DISCLAIMER: This is an AU story based on characters and situations from Kidou Senshi Gundam Seed and Seed Destiny.
Trail 2- The Weapon Dealer
"Are you sure about this, Nicol?"
Nicol nodded determinedly at his partner, "Yes. I already asked Shiho to find Kira Yamato's whereabouts for us. We need to check this out first."
He held out a plastic bag that contained a custom made pistol. "RMGYXN. I remember seeing this code before. Several of the Viper's case had abandoned weapons left on the scene, including the murder of the Andersons we had discovered a few days ago. I'm sure the weapons were custom-made by the same person."
"And you think this is him?"
Nicol stared at the grinning red-haired man in the picture. "Yes. Rusty Mackenzie, underground weapons trader. He customized guns for a hefty sum. His clients are mostly anonymous, but he doesn't mind that as long as they do pay for his works. The Viper may or may not be in the same league as him," he paused, frowning, "or perhaps, he is the Viper himself."
Athrun flipped through the files thoughtfully with a hardened expression. Nicol knew to stay silent whenever the blunette had such expression - that he was carefully putting together all the leads they had so far and try to determine the suspect's guilt. Nicol stared at the plastic bag, deciding that he should try to figure out something too instead of letting Athrun do the analyzing most of the time. Rookie or not, Nicol felt more responsible than ever to contribute even more to this case. He sighed, recalling the visit he made to Meyrin yesterday -
"How did the class handle it?" Nicol asked gently. He knew how much Meyrin loved her class and thus, she must be incredibly shaken up by the Andersons' deaths. Meyrin's head was down, her long red hair obscuring her face from his view. In her hands was a picture frame - such a happy, innocent class field trip photo filled with unsuspecting people, unaware of the horrible fate awaiting their fellow classmate.
"Many of them are absent today, still," Meyrin said softly, her finger ghosting over a particular boy's face. That Anderson boy. "Mitchell was well-loved by his class... we all miss him terribly. I-I don't understand why such a thing happened to this wonderful boy. He was so sweet and caring, very talented in sports and very mature for his age. I-I should have done something for him. I should' have been a better teacher to him, I-"
"It's not your fault, Meyrin. You and I both know you are an amazing teacher, and Mitchell definitely thought so too, judging from the hug he had given you in this photo," Nicol put his hand on top of hers sympathetically.
She lifted her head slightly, and Nicol could see tears rolling down her cheeks uncontrollably. He wanted to make them stop. He wanted the sparks back in her eyes. He wanted the confident Meyrin back.
"I promise I will find out who committed this heinous crime." Somewhere at the back of his mind, Nicol heard Shinn muttering this exact same words, after Stellar's death.
Meyrin's grateful smile certainly boosted Nicol's confidence.
"I believe this man is innocent. He had alibis to many of the cases. Whether he is or isn't in league with the Viper is still questionable, however," Athrun concluded, breaking Nicol out of his reverie.
The younger man could still see Meyrin's tears and the poor kid's cold, empty eyes. "No, Athrun. Rusty is as guilty as the Viper for providing them the weapon."
Athrun's lips curved, "I guess you're right. Now, let's go pay him a visit. I'm sure he has valuable information for us. Now, what is our target's current location?"
Nicol glanced at the small screen in his hand, "She will arrive at the destination in fifteen minutes. She has two other persons with her, apparently."
"Bodyguards. Figures. Well, this makes trailing her much easier," Athrun grabbed the folder that was labelled 'Meer Campbell' and put it in his briefcase. "Let's go."
"I think I'll drive," Nicol said, eying Athrun's bandaged fingers. He chuckled wholeheartedly, "Very considerate of you, Nicol, even though you know my injury's practically healed. Alright then."
Hearing the blunette's laugh, Nicol felt less anxious of today's job. Really, he wouldn't want anyone else to be his partner.
Athrun was very proud of his stealth and undercover skill. Ever since a botched up surveillance mission (he still had the scar near his clavicle), he was very careful about every single movement. He smiled inwardly when Meer Campbell passed by him without a second glance at all. Having dark colored hair certainly had its advantage to blend in with the shadow. Nicol, unfortunately, had to wear a wig.
