Wufei's not really a bastard. He's just... frustrated... ^_^;;

After Image + Part 3

"I think... I think I may know where she is."

Heero's eyes widened as the words left the beautiful boy's mouth. He had felt shaken to the core when he had turned around a moment before to see one of the most beautiful creatures he'd ever laid eyes on standing not four feet away. The boy was young, but his eyes - those big purple eyes seemed to show a maturity far beyond his years. Heero wasn't one to go by first impressions, but there was something about this boy...

But that something would have to wait until later. He saw Trowa pick up a notepad, preparing to take the boy's - Duo's - statement. This could be the break in the case they were looking for.

"You know where she is? How do you know this? Have you seen her?" he asked.

The boy shifted nervously on his feet. "Yes. Well, no. Not really."

Heero looked at him, perplexed. "Would you care to elaborate on that?"

"I saw her... in my head. I was listening to the radio. I saw where she was." The boy's brow furrowed as if trying to remember something. "I saw you... well not you, but the police, looking for her. You're looking in the wrong place."

"What do you mean, you saw her in your head? You mean like some kind of... psychic vision?" Trowa asked.

The kid nodded, looking at the floor. "Well, no. Not really. I saw her face. I saw she was dead. And I just knew where she was." He shook his head. "I don't really know how to explain it."

Heero saw Trowa roll his eyebrows as if to say 'Not another one.' Ever since word had leaked out about the missing Peacecraft heir, they'd gotten three so-called psychics who claimed to have information about the case. But they were little more than charlatans, looking for free publicity or money, and their information was always bogus. Still, this boy didn't seem like one of the run-of-the-mill crackpots. "Can you tell us where you think she is?" Heero asked.

The boy looked distressed. "No. I mean, I know where she is. I can see it. But I don't know where it is."

He looked at the large map on the wall. "Maybe..."

Heero moved aside as the boy walked to the map. He saw the kid look at the cluster of pins decorating an area on the right side of the map. While none of the pins were close together, they were in the same general area. He watched as Duo closed his eyes, running his fingers along the map. Beside him, Trowa grunted in disgust, throwing the notepad back down on the desk.

The boy trailed his fingers over the map as if searching for something. His eyes were closed, and his head was cocked as though listening to a far off voice. When he came to the top left corner, he stopped, opening his eyes wide in amazement. "Here!" he exclaimed. "She's here. Widowmaker's Canyon."

Trowa stood from where he had been leaning on the desk and walked over to the boy. "Thank you for coming in, but we've got the situation well in hand..."

"You don't believe me," the boy said sadly.

The dejection in Duo's voice caused Heero to step forward and place a hand on the young man's shoulder.

"Thank you for coming to tell us," he said sincerely. "I know it must have been hard for you to do so."

The boy's face lit up. "Will you at least check it out?"

Heero nodded. "I will. And if I find anything I will contact you." He handed Duo a piece of paper and a pen. "Give me your phone number. I'll let you know."

Duo quickly scribbled down the information, then smiled at Heero. The detective felt his heart skip a beat.

"Thank you," the young man said, then turned to leave.

Heero stared after him, clutching the paper tightly in his fist. Beside him he heard Trowa chuckle. He turned to deliver a glare at his partner.

"What's so funny?"

"You. Telling that kid you'd check out his crazy story just to get his phone number," Trowa answered.

Heero sniffed. "I do plan on checking it out."

Trowa stopped laughing. "You can't be serious, Yuy! You're going to waste valuable man hours chasing down a bogus lead from some crackpot kid all because you think he's got a nice ass?"

"You've been my friend and partner for a long time, Barton. That's why I'm going to ignore that comment. You know I would never do anything like that. That kid looks barely legal anyway." He turned to look at the map. "And if you think it's a wild goose chase, then fine. I'll go after I get off duty."

