Walking slowly, closing the door behind her, Lacus ventured down the hallway and toward what she assumed would be the living room she fell asleep in last night.
Although it was in a dangerous looking area in one of the seedier parts of town, and in a rather dodgy, unscrupulous high-rise tower block, this apartment was actually quite large, all things considered. There was a living room, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchenette. Lacus’ apartment was minuscule, by comparison. She had a bathroom, but other than that, there was only a very small living area that served as both lounge and bedroom, with a small kitchenette on one side. It was just a living room with a bed in it. It was closer to a motel than an apartment.
Lacus wondered how much this place cost Miriallia. Perhaps the pinkette could move into someplace like this.
Lacus sighed and shook her head. What a downgrade that would be. Could she really live in a place like this? She’d be too scared to come home at night, or leave in the morning, or vice versa. Besides, she already owed so much rent on her own place. Her landlord would likely not let that go, would he? Plus, she owed money to her friends and neighbours. She hated being a burden, but what could she do? How could the pinkette consider paying what money she did have for advance rent in a new place when she still owed so much in her old one? They would never let her. They would think she was trying to run out on them. Lacus couldn’t do that. Besides, there may not have even been any rooms going in this building.
It was a terrible situation to be in. Lacus couldn’t afford to stay where she was, but she couldn’t afford to move. She was trapped. Imprisoned by life itself. If this new job didn’t work out, the pinkette didn’t know for how much longer she could go on.
Dearka smiled as he saw her coming toward the living room. “Here,” he said, handing her a mug containing a dark liquid that smelled of coffee. “I wasn’t sure how you take it, so don’t go blaming me.”
Lacus took a whiff from the mug and blanched, remembering the last time somebody had offered her a drink. “Actually, I don’t drink coffee.”
Dearka quirked an eyebrow as if this were the strangest remark anybody had ever said. “How come?”
“I just… I don’t really know. I never started the ritual. I don’t like the taste. I’m not really fond of the smell, either.”
“Okay, whatever. So can you tell me what’s going on? I mean I haven’t known Miriallia to pick up strays, but here you are. Actually, could you tell me your name first?”
“It’s Lacus. Miriallia was going to give me a ride home last night, but… I guess I must have fallen asleep and she left without me.”
“You’re not making much sense. Mir went where, to your place but left you here?”
Lacus shook her head and handed the blond the note Mir had left for her. “Miriallia had something to do last night. She was going to drop me home on the way.”
“But you fell asleep and she left you here alone.”
“You don’t believe me.”
“It’s not exactly a credible story, but this note seems to back it up. It’s signed by Mir, that looks like her number, and it’s definitely in her handwriting. plus, who else would end a note with a wink?”
“I suppose you’re right.” Dearka had a point. Lacus had never seen anybody finish off a handwritten note like that before. An email, sure, but not a pen and paper physical note.
“So, you don’t know where she is?”
Lacus shook her head.
“Strange that she’d leave you here alone. It doesn’t look like she’s been home all night. I wonder if something’s happened to her.”
Lacus shook her head once more. “I called that number just a moment ago and she seemed fine.”
“You’ve spoken to her?” Dearka made to grab her by the shoulders, but the pinkette stepped backwards out of his reach. “Where is she, do you know?” the blond’s tone suddenly turned serious.
Lacus looked away.
“Come on,” Dearka pushed. “You know, don’t you. Tell me!”
Lacus’ eyes hardened. “You show up here, uninvited, let yourself in, and demand to know where Miriallia is? You’re behaving like some kind of stalker. Why should I trust you? What business is it of yours anyway?”
“Because, she’s my—“
“You’re girlfriend? That’s not what she told me.” Lacus breathed deeply. She wasn’t normally this confrontational, but Dearka had just tapped into something that was evidently kept deep below the surface. Her eyes held a determination within their blue depth. Her voice was high, but it was strong, commanding, much more so than it had been lately. It wasn’t loyalty so much that pushed her on, as it was adrenaline.
