Title: SKIN
Author: Zed Adams
E-mail: bmw525igirl@yahoo.com
Site: http://www.darksites.com/souls/pagan/boysdorm/home.html
Fandom: Gundam Wing
Category: Purple Bruise, Sick Puppy
Type: Fanfic
Rating: NC17
Pairing: Heero x Duo, implied Trowa x Quatre
Warnings: AU, yaoi, necrophilia, sadism, character deaths, guns.
Disclaimer: The Gundam Wing series and characters are copyrighted to Sunrise, Bandai & Sotsu Agency. The characters of these works are used WITHOUT permission strictly for entertainment and not for sale or profit.
Summary: A seemingly random kidnapping led to acts of sadism and violence. Relena strived to survive in a world where the line between life and death becomes more and more blurred. But her worst nightmare was yet to come.
Notes: I plead insanity. Beta by Passo Sins

.

SKIN
by ZED ADAMS

Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned - Shakespeare

Day One

It was just after 10.00 PM on a cold, rainy night a few days before Christmas. Relena tapped her foot impatiently as she stood near the entrance of the Mall. Pargan was late. The crowd of shoppers were thinning out as the shops closed up for the day. The security people were gently ushering the stragglers outside, as they began locking the main entrances.

Relena checked her watch for the second time in two minutes and shifted her shopping bags to a more comfortable position. She peered outside but could not see the pink limousine anywhere. She mentally reminded herself to give Pargan a good dressing down for his tardiness. She, Relena Darlian, porn starlet extraordinaire was a very busy woman, and hanging around a Mall waiting for her chauffeur was unacceptable.

Her cell phone beeped.

“Yes?” Relena snapped. Her features darkened. “Okay, Pargan. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

She swore under her breath. Damn the car for having a flat tyre. Relena picked up her purchases and made her way outside.

* * * * * * *  

Somewhere in the shadows, a tall muscular man watched with mild amusement. He smiled and slipped his hand into his pockets. The serrated blade felt cold to his touch.

His smile widened.

It was a fine night for hunting.

* * * * * * *

The limousine sat idling at the northeast corner of the carpark. Pargan was hunched over the back wheel, presumably completing the arduous task. To be fair, he was an old man. However, charity was far from Relena’s mind as she stepped closer.

“Pargan, are you done?” Relena said impatiently. Her arms ached from lugging her purchases, and her feet sore from having to walk that distance in her four-inch heels. The rain chilled her skin, deteriorating her patience further.

The old man ignored her. Relena let herself into the backseat of the limousine and lit a cigarillo. Bluish, aromatic smoke curled in the air. Pargan would chastise her gently on the evil of smoking, and she would curl her lips and sneer.

Relena rolled down the window and flicked the stub onto the tarmac.

“Pargan?”

A small skittering sound made her look up. There was a mound of gravel, presumably for roadworks, heaped approximately 20 metres away. She surveyed the surrounding area, but on finding nothing outwards returned her attention to her old servant.

“Will you hurry up? It’s getting cold in here.” She drew her mink coat closer, as a chill wind blew through the now vacant lot.

A movement caught her eyes.

Four black-clad figures, armed with assorted weaponry moved in towards her.


* * * * * * *


Earlier …

“Hey, old man. Having car trouble?”

Pargan looked up from inspecting the flat tyre to the young man who’d silently appeared by his side. The man, somewhere in his mid-twenties, gave him a lopsided grin.

“Yes, it appeared that I’ve got a flat.”

The man hunched beside him. “Wow, looked like it’s been slashed. That sure ain’t no accident, Pops.” He turned and clapped Pargan on the shoulder. “Some of the juves around here like to vandalise. Wow, this baby must have cost a mint,” he whistled as he ran his eyes over the sleek lines of the limousine.

Pargan straightened up. “I’d have to fix that … I’ll get the spare from the boot.”

“Hey, lemme give you a hand. We can’t have you hurting yourself, right Pops? Slip discs are a bitch, you know.” The man gave him an easy grin.
 
