Author's Note: I apologize for ignoring this story for so long. I have plenty of great ideas for it, but I wasn't receiving much traffic or feedback on it and then I got caught up writing another story which spiraled into a much greater project than I anticipated and which, due to its nature, takes up all of the time I have to spare for fanfiction. Nonetheless, I have still managed to finish another chapter (several months later) which I thought I'd publish now. Read, comment, question, whatever and hopefully soon I be able to resume a more regular updating schedule.
Lloyd stood at the large window of his room, his jaw set, staring intently out at the lush grounds below.
Jebel rolled her jaundice eyes as she bit deeply from a break of spiced cheese. "What are you doing?" she finally demanded.
"My father is scheduled to return today," Lloyd replied, his voice flat.
"Ah, so I will finally get to meet him, then," Jebel mused.
"I would not be too excited if I were you," Lloyd warned, still not turning away from the glass. "He is a disgusting piece of humanity, fit for nothing but the flames."
Jebel emitted a shrill laugh. "To think you'd say such a thing about your own father…what does that say about you?"
Lloyd scowled, though Jebel could only see the dim reflection.
"You hate him because you think he had your mother killed, right?" Jebel asked carefully.
Lloyd's eyes widened and he turned around slightly to face her. "It has been my suspicion for many years," he replied guardedly.
"Why?" Jebel pressed.
"The official explanation given for my mother's death was terrorism. But she was murdered while accompanied by her personal bodyguards, whom terrorists should not have been able to pass without being noticed, if at all. Also, there was no attempt made at ransom, despite our family's prodigious wealth," Lloyd explained. "Annamarie de Bauer had endured the disapproval and prejudice of the family her entire marriage, because she was only half-blood, and because of the high-profile charity work she gave herself to, which exposed the family to public scrutiny."
Turning his attention back to the window just in time, Lloyd observed a black limousine driving up the long path to the mansion. Within the back undoubtedly sat Salomon de Bauer.
Lloyd left his room and descended the staircase, followed by Jebel. "Welcome home, father," he greeted, forcing a smile.
"Thank you, Lloyd," Salomon replied, removing his sable coat and handing it to Sebastian, who stood at attention. "What do I smell?" he asked suddenly.
"I took the liberty of having dinner prepared for your arrival," Lloyd explained.
Salomon checked his watch. "We shall dine together, then. There is much to discuss."
Lloyd nodded. "Precisely," he muttered.
Making their way into the dining hall, illuminated by dark iron lamps along the walls which cast a dim amber glow throughout the room, they were greeted by a lavish spread, several servants eagerly awaiting their arrival. The whole thing, suggested by Lloyd, had been organized by Sebastian, of course, a man of unparalleled skill with such matters.
Taking their seats, one at each end of the exquisite African blackwood table, they were given dishes and glasses and served their meal.
And, without a word, the servants left the two alone, closing the doors firmly behind them.
Salomon sliced the thick slab of Kobe beef, cut from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle according to the strict tradition of Hyogo Prefecture of Japan, with a razor-sharp blade and watched the flesh separate. He placed a slice in his mouth and bit firmly, breathing deep as he enjoyed the coppery taste of the fillet.
Lloyd did likewise, aware that the only sound in the room was of two serrated knives cutting through meat into china, severing fibers. Washing the meat down with a sip of dry Chardonnay, Lloyd spoke first, breaking the silence.
"How was your trip?" he asked.
Salomon looked up. "My agent finally pressured the Kazakhs to take out a loan. It seems the proximity of the U.S. military is just the right incentive. And the interest was rather brisk. The best deals are the ones where they know exactly what they are getting but go through with it anyway because they have no other options."
Lloyd forced a chuckle.
"I could really go for some more cheese right now, Lloyd," Jebel hissed, protruding her face toward his. Lloyd, however, didn't even move a muscle.
"What of Kira? Have you brought him down yet?" Salomon inquired.
"Not just yet," Lloyd covered. "Although the coalition has been working diligently all over Europe. They even came here."
"I trust things went well?" Salomon asked, a slight concern betraying his calm exterior.
"I explained to them the damages Kira has caused our enterprise thus far," Lloyd assured him. "They seemed satisfied. They should be narrowing down a list for L's evaluation soon."
"I want to see that list," Salomon said firmly. "Especially if someone from our own circles is behind this. It's undoubtedly some sort of purge—an opportunist seeking to renew the wars between the families from centuries anon. They could ruin us."
"Don't worry, as I've said, I won't let that happen," Lloyd replied, his voice soothing.
