This is another Zechs interlude. I decided to make it a chapter because I felt it was imporant to the story line. Enjoy.
There wasn't a waking moment when I didn't worry about Duo, but I wasn't sure which one I feared the most—what someone else might do to him, and what he might get up to when he was left to his own devices.
The seemingly harmless note lying next to the telephone caused me to hesitate for a brief moment. I picked it up and looked at it closely. Duo's childish chicken scrawl announced his departure for the mall and promised that he would be returning soon. The note looked and sounded like him . . .
But so much for returning soon, because now it was 5:36, and the apartment was way too quiet for him to be here. Unless he was sleeping?
I did a quick check of the bedroom and the other rooms, but there was no sign of him. His keys, cell phone and wallet were no where to be found either.
Duo knew how much I worried. If he said soon, then he would be back soon. Two hours wasn't soon enough.
I grabbed the phone and dialed Duo's cell. No answer. I tried three more times and still nothing. This time I tried Quatre's cell phone number and the young man answered right away. "Is Duo with you?" I asked abruptly.
He hesitated. "No. Why?"
"He left me a note at 3:30 saying that he was going to the mall and that he'd be back soon. And the word soon has been underlined six times and is in very bold print. But he's not here."
" . . . he shouldn't have been there more than five minutes . . ." Winner muttered to himself.
I didn't like the sound of his voice, or the fact that he obviously knew what was going on while I was still in the dark. "So you didn't go with him?"
"No. Did you call his cell phone?" was his sharp reply.
My eyes narrowed. "He didn't answer. What's going on?"
In a rare display of frustration, Quatre swore loudly. "Call Alex right now and tell him to meet us at the mall. He'll explain everything to you."
"What—" But the line was already dead.
Now it was my turn to curse out loud. What had Duo gotten himself into now? And what did Alex have to do with it?
I raced downstairs to my car and called the former detective. When he answered, I barked out, "Do you mind telling me what the hell is going on with Duo?"
" . . . what on earth are you talking about Merquise?"
I tore out of the parking deck and onto the city streets. "Duo said he was going to go to the mall today at 3:30, but he hasn't returned yet. Winner said that I should call you and have you meet us at the mall. What is going on?"
"Damn . . . look, you're not going to like this at all. You have to remember that he was just looking out for your best interests—"
"What the hell is going on!"I bellowed.
The truth came from the man's mouth in a rush, so fast that I almost missed it. "Duo found a drug in Noin's baby bag that is usually given to children who have had genetic work so he suspected that the baby may not be yours and secretly had a paternity test done and today he went to go pick up the results."
My hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly that it felt like my bones would pop out of their joints. All I could manage to utter out was a low, deep and dangerous "Excuse me?" But the other man continued on as if I hadn't said a word.
"And we think that someone else knows about this test and maybe he ran into some trouble at the mall. You're headed there now?"
"Yes! What the hell was he thinking? I—"
"You can bitch about him later once we know that he's safe," the former detective said tersely. "I'll meet you at the mall."
The rest of the drive to the mall was a blur. The idea that Duo would—I couldn't begin to fathom what would make him do something as ridiculous as giving Mill a paternity test. Hadn't we talked about this? Hadn't I reassured him enough that I didn't want to have anything to do with Lu romantically?
There was a nasty feeling of rage and anger welling up in my stomach. I had never wanted to feel this way about Duo, not the man who I had taken a risk on and finally opened my heart to, not the man that I would die for, not the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But the betrayal and the pain that I felt from not being trusted was so overwhelmingly strong. I pushed back those ill thoughts—now wasn't the time.
I pulled into the mall parking lot and immediately spotted Alex, Quatre and the others hovering near the entrance. I quickly joined them, and before I could even ask any questions, Yuy began speaking.
"I've already checked the parking lot. His car isn't here."
Which was the first thing that I was going to ask.
"And," Alex said, "I've gotten mall security to cooperate with us. They have today's surveillance tapes and they've given us permission to search through them. There's also a BOLO on Duo's car—if any police officer comes across it, they know to call me."
I nodded sharply. Maybe the man was good for something other than hitting up on my lover after all. "Good."
"Trowa, Heero, Wufei and I can search the area in our cars," Quatre suggested.
After agreeing to the plans, Alex and I set out for the mall's security room, where we sat down with hours of tapes from various areas of the mall.
"Where were they supposed to meet?" I asked, eyeing the stack warily. The sooner we found out what happened to Duo, the sooner we could find him.
"The food court."
We started there, and after a few minutes of playback we spotted Duo, making his way through the crowds of people and to a table. Later he was joined by a man, confirmed by Alex to be the lab technician, and then he got up and left.
That established one thing. He'd gotten and seen the results of the test.
For a moment I sat there, staring blankly at the screen, wondering what was in that folder. I had never even considered the fact that Mill may not be mine. I'd been so eager to assume . . . I had no reason to doubt what Lucrezia said. Creeping up the back of my neck was the fear that Duo had been right all along, but I stored it in the back of my mind along with the terrible anger that I felt. Finding Duo was the first priority.
There were two exits in the mall—Alex took the tapes from one and I from the other, scanning the people who were leaving and entering, looking for Duo and any other familiar faces.
"There," Alex said, pausing his tape. "Apparently he did leave the mall . . ."
"Is there any footage of the parking lot?"
My phone rang and quickly I snatched it up. It was Winner.
"Trowa and I found his car abandoned on the side of the road. I . . . there's blood."
That had been one of the last things that I wanted to hear. I had hoped that the results of the test hadn't gone the way that he'd wished and that he was just off sulking somewhere, but now there was a clear indication of foul play.
By the time the former detective and I reached the car, the cops were already there with their crime scene tools, and the first thing I wanted to know was whether or not that folder was somewhere in the car.
"It's not," Trowa said warily. "We already asked."
The look on Winner's face was dangerous and his body language indicated the level of his fury and fear. This must've been how he looked in battle, a far cry from his normally docile demeanor. It was almost impressive. Fists clenched at his side, he said firmly, "It had to be Noin who did this. Her life would be over if those results ever got out—"
Despite it all I still hung on to some distant hope that Duo had been wrong. "We don't know what was in the folder," I responded calmly, enduring the heated gaze of the blond angry man.
"I can find out," was Alex's grim answer, and within minutes he had the lab technician on the phone.
I wanted to snatch that phone out of his hand and throw it into the traffic driving by. Some part of me felt deeply ashamed—my boyfriend was missing, his disappearance was most certainly suspicious and knowing the outcome of those results just may be crucial to finding him. But Mill . . . I wanted the boy to be mine.
Was there not enough room in my heart for both of them? This tug of emotions between my concern for Duo and my love for my son was difficult to bear.
And then Alex delivered the blow. "He's not your son."
The truth came like a swift kick in the ribs, a simple short statement as if it were nothing. Something inside of me died, leaving behind a hollow feeling.
Around me they continued to talk and plan out the next course of action. I wasn't listening. In a matter of hours my life had been turned upside down—my lover had vanished, the baby that I'd once considered to be mine wasn't, the woman that I'd once felt so much for had betrayed me . . .
As my world swirled out of control in front of my very eyes, I couldn't help but wonder—where did things go from here?