Shards Chapter 15
The Plan's Fruitation
By Frank Verderosa
"Call for you on line two, Mr. Trimolt. That woman who called before. Tifa Lockheart."
Dulane nodded and his secretary disappeared from the doorway. He turned to look at Brant, who's face held a look of surprise mixed with skepticism.
"I didn't think she'd call back," he muttered.
Dulane just grinned and picked up the phone.
Dulane's grinned deepened. He looked over at Brant and nodded. He had hardly believed it when his secretary had told him that Tifa had called looking for him. More than two months had passed since the night he had killed Garren, and he had his entire organization searching for her, but no one had turned up anything. He had begun to think she was either dead or had left town. He certainly hadn't expected her to call him! That girl was just full of surprises.
"Hello Tifa," he said pleasantly. "Where are you?"
"That doesn't matter," she replied. "I can't take this anymore. I want it to end."
"That's fine," Dulane replied. "Just tell me where you are."
"I have a proposition for you," she said, ignoring his suggestion.
"Oh really?" Dulane said, leaning back in his chair. This was getting more interesting my the minute. "After spurning me at Garren's apartment, now you want to proposition me?"
He looked at Brant and gave him a wink.
"I'll pay you to leave me alone," Tifa said.
"I'll pay you to leave me alone," she repeated.
For a moment Dulane said nothing. Was she serious? What the hell had gotten into the girl? This was already turning out better than he expected.
"You're a businessman, aren't you?" she continued. "Don't you want to make some gil?"
She couldn't see, of course, the smirk that appeared on his face.
"Just how much gil are you talking about here?" he questioned. "Don't want to put a strain on your piggy bank."
"I'll pay you ten thousand gil."
For a moment he just sat there as a stunned looked crossed his face. Then he burst out laughing. It took him a moment to regain his composure. He looked over at Brant again, holding the phone away from him for a moment.
"Just wait until you hear this," he muttered.
He put the phone back to his ear.
"And just where would a girl like you get that kind of gil?" he asked.
"What difference does it make?" she responded. "All that matters is it's yours, if you just leave me alone."
"Well, it might make your story a little more believable if you could give me a reasonable explanation of where you could have got that much gil," Dulane replied.
Tifa hesitated for just a moment before responding.
"Maybe Garren had it. Maybe he had it stashed away. Maybe he wasn't as stupid as you think."
Dulane thought that over for a moment.
"Maybe," he replied. "So what are you saying, that you'll give me that gil if I agree not to bother you anymore?"
"Yes," she replied. "I'm tired of running, tired of hiding. Like I said, I want to end this. I'm just one girl. You've got dozens. You don't need me. This way you get the gil, and I don't have to worry about looking over my shoulder anymore. It's a win win situation."
Dulane shifted in his chair. He still could hardly believe he was hearing this.
"So let me make sure I have this straight. You're going to give me ten thousand gil in exchange for my word that you won't be bothered anymore?"
Brant's attention was immediately captured at the mention of the gil.
"Yes," Tifa replied.
"Very interesting," Dulane said slowly. "And just how are am I supposed to collect?"
"Meet me in two hours at 1545 Rhodman St. It's an abandoned warehouse in sector six. Come alone. I'll give you the gil, but you have to promise me you'll leave me alone once you get it."
"Sector six eh?" Dulane said. "Sounds like a lot of cloak and dagger stuff to me. Why can't you just come here?"
"Because I don't trust you, that's why," she replied. "We do this my way or we don't do it at all."
"Pretty arrogant for a little girl who ran away like a scared rabbit last time we met," he said, a hint of anger appearing in his voice.
Tifa was silent for a moment.
"Do you want the gil or not?" she said finally.
Dulane pondered for a moment.
"Sure, sure," he said finally. "This is just too much. I can't pass this up. I'll be there."
"Then it's a deal?"
"All right," Tifa replied. "Remember, two hours, and come alone."
She hung up.
Dulane slowly put down the phone.
"What the hell was that all about?" Brant blurted out.
Dulane told him the offer Tifa had made.
"Surely you're not going to take it seriously?" Brant questioned. "It's got to be some kind of trap."
"Perhaps," Dulane replied. "But what do you think she's going to do? She's just a kid."