Meer Campbell, pop idol with a scandalous background. Rumoured to have been involved in the Janarius Drug Trade, Athrun mentally ran over the information on this dark-haired woman (1). Why would she require Rusty's weapons? If she is the Viper, that would make her bodyguards her accomplices as well. Sven Cal Bayang, orphan, formerly part of Orga Sabnak's group. Heine Westenfluss, former military man. All of Heine's records were good. So why was he involved in something like this, regardless of Meer's intention with the weapons she purchased? Hmm. Perhaps I should improvise today's plan.
Athrun's sharp eyes followed Meer's haughty walk, then trained onto the weapons she quickly slipped into her rather large bras. Two custom pistol. Athrun tried his best to memorize the guns' particular shapes and sizes, knowing Nicol was doing the same. Sven and Heine followed Meer dutifully.
Rusty Mackenzie casually waved good-bye to them, but Athrun's seasoned eyes weren't fooled by his goofy demeanor. The red-haired man had a cold calculating look, contrasting sharply against his wide smirk.
"Nicol. Follow Meer and observe closely, especially any uncharacteristic moves. I'll talk to Rusty," Athrun whispered. The younger man wordlessly slipped off; Athrun was proud of his partner's improvements in stealth. Now, his uninjured finger closed around his gun silently, we shall see.
He inwardly thanked the harsh training on reaction time when Rusty whipped out a pistol and fired at the spot Athrun was standing a mere second ago. Rusty had a relaxed grin on his face, his eyes crinkling with amusement, "Come out, whoever's there. Sneaking up on me with a gun doesn't work on someone such as myself. My ears are quite sensitive to any creaking sound a gun makes."
"I thought clients can remain anonymous as long as we pay the money," Athrun said calmly, ignoring at the sizzling bullet hole beside his head.
"Of course, but I know you ain't no customer, trepasser," Rusty shrugged, "No one but people with connections know where my shop is. Who are you and what the hell do you want, sneaking up on me like that?"
Athrun smiled lightly even though he knew Rusty couldn't see him. "You are not in a position to ask any questions, Mr. Mackenzie."
"Oh? And why is that?" Rusty's eyes narrowed dangerously.
He yelped in surprise when something sharp hit his hand, causing him to drop the pistol. Within a few seconds, Rusty was subdued and forced face-down onto the ground. He tried to struggle but found that his wrists were already handcuffed. Athrun chuckled, "Your ears aren't sensitive to anything else, I suppose."
"What did you throw at my hand?"
"My pencil."Rusty sputtered indignantly at the answer.
"Don't underestimate anything, Mr.Mackenzie. As I've learned from my dealings with numerous…shady characters, anything's fair weapon. Although I admit I did not expect the pencil to hit your hand; it was meant to distract you."
The weapon dealer sighed in resignation, "What do you want then?"
"Tell me what you know of the Viper."
If Athrun's deduction was correct, which he was certain he was, Rusty was merely someone who made the weapons and sold them. And since most of his clients were anonymous, he couldn't have known the Viper's identity.
"Why do you ask me that? Are you a detective or something?"
"Just answer me."
"Pff. I know nuthin'. Yeah, sometimes on the news I see the weapons left behind and they were made by me but hey, a man's gotta survive. If that Viper wants to keep buyin' guns offa me, I'm not about to complain."
"I see. How do you get the weapons to the anonymous clients?"
"There are always different trading spots. My subordinates deliver'em to those places. Whether they were picked up by the right person of not I don't know or care. As long as I got the money it's all good."
"Very well," Athrun felt something akin to hope prickle at the back of his mind, "Where is the next trading spot?"
Rusty was quiet for awhile. Athrun was about to knock him out when the weapon dealer started laughing.
"Alright, why not tell you? Think of it as a prize for being the first person to render me weaponless. It's The Pit, you know? The new nightclub down at Jane Street. A pretty fancy bar, very tight security and all that. But hey, Detective, I believe you've worn out your welcome."
Athrun's body tensed immediately at the sensation of several guns pointing at him.
"Nice meeting you. I'll remember your little distraction trick. In fact, I think I'll keep your pencil as a souvenir," Rusty's tone was almost friendly.