Trowa shook his head. "Hmph. Chang's right. You are crazy. Either that or you just need to get laid." Heero glared at his friend a final time before walking back to his desk. Perhaps his partner was right. Perhaps he was only doing this because he was attracted to that boy. But there had been something in those eyes - a conviction Heero hadn't seen in any of the other so-called psychics. The boy had sounded so sincere.

'Though I do hope you're wrong, kid. If you aren't... Relena may be dead.'

+

Quatre glanced over at his silent companion as they drove. When Duo had called him from the police station, Quatre had feared the worst. He hadn't wanted Duo to go to the police. He was afraid they'd suspect the innocent boy of having something to do with the recent murders. But Duo had insisted on going. Quatre had been very relieved when he'd seen Duo standing on the curb, waiting for him. But the young man had not said a word since he'd climbed into the vehicle.

"So... what did you tell them?" the blonde asked, trying to get his sullen friend to talk.

"I told them what I saw."

"And?"

"They said they'd look into it."

Quatre reached over and squeezed Duo's shoulder. "Well that's good. You've done all you could, Duo. Let the police handle it now."

Duo shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He was silent for a long moment. Quatre glanced at him worriedly.

"Duo? Are you okay?"

"Can I borrow your car?" the young man asked suddenly.

Quatre blinked. "What for?"

"I can't let it go, Quat. There's something... I just have to go look for her myself."

They pulled up to a red light. Quatre turned to look at him. "You're not going to let this go, are you?"

"I can't."

Quatre sighed, gripping the wheel tightly. Once Duo got an idea in his head, the young man wouldn't let it go. The best Quatre could do was to help him.

"So can I borrow the car?" Duo asked again.

"No."

"But..."

"I'll drive. You tell me where to go."

Duo smiled. "Thanks Quat. I really appreciate this."

"Hmph. You'd better. So where to?"

"We need to head out of the city," Duo answered. "We have to go to Widowmaker's Canyon." Duo stared out the window of Quatre's SUV, clutching the door handle as they drove along the twists and turns of the mountain road. He lowered his eyes to stare down to the bottom of the steep canyon running along the right side of the road.

'Jeez... no wonder they call it Widowmaker's Canyon. If you're not careful, it would be easy to lose control on these roads,' he thought as he turned his gaze back to the road before them. He knew they were close. He didn't know how he knew... but he did.

Duo fidgeted in his seat. Maybe he should have left this to the police. He knew the tall cop hadn't believed him, but the blue-eyed one - Heero - something about him told the braided boy he was sincere. He had said he would look into it, and Duo believed him. But Duo couldn't wait. He had to see for himself. Something was urging him on, and he couldn't ignore it.

As they came up over a hill, Duo noticed an overlook off to the side of the road where vehicles could pull in to look at the view. Several picnic tables had been placed on the side of the road for travelers to have lunch on while enjoying the view. As they approached the overlook, a feeling of dread came over Duo.

<< FLASH >>

fear...

pain...

knife...

<< FLASH >>

Duo blinked, his breathing coming in shallow gasps.

"Duo? Are you okay?" he dimly heard Quatre ask.

<< FLASH >>

struggle...

surprise...

scream...

<< FLASH >>

"Pull over," he rasped, clutching his stomach.

"What?"

"Goddammit! Just pull over!" he cried, trying hard not to be sick in Quatre's car.

The blonde doctor steered the SUV into the overlook's parking area, pulling up along the guardrail at the edge of the cliff. Duo immediately hopped out of the vehicle and lost the contents of his stomach in a nearby trash can. After a few more dry heaves, he allowed Quatre to help him to one of the picnic tables. He sat Duo down on one of the benches, then hurried back to the car. He returned a moment later with a bottle of water. Duo took it gratefully, swishing the liquid around in his mouth.

"What happened Duo? Are you sick?" Quatre asked, concerned.

Duo shook his head. "No. I felt her. She was here." He looked around. "She's close. We need to look around."

