official. Ian had gone quite mad.

"Fine, you pathetic little excuse for a blader, you win!'

"Er, does that mean, you won't torture me to death? ...Or them?"

There was an audible snarl.

"Now, take it easy, Bry...," came the soothing voice of Spencer.

"Okay, okay... I'm giving Falborg to Spence and then... AAAAARRRGGGHHHH! BRYAN! YOU PROMISED! SPENCEEERRRR! HEEEELPPPPP!"

"Get back here, you goddamn sneaky son of a..."

"Bryan! Stop waving that knife around before you end up doing something you regret..."

Maniacal cackling. "Oh, I don't think so, Spence... What the hell did he think he was doing, stealing my blade... oooooohhh, look at this..."

There was an almost gleeful sort of amusement in Bryan's voice.

"Hey Iiii-annnn...," Bryan called out in a sing song voice. "Did you spend a very long time doing your homework?"

"Wha... Nooooooo, Bryan, put it downn! Spencerrrrr, make him put it downnnn!"

Tala and Kai exchanged grins at Ian's anguished wail. Looked like Bryan was getting his own back.

"And Calculus, no less... I wonder just how many days did it take you to finish this batch, hmm?"

"A week! I worked on them for a frigging week, so give it!"

"Oh, I think not... let's test a theory of mine..."

"Let's not! SPENCER!"

"Don't look at me, you're the one who took his beyblade."

"D'you think paper's flammable, Ian? I have my doubts."

A whimper. "You wouldn't... you know I wouldn't have flushed Falborg, right? Bryan...? BRYAN!"

There was a crackle that suspiciously sounded like burning paper. A patently false sigh.

"Oh, damn. There goes my potentially award-winning hypothesis."

"DIE SCREAMING, KUZNETSOV!"

Bryan's maniacal laughter echoed in the small confines of the limo, closely followed by Ian's enraged screams. Kai and Tala exchanged a long look, although the effect was a bit ruined by the periodic twitching of Kai's lips and the mirthful grin that adorned Tala's face. A little while later, Spencer's weary voice came back on the line.

"Sorry about that, Kai, it's just been a little crazy in here since all those people showed up outside."

"People?" Kai sat up a little straighter. "Is that what Ian was yelling about?"

"Yeah, not long after Bryan and Ian left to get the newspaper from the kiosk, a buncha people showed up in front of the apartment... reporters, I think, wantng to interview the three of us. Wanted info on Tala, I guess."

Kai's eyes narrowed. "Are they still there?"

Spencer snorted. "What do you think? And that wasn't the worst of it."

"What happened?"

"You know how Bryan gets about his weekend newspapers, right?"

And indeed, they knew. Untouched newspapers were to Bryan what coffee was to Tala. It was almost a weekend ritual. Every Saturday morning, after his morning exercises and breakfast, Bryan would go out to the corner store down the road from their apartment and buy the newspaper. Then he'd come back to the apartment and no sound would be heard from him for about two hours. And woe betide everyone who touched the holy newspaper before Bryan finished with it. Sometimes the others would accompany him, as Ian had done that morning.

"Well, Bry and Ian were coming back when they were... well, ambushed by the journos."

Kai's voice showed his dawning comprehension. "Don't tell me they..."

Spencer snickered humourlessly. "Yeah, got it in one. Surrounded the both of them, shoved mikes in their faces and started blabbering. And then one of them ripped Bryan's newspaper apart in the confusion."

Kai and Tala winced in sympathy. "Do I have to call my lawyer about settling assault claims?"

Spencer laughed. "Actually, no. You can thank Ian for that."

"Ian? Why?"

"Annoying little imp he might be, but he thinks fast on his feet. While Bryan was probably choosing the best way to kill the guy, Ian ripped out Falborg from Bry's coat pocket and ran with it."

"Ohh, so that was what it had all been about..." Kai mused. "Pretty smart of him, actually. I suppose Bryan forgot all about the papers?"

"Well, not completely. He kept screaming about how exactly he'd kill Ian and that other guy all the way back here while he was chasing Ian."

Kai cracked a smile. "I'm sure the reporters loved that."

"Yeah, I just bet they did. Though I'm pretty sure they don't know just how close they got to having their limbs ripped out."

"Mm," Kai said as he leant back against the seat. "This complicates things," he muttered, eyes closed. Spencer was quiet, having picked up on the fact that Kai needed to think.

A moment passed.

"Spencer, get Ian and Bry, without anyone seeing any of you, and wait out in front of the traffic light next to the apartment, okay?"

"Will do. I suppose there has to be some use for the fire escapes..."

"And one more thing..." Kai now looked squarely at Tala, almost daring him to refuse. "Pack enough clothes for a few days. You'll all be living with me until this dies down. See you in twenty minutes." And with that, Kai snapped his cell phone shut.

Tala was quiet, not breaking the stare betweeen him and Kai. Finally he nodded slightly to show his acquiescence. Tala was very independent, but he knew it was probably for the best. Even if he did have to endure Ian's company for a few days.

"Just one thing," he murmured. Kai raised an eyebrow.

"You wouldn't consider burning that duplicate of the tape we got, would you?"

Kai mouth quirked in amusement as crimson eyes glinted mischievously.

"Not for all the gold in the world, Ivanov, not for all the gold in the world."


Hope that's satisfactory. Apart from Bry and Ian's er, 'conversation', writing everything else was like pulling teeth. Now that I've posted this, I'm free to concentrate on my exams. Guilt does not for good studying make. To make up for the time, I've made this longer. It's the longest chapter, actually. Think of it as a late Valentine day's gift. :p