Looks like I have no choice but activate the bombs I hid around the shop, Athrun thought grimly. His injured finger was about to press the switch hidden within the bandages when smoke suddenly filled the area. The blunette trusted his instinct, rolling away from Rusty. Gunshots blasted loudly around him as he made his escape hastily. So, Nicol is back. Even though I'm grateful for his intervention but why is he back so early?
When he reached a safe distance, he was met with a scornful laugh of a familiar blonde rather than Nicol.
"Saved your ass. Now we're even, Mr. Cop," Cagalli stuffed an unused smoke bomb in her bag, smirking triumphantly.
Athrun felt the inane irritation from days before hit back at full force. "What were you doing here?"
"Chuh, collecting information like you were, though I was only here in time to see you almost getting dotted with bullet holes. Now if you'll excuse me," she rolled her eyes at him in mock disappointment. Trying to keep his calm composure, Athrun glared at her retreating form.
At least he did obtain a valuable lead, he tried to comfort himself and ignored the fact this disrespectful woman had saved his life, even though he never needed her help.
Unfortunately for Athrun, Dearka was there when he told Shiho about the Weapon Dealer. The tanned man's cynical teasing grew extremely annoying and resulted in Athrun's foul mood as he and a (smartly quiet) Nicol went to the hospital.
Athrun showed the nurse his badge and smoothly inquired Kira's room number. Flustered at his intense glare, she stammered out the answer. Nicol rolled his eyes at the older man disapprovingly, "You didn't have to scare her like that." The blunette shrugged, used to intimidate people and not feel bad about it.
He knocked on the door once and entered without a second thought. According to Shiho's information, this Kira Yamato was temporarily paralyzed from neck down so other than sleeping, he won't really be disturbing the patient.
"How can we help you?" A pink-haired woman looked up from her sewing; she was sitting beside a brunette who Athrun assumed was Kira. The injured man lifted his head up feebly, trying to see his visitors better but fell back against the pillow in resignation.
"Sorry about this rather abrupt visit, Mr. Yamato, but there are some question we'd like to ask you," Athrun kept his voice as polite as possible, but his mind was already analyzing the two people before him. The pink-haired woman seemed to be very unsettled by his presence; she glanced at Kira in concern and seemed to have made up her mind about something.
"No problem, officer, but we'd like to see some prove before we answer anything," Kira replied affably, but his dark eyes had a dark glint.
Nicol flashed his badge. "Nicol Amalfi." "Athrun Zala," his green eyes held Kira's gaze evenly. The latter broke away from the staring contest with a relieved smile, "You seemed to be serious about your job, Mr. Zala. I'm glad some of the police are finally doing something. I'll be happy to answer any questions."
"Oh? What do you mean by that, Mr. Yamato?" Athrun's suppressed anger threatened to break away. This Kira's flippant attitude about the police was similar to Cagalli's. Where did the respect for the police go nowadays?
"I apologize if he had offended you, Mr. Zala," the woman spoke up, in a surprisingly strong voice, "But Kira and I cannot trust the police easily, not after what had happened."
"Ms. Lacus Clyne, right?" Athrun noted the grateful look Kira gave to Lacus, who replied with a loving smile. "What do you mean by that? And what is your relationship to Mr. Yamato?"
"She is my fiancé sir," Kira answered in an affectionate tone, "She was the one to discover me after the serial killer almost killed me. I am not sure if this was intentional or not, but one of the knife wound is…rather deep, which caused my paralysis."
"It was horrible. There was so much blood that I was hysteric," Lacus's voice trembled, but she continued resolutely, "I stayed by his side after the surgery. Then, a few days later at midnight, the killer tried to finish what he had started."
"He?" Athrun couldn't believe what he was hearing; did these two see the killer's face?
"Lacus assumed it was a 'he', due to the strength 'he' used to grab her wrists," Kira growled darkly, "I woke up just in time to see a dark shadow looming over my bed. The lights were off, so I didn't really see anything. At my startled shout, Lacus woke up and immediately pressed the emergency button. The killer held Lacus and I was so helpless, and so angry that he might kill her right before my eyes. But then I heard footsteps running down the hallway. The killer pushed her away and ran for the door. I assume he wasn't caught?"