Pargan decided that he looked harmless enough. And he didn’t want to keep Miss Relena waiting. Damn, he took three minutes to take a leak and came back to find this. “Okay, son.” He nodded.

He walked to the boot and pushed the lock with his palm. The boot popped open.

“Here, Pops, lemme get it,” the man said, reaching from behind.

Pargan jerked backwards as the piano wire slipped around his neck and the man held him with irresistible strength. His hands flew up, clawing at his assailant. The man rammed a knee into the small of his back, causing his knees to buckle. Pargan gave a strangled gasp as the garrotte tightened around his throat, cutting off the air. His fingers scrabbled furiously as he was forced to the tarmac. His eyes bulged, his jaw slackened and his tongue protruded out like a big purple worm. The man gritted his teeth and held on tight until Pargan went slack. He kept the garrotte tight for a few minutes more to make sure.

“Shit, that’s one tough goat.” The man swore under his breath.

He dropped the body and set about fixing the tyre. Then he dragged the rapidly cooling body and propped it in a kneeling position beside the back wheel. Satisfied with his handiwork, he grinned and flipped his braid back.

 
* * * * * * *  
 
Relena slammed her fist on the lock. She pitched herself to the floor as a black clad figure raised his gun and fired a volley of shots at the vehicle. The windows shattered. She gasped in disbelief as he forced the door open and reached in to grab her.

Her survival instinct kicked in. She scrambled to her feet and darted across the seat. Her hand connected with the door handle – she wrenched it – and she was in the clear. She hit the tarmac hard just as a bullet whizzed past her ear, missing her head narrowly.

“Damn it, Quatre! We need her alive!” Someone yelled furiously.

She struggled to her feet. Oh my god. Oh my god. What’s happening?! She thought hysterically.

She turned and ran. Two of her assailants gave pursuit; their movement graceful and liquid as they closed the distance. She ran blindly like a woman possessed, away from the vehicle —

and fell as someone tackled her hard to the ground. She went sprawling on her face, twisting her ankle simultaneously. She lashed out with her good foot, her stiletto heel connecting with the man’s head. He yelled in pain and clutched his face.  She crawled to her feet, a grim smile of satisfaction on her lips.

Heavy boot steps rang on the tarmac as his comrade bore down upon her. A fist slammed against her head and she fell, dazed. The cold tip of the serrated bowie knife dug against her ribs, tearing through her precious coat.

“Who are you people? What do you want?” Relena said, trying to quell her fear.

A pair of green eyes stared at her viciously. The knife dug deeper, puncturing her skin. She winced in pain.

“You okay?” the green eyed man called over his shoulder to his comrade.

“Yeah. Damn bitch nearly took my eye out.” The other man said flatly, wiping a trickle of blood from his close-cropped blond hair. “Let her loose, Trowa.”  

The pressure against her ribs disappeared.

The blond stared at her impassively. “Tell you what, pretty lady,” he said. “I’ll give you a thirty seconds head start. Then I’ll hunt you down.”

Relena turned from one figure to the other in bewilderment. The blond cocked an eyebrow, signalling that she should start running. For a split second their eyes locked on each other. Her blood ran cold.

Then she turned tail and ran.

Thirty … twenty-nine … twenty-eight …

The bullet blasted through the back of her knee and shattered her kneecap with twenty-seven seconds to go. She screamed. Blood jetted from the mess of bone and cartilage.

A black tinted MPV came to a halt with a squeal of tires, barely three metres away. More boot steps as the other two joined the scene.

“Damn it, put that gun away you maniac! We need her alive!”  

The blond shrugged, ignoring the newcomer. “Precisely. Alive. Not undamaged. Understand the difference.” He extended his arm and pointed the gun calmly between her eyes. Then his aim moved to her shoulder.

Relena stared at him in shock.

He smiled sardonically, cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger.  

click

“Boom.” He chuckled quietly.

The newcomer narrowed his eyes and flipped his waist length braid back in irritation.

“You are one sick fuck, man.” The braided man said grimly.

Quatre smiled innocently, but his eyes were hard.