"Not so hasty," Salomon hesitated as an idea came to him. "Remember it might be advantageous to let this play out just a bit more. None in our immediate circles have been targeted yet but…suppose they are? Well, it would certainly be an opportunity for our family. A chance to rise above our fallen peers, if you will."
Lloyd's eyes flashed imperceptibly for a moment. "Perhaps. But you have to be careful then. We cannot afford to make any public appearances concerning the issue. Nor can we offer explicit support to the coalition. We could be just as easily targeted as well. And then another family would assume all our gains. The heads of the other families are likely considering the same thing," Lloyd cautioned, taking another sip from his glass. That's the convenient thing about you—no matter much power and wealth you acquire, you will still destroy each other to be on top. This alliance the families have reached in the past century is tentative at best. And easily broken when just one of them thinks he has the advantage. Or she. "How eager to cooperate with you were they concerning the coalition?"
"Well…actually, they patently refused to participate. They were terrified of exposing themselves to Kira. Truthfully, perhaps I might have been more hesitant if you're courage hadn't inspired me to press forward. But I found it hard to believe that Kira could have truly been among them, given how afraid they seemed. Although I suppose at least one of them could have been attempting to sabotage the investigation."
Lloyd froze, suddenly feeling quite uneasy. "So where did you end up pooling the money from?" he questioned.
"The money to fund the coalition?" Salomon repeated casually. "I channeled it through various trust funds, tax-exempt foundations. The usual venues."
"But where did the money itself come from?" Llloyd pressed, feeling slightly uneasy suddenly. This isn't right…at all
"Well I had to loan it from the firm, of course," Salomon replied, slightly off put. "Since none of the other families would cooperate."
Lloyd raised an eyebrow, concern nagging at his mind. "You mean our firm?" he pressed.
"Well…yes," Salomon replied, looking at him puzzled. "The industrialized economies are in such disarray right now, I thought that expecting them to raise the money was unrealistic and slow. In keeping with our family's expertise, I raised the money by drawing from the firm."
Lloyd's eyes widened and he rose up and slammed his hands on the table. Idiot! Damned fool! "Father what have you done?" he shouted.
Salomon froze just as he was about to swallow another mouthful, looking pensive.
"That's our family's firm!" Lloyd shouted. That will lead him right to me! "If Kira is someone within our circle, then we could become his next target. You were supposed coerce the other families into joining the venture, spreading everything out so that nothing could be traced."
"Lloyd I…" Salomon stammered, a rare behavior for him to be sure. "They refused, so I—I couldn't disappoint you…and y-you seemed so brave…"
A shrill laughter could be heard emitting from Jebel's throat as she crossed her legs and hung upside down in the air, throwing her head back.
Go ahead Jebel. See if I give you anymore cheese for a long, long time…, Lloyd's mind seethed.
"I just don't want to see everything you've laboured for ruined is all," Lloyd covered, catching his breath as he rubbed his forehead wearily. Suddenly he became aware of a swift motion however and, looking down, he saw his father at his feet, his eyes wide, and clutching the fabric on his legs. Lloyd's face changed to one of horror mingled with disgust as he stared down at the man in shock.
"Lloyd, please, you have to stop it!" Salomon pleaded hoarsely. "You have to save us. We can't let Kira destroy us!"
"I told you I'd be here to laugh in your face when things went wrong," Jebel taunted.
Slowly, Lloyd's expression softened and he forced a warm smile. Taking him tenderly by the hand, Lloyd raised him up to his feet and gripped his shoulders firmly. "Don't worry, father. I promise that I'll…save you," he said, choosing his words carefully. "We just have to be a little bit more careful from now on, alright?"
Salomon nodded and took a deep breath, regaining his composure. "Forgive me, Lloyd," he muttered. "If you don't mind I will retreat to my quarters for the duration of the evening. I'm feeling a bit weary."
"Of course, father. Sleep well," Lloyd replied, his cool eyes following him as he exited the dining hall. Within moments one of the servants entered to collect his dishes and returned into the kitchen.
If this L discovers that my family is essentially the source of funds for the coalition, then it will lead him straight to me. It all depends on whether he's suspicious of the coalition or not. Damn, this accelerates things considerably. But…I was trying to draw this L to me anyway. I wanted a bit more cover though. But now what do I do about the coalition? If I leave them, it could become a problem. I was planning to cut them loose soon... Thugs and spies like that don't belong in a free world anyway. If they were all to perish gathered together like that, it would be a powerful message to those who oppose me. And it would cut off L's supply once more for the time being. That could allow me to-
"So what are you going to do now?" Jebel asked, sauntering up to him.