"I don't know," Brant replied. "But we both know she doesn't have ten thousand gil. And if she did, she wouldn't be giving it to you, she'd be on the first train outta this hole. Who says she's alone anyway? She couldn't have been hiding out all this time without help from someone. Maybe those people at the bar, maybe someone else. Either way, it's got to be some kind of trap."
"So you're telling me not to go," Dulane questioned.
Brant just looked at him for a moment. Was Dulane really taking this seriously?
"Of course I don't think you should go. I just said it has to be a trap."
Dulane leaned back and slipped his hands behind his head.
"Still," he said. "She's piqued my curiousity. I'm just dying to find out what she has planned."
"Don't tell me you're going to go along with this," Brant said unenthusiastically.
"I'm tempted," he replied.
"You can't be serious!" Brant said. He didn't know what was going on, but he was certain that would be a very bad idea. "You know she doesn't have that gil. She was right about one thing, you don't need her. You've got plenty of women here, all of whom are more willing than she is. If you still want her that badly, now that she was stupid enough to tell us where she is, just send some of the boys to pick her up and be done with it."
Dulane just looked at Brant for a moment. Slowly he stood up, shaking his head.
"No, it's not that simple," he replied, his face darkening. "That little bitch tried to hurt me. Me! Dulane Trimolt. I OWN Sector Seven, and I let some snot nosed kid slip through my fingers. She made a fool out of me! I'm not going to send someone else to pick her up. This is personal. If anyone gets her, it's going to be me!"
Brant was starting to get a very unpleasant feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"That's probably just what she wants you to think," he said.
Dulane gave him a condescending look.
"Quit your worrying. I know how to take care of myself."
"So you're just going to walk right into it?" Brant said, obviously unappeased by Dulane's reassurance. "You're going to go there alone because of some stupid ego thing?"
"Don't be a jerk," Dulane snapped angrily. "I'm not that stupid. I'm not going to go alone. It's not like she's going to know anyway. I'll take some of the boys with me, just in case. I'll even have Rofel go there now to stake out the place, see if anyone else shows up. Believe me, if it's a trap, I'll know ahead of time. I grew up in the streets here, I know every trick in the book. She's not going to surprise me. Not this time. No, this time she's the one who's going to be humiliated. I'm going to teach her a lesson she'll never forget. I'm going to make her squeal."
For some reason, Brant didn't find that very reassuring. He wanted to protest more strongly, but he knew Dulane too well to attempt it. If he kept it up, it was only a matter of time before he made Dulane angry, and that would only hurt the situation. Still, he felt so strongly about this that he just had to say something.
"I still don't like it," was the best he could muster. "It's not worth the risk."
"It is to me," Dulane snapped. His eyes narrowed. "What's the matter, afraid if something happens to me you won't be able to make the payments on your mansion? You're nothing without me Brant. Don't ever forget that. But nothing's going to happen to me. Better people than her have tried to take me out, and none have succeeded."
Brant bit his lip and said nothing more. He could tell that continuing to argue would just be counterproductive. Dulane had made up his mind, and Brant knew from experience nothing was going to change it.
"Very well," he conceded. "But at least let me make the arrangements for your protection."
For a moment Dulane glared at him, then he gave a quick shake of his head.
"Fine, Ma," he said sarcastically. "Do whatever you think is necessary security wise. Just make sure nobody gets in my way!"
"Is she in there?"
"Uh huh," Rofel replied. "Showed up about twenty minutes ago. Alone."
"Really?" Dulane said. That kind of surprised him. He had expected there to be someone else involved. He wondered what she really had in mind. Did she think she could take him on alone? Was she really that stupid?
They stood in the street not far from the warehouse in question. Two other men stood behind Dulane.
"All right, keep your eyes open."
Rofel nodded. Dulane walked over to the warehouse, the two other men trailing behind him. When he reached the door he stopped.
"You two wait here," he said. "Don't come in unless I call you, or someone else shows up."
The two men looked uncomfortable.
"Brant said we should stay with you," one of them said.
"I don't give a damn what Brant told you," Dulane snapped. "Brant's a goddam wuss. Now you two stay here, is that clear?"
"Absolutely boss," the man replied.
Dulane glared at them for a moment, then, satisfied that he had got his point across, turned and opened the door to the building. Stepping inside he saw an empty hallway in front of him. He stood there for a moment, looking around for a sign of anything that looked suspicious. The light was dim inside the building. It had been abandoned for some time. There was no electricity. What light he had filtered in through broken windows and holes in the walls. Still, it was more than enough to see clearly. It was late afternoon, and the sun wouldn't set for another few hours. He wouldn't have to worry about a lack of light.