For the next half-hour, the two scoured the overlook, leaving no stone unturned, looking for any sign of the missing girl. Duo even went so far as to climb over the guardrail to look down the cliff. He would have attempted to climb down further had Quatre not seen him and yelled at him. Reluctantly, he allowed his friend to pull him back over.

"What the hell do you think you were doing?" Quatre yelled as they walked back to the vehicle.

Duo opened the passenger door and got in, his eyes lowered. "I don't understand it, Quatre. I know she was here. She was afraid and in pain." He turned haunted eyes to meet Quatre's. "I think she died here."

"Well she's not here now. We've done all we can. Let's go home."

Duo nodded mutely. He stared out the window as they drove back down the winding road. He didn't understand. He was so sure Relena had been there. He could still feel her presence. Why didn't they find anything? Could it be his imagination was only playing tricks on him?

<< FLASH >>

car...

trees...

path...

<< FLASH >>

"Stop the car!" he cried, clutching Quatre's arm.

"Why? Are you going to be sick again?" Quatre asked as he pulled to the side of the road. Duo jumped out before Quatre could come to a complete stop. He heard his friend call out behind him, but he ignored it. Ahead of him was a dirt road that led off the main road through a thick patch of trees. It was more of a path than a road. Even Quatre's SUV would be hard pressed to make it down there.

Duo ran down the path, only vaguely aware of Quatre running behind him. Something was drawing him on... and he was so very close. He pushed past some low hanging braches, cursing as his hair became entangled in the limb. He yanked it free and started forward again... only to stop dead in his tracks at the scene laid out before him.

A foot... a woman's foot was poking out from underneath a bush just off the path. Duo turned and threw up again, averting his gaze from the grizzly sight.

Quatre pushed past the branches and came to a stop beside him. "Duo? Are you... oh merciful Allah," the blonde doctor breathed as he caught sight of the body. He took a step forward, but Duo grabbed his arm.

"Don't go near it!" the young man cried in panic, his eyes becoming wild with hysteria.

Quatre patted Duo's hand in reassurance. "I'm a doctor, remember? She might still be alive."

Duo turned away, unable to watch. He heard Quatre approach the body, heard the rustle of leaves, heard the sharp intake of breath.

"Quat? Is she..." he asked hesitantly, not wanting to hear the answer, knowing what it would be.

Quatre walked back to where Duo was standing. "Yeah. She's dead."

"Oh God!"

"Come on. We need to go tell the authorities," the blonde said, tugging on Duo's arm.

"We can't just leave her!"

"She's dead, Duo. Has been for some time I'd say. She's not going anywhere. And this is a crime scene. We can't touch anything. Let's go tell the police."

Duo nodded dumbly, allowing Quatre to lead him back to the car. Yes, let the police handle it. He'd done what the visions had wanted him to do. It was time to let someone else take over.

+

Heero pushed his way through the crowd of reporters gathered outside the precinct. 'Harpies,' he thought vehemently as he hurried inside and upstairs to his desk. He cast Trowa a glance as he sat down.

"I see you made it through the gauntlet," the green-eyed detective remarked dryly as Heero collapsed into his chair.

"It's a circus out there," he replied, rubbing his temples. "They've been camped out there ever since Relena's body was found yesterday."

He trailed off, looking down at the floor. Trowa noticed his melancholy expression.

"Oh hey, Heero. There was nothing you could have done to save her. The coroner thinks she may have died the day she disappeared."

"Has the report come back yet on how she died?"

"No. The official report won't be in for a couple of days," a new voice said. Heero looked up to see Wufei approach their desks. "Yuy, I need all your files on the Peacecraft case as soon as possible." "What? But that's our case."

"Not anymore. You saw the body. There was a teardrop carved on her face. It looks like Miss Peacecraft is victim number thirteen. I know this started out as your case, Yuy, but anything connected to these serial killings gets sent to me. So I need all your files."

Heero glared at the man but knew there was nothing he could do. Wufei had the Teardrop case. It was out of his hands now.

"You'll have them by the end of the day, Chang," he grumbled.