“What makes you say I’m a sick fuck? You’re making a baseless accusation. I have never fucked you nor do I ever have the interest to do so in my lifetime.” Quatre jerked his thumb towards Relena. “However, this bitch here, has no problem doing anything regardless of gender or species.”

“Your graveyard humour really stinks you know?”

“Who died and made you the critic?”

“Can it, you two.” The pair fell silent at the sharp command. “Get her inside the MPV.”

Relena struggled as she was manhandled into the vehicle. Someone was already in the backseat.

Pargan.

The doors slammed shut and the car sped away with a screech of burning rubber.  
 
She reached out slowly. “Pargan?”

He collapsed onto her lap, his eyes open in terminal surprise. A thin line of blood dribbled from the corner of his mouth. She clamped a hand over her mouth and fought an urge to be sick. NO! she cried in horror.

Quatre turned in his seat and grinned. “Dirty old bastard. Still trying to cop a feel, eh? Stay dead, why don’t you?” He shoved the corpse upright. “Hey Duo, good job, man. You didn’t even break his skin.”

The braided man, Duo, smirked. “They don’t call me the Silent Death for nothing, Q-man.” He reached across the backseat and gave the blond a high-five. They laughed merrily.

Relena closed her eyes, appalled.  


* * * * * * *

Day Two
 
The MPV sped along the road at high speed. Tall, derelict buildings soon gave way to wide open spaces; she couldn’t recognise the area in the dark. Pargan’s deadweight leaned against her left shoulder, his neck bent at an odd angle.  

“Where are you taking me? I demand to be released right now!” She glared at the blond sitting across from her.

He gave her dirty look and fiddled with the gun in his hand. “Shut up,” he said flatly.

“Bastard,” she spat at him.  

A fist connected with her jaw, splitting her lip. “Shut the fuck up.”

“Damn you to hell, you son of a bitch.” She said, trembling with anger. He glared, and then stared moodily out of the window.
 
The driver looked at her through the rear-view mirror. “Best not piss the Q-man off, lady. He’s a mean bugger when he’s deprived of sleep.”

“Sleep?” she asked, askance. The blond’s hand tightened on his gun involuntarily.   

Duo guffawed. “Hahaha. Say what, Q-man? Did we interrupt you two in the middle of something kinky when we knocked on your door earlier?”   

“Shut up, Duo.” Quatre snarled.

Unperturbed, Duo leaned forward and tapped Trowa on his shoulder. “Hey, Loverboy. You haven’t being giving Q-man here enough inches, huh?”

“Zip it, Duo.” Trowa warned quietly.

“Oooh, hahaha. Touchy, touchy. I must have hit a sore spot with you two.” Duo made lewd smacking sounds.

Relena gaped amidst her pain. Who were these people, and why were they making lurid jokes while driving around with a hostage and a corpse?

Duo had progressed to making low moaning sounds.  

“I said … shut the goddamn hell up, moron!” The green-eyed man held his serrated knife against Duo neck. Quatre pressed his gun into Duo’s ribs.

“Hey, hey. Put those damn things away. Can’t you two take a joke?”  

The MPV screeched to a halt, throwing everybody to the floor. Relena screamed as a shot rang out and ventilated Pargan. The shot blew an exit wound the size of a navel orange at the back of his head. Blood and bits of brain tissue sprayed against the back windshield.

“Jesus, Heero! Are you trying to kill us all?!” Duo screamed shrilly at the driver.

Heero turned in his seat and levelled his gun at Duo.  

“Duo, shut up. Trowa, you swap seats with him. We’re going to deliver this missy here on schedule, and I’ll blow away the next idiot who makes a noise.”

“Sheesh, you’re no fun, Heero.”

“Hn.”

Relena seized her chance. She grasped the door handle and threw her shoulder against the door. It swung open and she hit the road, hard. A bolt of pain shot up her shoulder as something cracked.

“Damn it! Get the bitch!”

A shot rang out; her right ankle snapped, and she fell unconscious to the ground.


* * * * * * *   

Day Three

Darkness.