He walked cautiously down the hallway, his shoes clicking on the bare wooden floor. It was a big building. Where the hell was she?
He didn't have to search very far. She stood by a boarded up window in the first room he looked into. She was looking at the door as he appeared in it, obviously alerted by his footsteps. Dulane noticed she stood as far from the doorway that she could get. A sports bag lay on the floor beside her.
Dulane leaned against the doorframe and grinned at her. She stood there in front of him, not moving. He could tell she was nervous, even though she was trying hard not to show it.
"You surprise me," he said, breaking the silence. "I didn't think you'd have the courage to face me."
She shifted uneasily, the light through the cracks on the worn boards that covered the window flickering across her.
"There's your gil," she said, pointing at the bag.
Dulane causally let his gaze drift to the bag. It was open, and he could see the bills inside it. He was surprised again. It looked like she really did have some gil there, though how much of course, was something else again.
"Bring it to me," he said, looking at her expectantly.
"Get it yourself..." she began.
"Bring it to me!" he snarled.
She stepped back as if he had attacked her, leaving her in the corner of the room with her back against the wall. She stared at him. He remained still, his face an angry mask. Her hands shifted nervously in front of her. He looked angry but inside he was amused. She was obviously scared to death.
After a moment she bent down and picked up the bag. She stood there for a second, obviously afraid to approach him. He held out his hand, his eyes trying to bore holes in her.
She took a hesitant step, then another, until finally she stood in front of him.
"Here," she said with a slight quiver in her voice, holding it out to him.
"Dump it out on the floor," he told her.
She looked at him with a puzzled expression for a moment, but his face in no way betrayed what he was thinking. She was alone. She had no weapon. At least, nothing obvious. The only place she could hide anything was in the bag.
She turned the bag over, and the gil spilled out onto the floor.
For a moment Dulane was too shocked to do anything. He had expected just a few gil, but the bag was full, or had been until a moment ago. He could see that there were a lot of bills, and that there were enough of them for him to believe it really was ten thousand gil. Where the hell had she found it?
He stooped down and picked up a stack. Flicking through it he saw that it was all large bills. He couldn't believe it. She hadn't been lying!
"Where did you get this from?" he demanded.
"I told you, Garren had it hidden in his apartment," she replied, stepping away from him.
He looked at her, his expression shifting between anger and doubt. He didn't think Garren had that kind of gil, but who knows, maybe it was true. Maybe he did have some stashed away. It was possible. Besides, where else could it have come from?
"It's all there," she said. "You can count it if you want. Now please let me go. I kept my end of the bargain, now you keep yours."
He was standing in the doorway, blocking her exit. She made no move to come nearer to him.
He stood up again, a grim smile appearing on his face.
"This is even better than I had hoped," he said. "I never thought you'd come through with the gil. I was hoping just to get you without too much trouble. But I must say you've outdone yourself. I track you down and you hand me ten thousand gil to boot. This is like Christmas."
Tifa just glared at him for a moment.
"What are you saying?" she said finally. "You're not going to keep your word?"
A short bark of laughter was her response.
"Are you really stupid enough to believe I would?" he questioned. He started walking toward her. "I'm not going to forget about what you did in Garren's apartment. You tried to hurt me. Nobody does that to Dulane and gets away with it."
She took a step back, fear written on her face. Suddenly he lunged for her, but she must have been expecting it, for just as he did so her leg shot out and stuck him in the side. He grunted with pain and stumbled.
She shot past him. He reached out to grab her, but she avoided his grasp. A moment later she was through the doorway.
With a curse he dashed out after her. She had almost no lead this time. He knew he was faster then her, and besides, his men guarded the door. She wasn't going to get away this time!
They ran down the hallway, which opened up into a huge room, a room that must have been the main room of the warehouse. It was two stories high and took up perhaps half of the entire building. It was completely empty, except for some broken boards scattered about the floor.
"The more you struggle the more I'm going to make you suffer when this is over!" he called out after her.
She did not reply, nor look back. She ran across the room, headed towards a window. Some of the boards covering it had been peeled away. The opening was small but looked large enough for her to squeeze through.