Just then a flash of chestnut caught his eye. Heero turned to see to detectives escorting Duo Maxwell into one of the interrogation rooms. He looked back at Wufei in surprise.

"What's he doing here?"

"He found the body. We're just asking him a few questions."

"Bullshit, Chang," Heero said, standing up. "I know you. You think that kid had something to do with it, don't you?"

"Wouldn't you? You told me yourself that he said he knew where the body was. He led us right to it. And all the explanation he offered was that he saw it in a vision? Come on, Yuy. Don't you think that sounds a little bit suspicious?"

Heero shook his head. "I just don't think that kid had anything to do with it."

"What makes you say that?"

"I don't know. Gut instinct perhaps? Something tells me he's an innocent in all this."

"Yeah? Well if you get any physical evidence to go with that instinct, let me know. Until then, we have to look into everything. And right now, that kid is the only suspect we've got. Have those files on my desk before you leave."

Heero watched as Wufei walked away, heading towards the interrogation room. He felt Trowa's emerald green gaze on him.

"You really think that kid's innocent?" his partner asked.

Heero nodded. "I don't know why but... I do." Duo looked up as an Asian detective walked into the room. The young man shifted in his seat, staring at the men sitting across from him. When the detectives had asked him and Quatre to come in today and answer some questions, he hadn't minded. But he didn't like the way they were looking at him now - looking at him as if he was guilty of something.

"Mr. Maxwell, I'm Detective Chang. This is Detective Morris."

"Nice to meet you," Duo said, nodding to them. "Um, where's Quatre?"

"We've already taken Dr. Winner's statement and sent him home. We just need you to answer a few questions before we send you home."

"Okay."

"Now then, Mr. Maxwell," the other detective said. "Tell us exactly what happened. How did you know where the girl's body was?"

So Duo told them... told them of listening to the radio, of seeing Relena's body in his mind, of knowing instinctively that the police were looking in the wrong places. He told them of being haunted by the visions, of coming to the precinct to tell someone, of pointing out the location of the body on the map. He told them of asking Quatre to drive him up to Widowmaker's Canyon, of pulling off onto the overlook, of finding the trail off the side of the road that led to Relena's body.

And then he told them the whole story again. And again. The fourth time they asked him to repeat his story, the sun had long since set. He'd been in the stuffy, airless room for hours. He was hungry, thirsty, and tired. All he wanted to do was go home.

"Look. I've told you everything three times already," he said, resting his head in his hands. "There's nothing else I can say."

"Yes, there is," Detective Chang replied, walking around the table to stand over him. "You can tell us the truth."

"What truth?" Duo asked, confused.

"The truth of how you murdered Relena Peacecraft and perhaps twelve other people."

Duo blinked in astonishment. "But I didn't! I could never... I would never harm anyone!"

"I think you're lying to me. I think you've been lying all along."

Duo stood up. "I don't have to take this."

Detective Chang pushed him back down into the chair. "Yes, you do."

Duo stood up again, mad as hell. He looked the man square in the eye. "I've given you my statement. Either charge me with murder or get out of my way. Either way, we are done here, Detective."

Chang held up his hands. "Fine." He made a motion at the other cop. Morris came around the table and began handcuffing Duo's hands behind his back. "Duo Maxwell, you are hereby charged with the murder of Relena Peacecraft. You have the right to remain silent..."

The rest of the words were lost as Duo stared at the man in shock. He couldn't believe this was happening. How could they think that he had anything to do with that poor girl's death? He'd only wanted to help.

He was led from the interrogation room in a daze. His mouth was suddenly very dry, and he was feeling sick to his stomach again. As he was led down the hall, he felt someone watching him. He looked up to see the cobalt gaze of Detective Yuy staring at him in shock. Silently he pleaded to the man for help. Heero had believed him before... surely he would again. He was no murderer! Heero had to believe him.

'Please. Help me.'

[part 2] [part 4] [back to Caroline's fic]