A low hum of machinery brought her back to the edge of consciousness. The room was dark save for the light from the computer terminal. The floor was cold and the pain on her leg was excruciating. Her hands were bound in circles of iron. Pargan’s corpse lay supine by her side. A greenish pallor marred his skin, and his abdomen was swollen with internal gases.
 
“You’re awake.”

She drew her breath sharply as the man called Heero hunched over her. He cocked his head, eyeing her with cold detachment. He stood and prodded her damaged ankle with his boot. She gritted her teeth as pain flared through her body.

“Hn.” He grunted and walked away.

Presently, the door slid open and the braided man, Duo, walked in. They conferred in hushed tones, glancing at her once in a while.   

She struggled to get into a semi-upright position. Her throat was parched. “Can I have some water?”

“No can do. We have our orders.” Duo shrugged.

“Please.”

Silence. Two pairs of eyes stared at her maliciously.

Heero snapped, “Shut up.” He levelled a gun at her head.  

Duo chuckled and slid an arm around the surly young man. “Better not piss this guy off too. He’s an animal lover, and gets very upset when he sees this.” He held up her mink coat, looking at it critically. The coat was beautiful; the deep cobalt shimmered in the low light. It was dazzling, radiant, rich and voluptuous at the same time, and it gave Relena a sense of power. “How many had to die to feed your vanity, I wonder?” Duo murmured distractedly. He dropped the coat to the floor with a disgusted shrug.

Relena waited for a moment, confusion clouding her brain. Her body was slick with cold sweat and her leg was twisted at an odd angle. Her wounds throbbed dully. She whispered hoarsely, “Who are you people? Why are you doing this to me?”

The pair turned and looked at her coldly.

“I told you to shut up.” Heero hissed, cocking back the hammer of his gun.

Relena bit her lip and tried to match his stare. Her eyes watered and she looked away in defeat.

“Let me go,” she croaked. “I’m rich … I’ll give you whatever you want in exchange for my freedom.”

The men looked at her disinterestedly.

“Go on,”

“Money … bearer bonds …,”

“Hah. Boring. What do you take us for? Fourth rate crooks?”

She cast about wildly. “Women —”

Laughter echoed in the room. “Lady, you have no imagination!” Duo snorted. He turned to his comrade. “Sheesh, I want to kill her, Heero. Please let me kill her.”  

“Patience.”

“Please?”

Relena watched in morbid fascination as the braided man stuck his hands inside his comrade’s shirt, his mouth close to the other man’s ear.

“Later. C’mon, we’d better get started.”

The two men donned matching plastic smocks and goggles and then proceeded to drag Pargan’s corpse towards the far corner of the room. They dumped the corpse onto a plastic sheeting. A low whirr startled Relena. Her eyes widened as she sighted the electric saw in Heero’s hands.   

“No,” Relena said softly.

Heero winked at her and stuck the blade into Pargan’s neck. Metal screeched against bone. Relena felt her gorge rise, but she knew she would strangle on her own vomit, so she choked it down. Finally, after what seemed like hours, the whirring stopped. The stench of old blood filled the room. She watched numbly as Duo grabbed the decapitated head by the ears and stuffed it into a box. He then carried the box to the table set it down amidst the jumble of electronic devices.

“Get up,” Heero said. Relena turned and recoiled as the saw, bloodied and covered with bits of bone and gore swung close to her face. “Up, I said.”

She staggered to her good knee and gave a shrill scream as he grabbed her hair roughly and dragged her towards Pargan’s decapitated corpse. He shoved her to the floor.

“Duo.” Heero called. Duo crossed the room in quick strides and began setting up a vidcam on a tripod.

“Okay, it’s all set.” He pressed the ON button. A bright light flooded the immediate area.

Relena looked at them, fear numbing her mind.

“Well lady, or should I say Miss Porn Starlet, I suggest you get on with it.”

“What —?” Relena stammered.

“Fuck him,” Duo grinned, jerking his thumb towards the corpse. “You did say you’ll do anything in exchange for your freedom. Isn’t it ironic, our ah … client … demanded the same of you.”