Well, he wasn't going to give her the chance. He was only a few steps behind her. With a burst of speed he caught up. He brought his hand back and struck her across the head. She cried out and staggered, almost falling over. She recovered a moment later and tried to run again, but he grabbed hold of her shoulder. He jerked her toward him, then grabbed hold of her with both hands and flung her as hard as he could against the wall of the building. The side of her head struck the wall hard, and she cried out again, falling to the ground.
With a grin he walked over to her. But when he stooped down to grab her again she spun around and slammed him in the face with her fist.
This time it was his turn to cry out. Goddamit! The little bitch was still fighting him. She had hurt him again. He was gonna kick the shit out of her now!
She tried to scramble to her feet, but he grabbed her by the hair. Furious, he slammed his fist into her face. Her head snapped back, and she collapsed to the ground in a heap.
Dulane stood above her, his face contorted in rage.
"You wanna fight me, you little shit?" he shouted. "Just who the hell do you think you are? I've killed dozens of people, men, women, all of them a hell of a lot tougher than you. You should never have crawled out of whatever hole you were hiding in."
She tried to get up once more. He kicked her savagely in the side, knocking her down again.
"You like this?" he snarled. "This is what happens to people who oppose me! You go against Dulane and you pay. Everybody knows it. Everyone learned it at one time or another. And now it's your turn to learn it."
She didn't reply, just lay on the floor, curled up into a protective ball, unmoving. She was facing away from him, but he could bloodstains on the floor.
Suddenly a green light shimmered. Dulane looked at her in surprise. The girl had some kind of materia!
He went to kick her again, but she rolled forward, underneath his kick, and brought her own leg up between his own.
Dulane when white with pain as her foot stuck his groin. He staggered back. Tifa sprang to her feet, rejuvenated by the cure spell. She dashed for the window once more.
Dulane let out a bestial roar. In spite of the pain he dashed forward. He would not let her get away this time!
She had reached the window. The opening was narrow, and she had to stop and try to squeeze her body through. It gave him enough time to catch up.
He grabbed hold of her leg, pulling back into the room. She struck at him with her fist, but the blow glanced off his shoulder. Using his superior strength, he dragged her away from the window, then twisted her leg until she fell to the ground once more.
Dulane was purple with rage. He had had enough. He had planned on playing with her, making her suffer, making her fears last as long as possible. He had expected her to run like a scared rabbit, not to fight. He could see she was scared, but she wasn't terrified. In spite of that fear she was still fighting back. He hadn't expected that, or that she would have materia. It seemed she was doing a lot of things he hadn't expected. And that just made him more angry. He had considered her an investment, another girl who could make gil for him, and as such he hadn't wanted to hurt her too badly. But that was over with now. She just wasn't cooperating, and it was pissing him off. It was beginning to look like she was just more trouble than she was worth.
He slipped his hand inside his shirt and pulled out the knife he had hidden there. The same knife he had used on Esella. He was tired of playing. He was going to finish this now.
"You know, it didn't have to be this way," he said, looking down at her. "You could have had anything you wanted. I never lied to you about any of the offers I made. I don't understand why you couldn't just listen to reason. How stupid can one person be?"
She didn't reply, just looked at him, her face white with fear, but defiance still in her eyes.
"Something I've asked myself many times."
Dulane spun around at the sound of this new voice. He had told his men not to let anyone inside. He stopped and stared at the three men standing in the entrance to the room. Three men in blue suits.
"Tseng," he hissed.
Tseng nodded in acknowledgment. Reno and Rude stood beside him. Both Tseng and Rude had their guns drawn. Reno has his nightstick in one hand and the sportsbag in the other, the gil once more inside it.
"That's my gil," Dulane snapped.
Tseng just looked at him.
"I'm surprised you admit it," Reno said. "We had no idea you were going to make this so easy."
"What are you talking about?" Dulane said angrily. What the hell were the Turks doing here?
Tseng stepped forward. Stopping a few paces away from Dulane, he looked at him with a penetrating gaze.
"We've been keeping an eye on you," he said. "You've built quite an organization."
Dulane said nothing.
"It's growing rapidly," Tseng continued. "Almost too fast. Like I said, we've been keeping an eye on you, thinking perhaps you might be Turk material."
"I'm flattered," Dulane said caustically.
"But your not," Tseng cut in. "You're too headstrong, take too many risks. You use force when force isn't necessary. You're a vicious two bit bully. There's no place for you in the Turks."
Dulane's face turned red with anger.