Lloyd sighed. "It just proves that from now on, I can't rely on anyone else to execute my plans," Lloyd replied softly. "This has become a much more dangerous game. Whatever outcomes are needed, I shall have to set up the necessary conditions myself."
Near lay sprawled out on the buttery leather couch, staring up at the ceiling fan slowly twirling through the air. He could hear the faint commotion of Matsuda and Ide searching through each and every cabinet and drawer, their eyes wide with wonder.
Aizawa and Lidner sat together at the small table, their sharp eyes comparing the notes from the Coalition's recent investigation. Despite the bland expressions they wore, they seemed to enjoy working together.
"Look at this Ide," Matsuda called out as he found a whole trove of wines and liquor. "You'd think we were royalty."
Ide nodded, looking at a basket full of expensive breads, cheeses and nuts. One word came to mind.
The whole place was stocked with the best wines and cuts of meat along with fresh fruits and even sweeter confections.
Matsuda was already uncorking the champagne. "A toast to the success of our investigation! Damn Kira!" he called out excitedly.
Aizawa looked up, noting his position and he froze. "Matsuda wait!" he called but it was too late.
The cork shot out their way. In one deft motion, Lidner swatted the errant cork away, but scowled as she felt warm bubbly liquid streaming down her hair. Her eyes turned toward Matsuda.
He raised his hands, blushing as a shy smile spread across his face.
Without a word she stood and left the room, her blouse soaked. Only her clenched fist told the true story of the rage she felt.
All eyes turned toward Matsuda, and they weren't pleasant eyes to behold. Matsuda swallowed hard and weakly offered the bottle, recoiling as everyone rolled their eyes. Shrugging his shoulders, he took a swig straight from the bottle and smiled, licking his lips.
Soon another figure entered the room, however, and they were greeted by Rester, wearing a long brown duster with a slouch hat.
"Anthony," Near greeted in his usual dry candor, his feet up in the air.
Rester nodded to them all as he set a large black briefcase on the table. "Where's Lidner?" he asked.
After a moment of awkward silence, Matsuda answered. "She's…freshening up in the restroom," he managed.
"Well she needs to hear this. I finally have the information you requested Near," he explained, laying the hat on the table, exposing his cropped blonde hair. "But they were more secretive than Freemasons at initiation about it."
Lidner entered the room and took her seat. "Hey Rester," she called. Everyone gathered around and Rester cleared his throat, eyeing her wet blouse suspiciously.
"What about Gevanni?" Ide asked, turning towards Near.
"I'll keep him updated," Near assured him. "Right now he's still too busy with the Coalition to be here, but if Anthony has what I think he does, we won't need to bother with them anymore."
"The funding for the Coalition was channeled through several tax-exempt foundations—Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Endowment For World Peace, Ford Foundation and plenty of others," Rester began, unlatching his brief case and taking out several papers. "Not very informative given the diversified nature. However, I knew you'd want me to look into the money itself. It was loaned from the an investment bank that I'd never heard of before—M.A. Bauer and Family. It's privately-owned by a single family—the de Bauers." Rester paused, letting the weight of his words sink in.
Near raised an eyebrow. "And who are they?"
"You have no idea how hard it was to answer that question as well," Rester replied. "From what I can tell, they are a very old family, quite wealthy, based in England, and heavily involved in matters of international finance. Their bank advises some of the most important companies, largest governments and wealthiest families in the world."
"No wait," Aizawa countered, flipping through a folder of loose material. "We already looked at the de Bauers. Their wealth is too modest according to Near's theory—only about 1.5 billion."
Matsuda crossed his arms, turning toward Rester.
"I didn't say Kira was one of the de Bauers. But they were the ones who ultimately funded the Coalition," Rester replied, tossing his brown duster on the table and running a hand through his hair.
"We can't ignore this information," Near announced, breaking the silence that had fallen over the room. "We have to investigate this family further. I agree with Mr. Aizawa that 1.5 billion seems too small a sum, but their involvement is too suspicious to ignore. People, we have our next target—the de Bauer family of Britain and the M.A. Bauer and Family investment bank. I will have Gevanni directly confront the de Bauers this time and ask far more pointed questions. And I will be listening in and giving Gevanni's script. We will soon know whether or not this family warrants further attention. Thank you for your hard work, Rester."
Rester nodded, taking a seat on the couch.