Horrified, Relena shook her head. “No,” she whispered.

The duo eyed her calmly.

“I guess she needs some … incentive.” Duo looked at his comrade meaningfully. Heero grunted, dug into his pockets and drew out a triggering device. He pressed a button.

A surge of pain flared through her body, and blood trickled from her nostrils. Relena doubled over and clutched her abdomen.

“I’ve planted minute explosives in your bloodstream [1]. I’ll set them off in thirty seconds if you insist on being stubborn. And no, it won’t kill you outright; this baby will do it long and slow. You’ll be begging us to kill you.”

Please —,” Relena pleaded.

Heero stepped away, his eyes fixed on his watch. Duo shrugged and looked at her in mock-apology.        

“Just do it, okay.” Duo said. “It couldn’t be any worse than those animals you fucked in your bestiality flicks.”    

Her heart thudded.

She was feverish, dizzy. Her body was getting hotter, as if burning from the inside out. She looked at the duo helplessly.

Heero pressed the button again. She collapsed to the floor, coughing up blood. Then her self-preservation instinct kicked in and she slowly unzipped Pargan’s blood-soaked trousers.


[1] nano-technology

* * * * * * *  
 
Later, in another section of the hideout …

* TRANSACTION COMPLETE *

Quatre smiled in satisfaction as he looked at the account balance. He turned towards Trowa. “Our client was pleased with the live feed of Miss Darlian’s performance. Seemed that necrophilia turned her on.”

Trowa glanced at him sideways. “It takes all kinds I guess,” he said. “So, did she cough up?”

“Oh yeah. 200K. And of course, there’s the final instalment to go.”

“Hm. And you’ll be doing the honours?”

Quatre grinned. “With pleasure. I can’t wait.”  


* * * * * * *

Day Four

The bullet wound in Relena’s knee had been dressed roughly, and the pain had drained out of it. She felt clear headed. Someone had removed Pargan’s corpse. The door swung open and Duo came in with a package in his arms. He stashed it under the table. He turned and grinned at her.

“Comfy?” he asked cheerfully.

Relena ignored him and turned away. She scratched at her filth-covered skin. The sensation of minute things trying to crawl their way out was getting acute as the minutes passed. The door opened and Heero walked in, his face grim.

“What’s up?” Duo asked as Heero sat down beside him.

“Quatre. He received another special request and he delegated us to do it. Again.”

Duo rolled his eyes. “He’s the boss, man. Not the most stable chap, but he’s good.”
      
“Hn.”

“So, what do we have to do?” Duo leered. He rubbed his hands excitedly.

“You, pull out her nails and I’ll cut off her hair.” Heero deadpanned.

Duo grimaced. “Why do I get the dirty? Why not just chop off her fingers?”  

“Just do it, okay.” Heero handed him a pair of pliers.

Duo hefted the tool in his hands and grinned.


* * * * * * *           

Later …

Relena curled her body tight in a semi-foetal position. Waves after waves of pain assaulted her nerve-endings.

“Here you go,” Duo said, as he dropped the ten bloodied fingernails onto the table. Heero looked at them critically.

“Good job. You didn’t break a single one. The pink polish is still perfect.”

Duo chuckled, as he threw the bloodied latex gloves into a bin. “That’s a rare compliment coming from you. You are not getting soft, huh, Heero?”

“Idiot.”

Duo retrieved his package from under the table. “Want a tequila? I got some salt and lemon too.”

“Yeah. Why not?”

“Hey, maybe afterwards we can squeeze lemon juice on her wounds and listen to her scream. Whaddaya think?”

Heero snorted. “Heh. You’re one sick puppy, Duo.”

“Woof woof.”

Grinning, they sat in silence, downing the tequila as they watched their captive writhe on the floor. The monotonous hum of the computer filled the room as time passed with excruciating slowness; the only measure was the gradual emptying of the bottle of liquor.  

“I’ve got a cut on my shoulder,” Duo complained. Heero looked at him sideways. “It’s all your fault. Tro’s knife sliced me when you fired your gun in the car.” He unbuttoned his shirt and slipped it off his shoulder.      