Dearka’s eyes narrowed in frustration. “Come on, I don’t have time for this shit. Can’t you just trust me on this?”
Lacus slowly edged away from the blond, keeping her eyes on him. “Miriallia told me that you two broke up months ago. You came back here now? You broke in, ruffled the place up…” the girl looked around. The living room had appeared so empty last night, but now, the place was a mess. “How long have you been here?”
Dearka cracked a smile. “Hey, I work fast.”
“Are you looking for something in particular?”
Lacus raised an eyebrow.
“Just… anything incriminating.”
“And you expect me to trust you?”
“Yeah, okay. I know how that sounds, but I really am trying to help. Can’t you just give me a chance?”
Lacus sighed and nodded. “Sell me.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I am. Give me one reason why I should trust you. Give me one reason why I should tell you where Miriallia is.”
“I just… I need to see her, to talk to her. It’s important.”
Lacus narrowed her eyes. On one hand, this was none of her business, but on the other, the girl was getting a bad vibe from this young man. Was he dangerous? Did he mean Mir harm? Could he be trusted?
“You can do better than that, can’t you?”
“How well do you know her? Are you like best friends or something?”
“Actually, we just met last night.”
“And she brought you home?”
Lacus willed herself not to blush. A thought rushed to her. Had Lacus been introduced to a different Miriallia than the one that this young man thought he knew? “That doesn’t matter now. What’s so important that you need to see Miriallia? Don’t tell me you want to get back together. Sorry, but I don’t think she’s interested.”
“That’s not why I’m here.” That perked the girl’s interest, but should she be intrigued, or concerned? Miriallia had been good to her, as brief as their friendship had been so far. Lacus didn’t want anything bad to happen to the brunette. “Okay, I’ll tell you, but keep this between us.” After a short internal deliberation, Lacus agreed. She had to know what was going on. “It’s like I said. I need to talk to her, to warn her.”
“Miriallia… she’s in with a bad crowd.”
“Criminals. Extortionists, pimps, drug dealers, you name it. They all hang around that cesspool den of scum she used to frequent. Word on the street is, she’s gone back.”
“You mean Tolle’s club?”
“Tolle Koenig. So you know it?”
“That’s where I met Miriallia.”
“It’s true then. This is bad, and it’s not going to reflect well on her.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean she’s under suspicion. She’s caught the attention of those she doesn’t want looking at her. They’re watching her.”
Lacus’ throat went dry. She tried to swallow.
“Who, the criminals?”
Dearka shook his head. “The police. That’s why I’m looking for anything that could incriminate Mir. I have to find it first, make sure there’s nothing here to find, because trust me, they’ll be coming, and soon.”
“Do you really think Miriallia’s involved in anything illegal?”
“I don’t know. I doubt it, but…”
“Then you should trust her. Miriallia’s done nothing wrong, so don’t interfere. What if the police find out what you’re trying to do? It might look suspicious. I’m sure you mean well, but you could be unintentionally incriminating her.”
The blond’s eyes widened.
“Just let the police carry out their investigation. They’ll come in, search the place, and when they don’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll move on.”
“That’s cute,” Dearka smirked, “but unfortunately, that’s not the way things work. The kinds of people in charge of this investigation are some of the dirtiest cops you’ll find within the borders of this city. Trust me, they’ll do whatever it takes to catch the guys they’re after. If they have to ruin a few lives in the process, so be it.
“If you don’t believe me then fine, but at least tell her what I said. She has to be warned. She needs to know what’s up, so she can at least watch after her own back. Promise me that you’ll pass on the message. This heads up, it’s the least I can do. Plus, what’s the worst that can happen? Better to be safe than sorry, right?”
Lacus nodded. “Yeah, okay… but you should be the one to tell her.”
“I’ll take you to her.”
“Where is she?”
“At the club.”
“She’s there now? Is she expecting you?”
“Then let’s get going.”
“So you’ll take me with you?”
“Do I have a choice? I’m not exactly in good standing with the security in that place. I have a feeling that tagging along with you is the only way I’ll get in.”