Athrun tried to meet his accusing eyes but couldn't. Perhaps Cagalli was right after all, that the police were useless. His anger deflated slowly as he imagined himself in her shoes; maybe something happened to someone dear to heart because of the Viper, which made her so strong-minded and intrepid.
"I am sorry. I admit, Mr. Yamato, that the police really aren't making any progress in this case at all. The killer is cunning, cleverer than anyone I've known. I cannot speak for all the policemen, but I promise that Nicol and I will catch him."
Nicol was surprised at Athrun's words, knowing his pride. Kira and Lacus, however, seemed satisfied at the blunette's sincere tone.
"I was going to ask you what you know about the killer, but you have already answered my questions. You are a valuable witness, Mr. Yamato. I will send some of my colleagues to guard you."
"Thank you, Mr. Zala – ", Kira trailed off, hesitant about something.
"Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Actually, there is. You see, my sister is… very impulsive. After my injury, she started acting very peculiar. I wish to know what she's been up to but, for obvious reasons, I cannot check up on her myself. Knowing her personality, she is likely to do something reckless to avenge me. She has good intentions in her heart and I appreciate it. Still, I couldn't help but worry about her." Kira seemed to be a different man; his serious and calm façade faded away, showing how stressed he was about the whole situation. He didn't care about the malevolent criminal after his life. He was more concerned about his sister and his fiancé.
Athrun felt that he would get along well with this Kira, despite their earlier differences. The two policemen stood up.
"Of course, Mr. Yamato, I will look after your sister whenever I can. It must have been a long day for you two. We will take our leave now," turning to Nicol, Athrun muttered, "Get Dearka and Yzak for me when we get back to the station. This could be a chance for him to make up for that mockery earlier. This guarding mission would give him something to do anyways."
"Again, thank you, Mr. Zala. Lacus and I care about Cagalli very much. I don't want her to get hurt, least of all because of me."
"Cagalli?" Nicol gulped, noting Athrun's sudden stiff posture. "W-we'll look up any files concerning Cagalli Yamato, er-"
Athrun was not surprised at all when Kira interrupted Nicol, "Mr. Amalfi, sorry about that but you see, my sister and I have different last names. Her full name is Cagalli Yula Athha."
"Don't worry, we'll take care of her. Let's go, Nicol." Kira blinked at the blunette's curt tone.
I think I understand your feelings a little better now, Cagalli, Athrun ignored Nicol's worried glances as he walked down the hallway decisively. Your brother wants me to look after you, but would you want my help?
"Thanks. No, really, stop worrying about me, I'll be fine. I'm not the top graduate for nothing!" Cagalli couldn't but smile at her solicitous contact's voice, "Anyways, I'll see you around."
She placed her cellphone into her pouch, her hand brushing against the unused smoke bomb. Grinning, she glanced at her watch. Deciding that she could afford to be late, she did a final check of the items in her pouch. She thanked her contact again, supplying her with just what she needed to pull off her escapades during the past few months.
The blonde woman adjusted her black cap and patiently tucked her hair into the cap. She discarded her jacket and pulled on a large trench coat. Satisfied with her appearance, she walked out from the alleyway into the bustling streets.
During the beginning of her 'work', she had been paranoid about everything. Often she would feel unnerving stares on her back, watching her every movement. But of course, that was before she got used to her new lifestyle.
"Your I.D.," the bouncer grumbled gruffly as she stood in front of her destination. As the man examined her identification, she caught her reflection on the door. A young man with short golden hair stared back at her with fearless amber eyes; Cagalli smiled at her disguise.
"Welcome to The Pit," the waiter said monotonously, tired of saying it to every customer who walked through. She nodded brusquely, walking in large strides towards the counter.
It was then she noticed an awfully familiar looking man sitting at a corner.
End of Chapter 2
(1) To avoid confusion, Meer's hair is dark-grey instead of pink. While she did have plastic surgery in order to become an idol, she doesn't look like Lacus.
A/N: ah extremely late update...but I'm very careful with this story because it is very character and plot-orientated so I want to make sure I got it all right. This story is pretty much Athrun-centric, so most of it is in his POV. Then it would be Cagalli's POV, then Nicol's. And occasionally Meyrin's.