Heero pushed his braid back and looked at the cut gravely. “Hm. You should patch it up properly before your arm drops off from gangrene.”

“Still your fault,” Duo slurred. He hissed as Heero sprinkled salt on his skin. “Ow, Heero …,

Heero’s tongue darted out, licking at the salt. He sucked on a lemon wedge and quickly downed a shot. He smirked and sprinkled salt in the hollow of Duo’s collarbone. His tongue darted out again, lingering on the skin. Duo grinned, and clutched the back of Heero’s head.

“Hmm, is that’s better?” Heero asked silkily.

“Yeah. More,” Duo murmured.

Relena fought down a wave of nausea as she watched Heero’s tongue snaked up his comrade’s neck, up his jaw line and into his ear. There was a sudden shifting, as they sank to the floor, onto the remnants of her mink coat, not five metres away from her. She almost gagged as low moans escaped from both men. She turned her body away with agonising slowness — she could hide her eyes, but there was nowhere to hide from the sounds; the cries of pleasure, the rhythmic grunts, the squelchy wet sounds and the slap of skin against skin. She closed her eyes and blanked her mind.


* * * * * * *

Elsewhere …

Chang Wufei, head of the largest child pornography racket in Northern Europe listened to the recorded message grimly. The demand was succinct. Two million dollars in unmarked notes and untraceable bearer bonds were to be delivered to a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank by 1800 hours if he wanted to see his mistress again.

The package that came with the note had been persuasive.

It contained Pargan’s decapitated head, wrapped in a cocoon of cobalt mink fur. A severed penis was stuck in his mouth like a giant pacifier.


* * * * *  * *

Day Five

Relena held her breath and tightened her grip on the metal stool. Footsteps echoed outside in the corridor. The door swung open, and she smashed the stool hard on the newcomer. Quatre staggered and sank to the floor, dazed, just as Relena barrelled into him. She grabbed his gun and pointed it at his chest. She shifted her aim between the fallen man and his comrade.

“Stay where you are. Or … or … I’ll shoot.”

Quatre wiped the blood off his nose. “Bitch. I’ll rip your guts out for that.” He snarled as he got to his feet.

“Stop, I say!” she cried.

“Go on. Do it. Shoot me.” Quatre spread his arms in a mockery of Christ. Relena closed her eyes and pulled the trigger.

— click —

The hammer fell on an empty chamber.  

Quatre cocked his head, eyeing her in cold detachment. “I don’t think so, Miss Darlian.” he sneered. “We got some business to conclude.” There was a note of menace in the cold voice now.

With deliberate slowness, he removed a skinning knife from his utility belt and ran a gloved finger over its edge. Relena saw with rising horror that the blade was covered with a dull patina of dried blood and bits of gore.

“We need your skin.” Quatre said blandly. “All of it.”

Their eyes met. A cold terror gripped her throat as Quatre’s intent crystallised in her mind.

Relena’s eyes widened. “You’re insane,” she whispered.

Trowa let out a sharp hiss.

Quatre narrowed his eyes. “I hate it when people call me that,” he warned. “It upsets me.”

Trowa nodded, his face blank.  

Quatre smiled beatifically and jerked a thumb towards Trowa. “And he gets very upset if someone upsets me. Don’t you, Trowa?”

Trowa nodded again. Once.

Relena backed away.

“No. Please,” she pleaded.

Quatre looked at her and laughed humourlessly. “Tell you what. We’ll give you a proper three minutes head start, then we’ll hunt you down.” He set the countdown device on his watch. “Start running, lady.”

For a moment Relena couldn’t believe the threat was real. Too much. Too shocking. Then she turned and stumbled blindly down the dimly lit corridor. Her injured leg sent bolts of pain, and her wound bled afresh. She turned around a corner and fell sprawling to the floor. The floor was slick with blood — it was as if a carcass had been dragged across it recently.

Heavy boot steps rang behind her.   

“Time’s up. Shall we play the game?” Quatre called out.

She fought down her fear and pain and scrambled to her feet. She could hear the scrape of metal against the wall as her pursuers came nearer.

Her heart, already beating fast, now thundered.  

She fled through the shadows down the twisty corridor. And came to a dead end. She doubled back, and spied a door set flush against the wall. She grasped at the knob and rattled it. The door refused to budge. She threw her weight against the door. It crashed all the way open. Slightly stunned by the impact, she stumbled into the room, grabbed the door, slammed and locked it behind her.

Panting, she turned around. The room was dark and dank; the only source of light came through the narrow window set high in the wall. She looked to her left and right, adjusting her eyes to the deep gloom. A whiff of a foul odour prickled her nostrils. She groped blindly, going forwards. Her fingers brushed against something cold and rigid. Her scream died in her throat as she recoiled in horror. A bloated, headless body, with its legs splayed at an obscene angle blocked her path.

She vomited in terror and revulsion.

Someone struck the door from the other side. Struck it again, and again. The door shook, and the lock rattled, but it held.

“You can’t hide forever,” a voice taunted.

Relena stepped over the cadaver and backed up against the wall. Her breath burned her lungs. Fear had galvanised her into motion, but now, trapped in a room with no means of escape, the fear had crystallised into something primitive.

The assault on the door stopped as suddenly as it began. Sweat trickled down her back as the minutes passed in deathly silence. She realised that she was holding her breath.

A metal object of some kind crashed to the floor, and she jumped and cried in surprise. Her eyes darted wildly, trying to make out what she’d heard. A skittering sound, almost whisper soft, drew her eyes upwards.

The opening of the heating duct gaped at her ominously. The grille that covered the outlet had fallen to the floor.

Relena never saw it coming.

A weight dropped onto her back, hard, snapping her spine. She screamed.
 
“I got her, Quat,” Trowa said, as he yanked her upright by her hair.

A second figure dropped from the piping above. Quatre removed the skinning knife from his belt and gave her a sad, mocking smile.

“Shall we begin?”

The last thing Relena Darlian saw was the blade as it rushed towards her.


* * * * * * *  

Epilogue

The crowd at the funeral was small; just close associates of the deceased.

Wufei folded his arms and narrowed his eyes as the casket rolled on the tracks, into the bowels of the crematorium. He looked up as someone touched his elbow.

Dorothy.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, softly. Her face was immaculately made up as usual. “It must have been awful for you to find her charred remains in your koi pond.”

He remained silent, his eyes fixed on the now empty altar.

“Who would have done that? And after you paid the ransom, too.” Dorothy mused, looking at him sideways. She fiddled with the clasp of her brand new handbag. “Some weird psychos must have done it. First Pargan … and now Relena.”

Wufei shook his head as they headed out of the funeral home. It couldn’t have been his rivals in the trade. He was prepared for violence, but he never anticipated an attack like this. A man with a gun — yes. A bomb wired to the ignition of his car — possible. But not a direct attack on his main star, who just happened to be his mistress. This was madness. This was personal.

“How she must have suffered,” Dorothy prattled on, ignoring his stony silence. Her fingers caressed the skin of her handbag. It felt warm and dry to the touch, like some age-old parchment. “The police told me she was skinned and then the body was set alight …”

Wufei stopped in his tracks.

“Dorothy.” He turned and glared at her coldly. “Shut up.”

He strode to the waiting black limo, and got into the back seat. He stared stonily ahead as he waited for his estranged wife to join him.

Dorothy lowered her head, the wide brim of her hat hiding her expression. She stroked her handbag again; her long, tapered fingers dancing on its surface. The very act was a soothing therapy in itself. She traced the decorative stitching fervently; her fingers caressed the golden blond patterns woven intricately onto the material, before they dipped lazily to the puckered depression gracing the centre of the flap. It was a work of outstanding craftsmanship.
 
She imagined the skin growing warmer under her touch.

Warm as it had once been on its owner.

Dorothy smiled.     

It had been worth every single cent of the fee she’d paid the men. They were good. Very good indeed.

Then she lifted her head and walked slowly to the waiting limousine.

END


© Zed Adams, 2003