"Like I give a shit," he snapped. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"You've also got a big ego," Tseng said. "You want to be the big boy on the block, but the Turks stand in your way. Sooner or later, I knew we were going to end up as adversaries. You'd been very careful not to step on our toes so far, which was very wise. But I guess you finally decided it was time. You're stupider than I thought."
"And to be so blatant about it," Reno added, shaking his head slowly. "You think you can steal our gil like that and we wouldn't do anything about it? What WERE you thinking?"
Dulane stared at them.
"What are you talking about?" he said in exasperation. "I didn't steal your gil."
"Oh?" Reno said, a smirk on his face. "Are you sure? You didn't steal the gil from our dead drop? And you didn't leave this in it's place?"
He reached into his pocket and pulled something out. Dulane recognized it immediately. It was a rose.
A white rose.
For a long time no one said anything at all. Dulane just stood there, staring at the rose in Reno's hand, and for the first time he began to realize that this might not work out quite how he had planned.
Finally he spun around, pointing an accusing finger at Tifa.
"It was her!" he shouted. "She the one who stole your gil. She set me up!"
Reno burst out laughing.
"Her?" he exclaimed. "You expect us to think SHE was behind all this? You're going to try to hide behind some kid? You really are pathetic!"
"I swear, it was her!" Dulane shouted.
"You really must be a fool," Tseng said with a shake of his head. "If you can't come up with something better than that."
Dulane's mind worked furiously. This had been her plan all along. It really was a trap. And he had fallen for it hook line and sinker. They weren't going to believe him. They had no reason too. They wanted to get rid of him, and she had supplied the perfect opportunity. He couldn't believe it. He just couldn't believe it!
"Where are my men?" he snapped. Why hadn't they warned him when the Turks had shown up.
"They're dead," Reno said bluntly. "That's what happens when you put your trust in amateurs."
"You never had a chance Dulane," Tseng said. "Your ego is too big. We would've had to deal with you sooner or later. We were willing to leave you alone for now, but you overstepped your bounds. And you know what happens to people who overstep their bounds. You've done it plenty of times yourself. They have to be made an example of."
He looked at Rude, then nodded toward Tifa.
"Get her out of here."
Dulane looked at them all helplessly. His mouth worked but he said nothing. There was nothing he could do. There was nothing he could say that would convince them that he was innocent, that he had nothing to do with taking their gil. It was all her fault. She had set him up. That little witch had set him up, and she was just going to walk out. He wasn't going to let that happen. She wasn't going to get the best of him. She wasn't going to beat Dulane Trimolt!
He lunged forward, straight at Tifa, his knife coming up in his hand. He wasn't thinking about himself anymore, he just wanted to drive his knife into her, to see blood spurting from her body.
Tseng hesitated. He had expected Dulane to try something. He was desperate. He knew he was going to die. But why go after the girl? She was no threat to him. For some reason he wanted her to die, even though there were bigger threats to him in the room. Perhaps there really was something to what he was saying.
On the other hand, Rude was right next to Tifa now, and Tseng couldn't be sure whether the attack might not suddenly be redirected at the Turk. Tseng took care of his own people , he wasn't going to take the chance of Rude getting involved.
All this went through his mind in a spit second. He only hesitated a moment before he brought his gun to bear, but already it was too late.
Dulane wasn't looking at anyone but Tifa. He didn't see the barrel of Rude's gun flash.
He didn't see it, but he certainly felt the impact. The first bullet slammed into his shoulder, cracking a rib and tearing into his left lung. The force of it knocked him backwards. The second bullet stuck his chest just above his heart, ripping through his aorta. This time the impact twisted him to the side. His feet lost their balance and he began to fall. The third shot caught him in the neck, just missing his windpipe, but cracking the vertebra behind it and severing his spinal cord. The knife slipped out of his nerveless hand. He found himself falling, slamming into the floor. His eyes were still on Tifa, his mind was still trying to force his body towards her, but his body could no longer obey. He had to get to her. He had to make the bitch pay. He couldn't die like this. It couldn't happen. Not to him. Not to Dulane!
The room was growing darker by the minute. He saw Tifa looking down at him, as if from far away. Why was she still standing. Why wasn't she dead? He had to get to her. He couldn't die before he got revenge. He couldn't. He just...couldn't...couldn't...die...
For a second Tseng kept his gun trained on Dulane. But after a moment, satisfied that the man was dead, he lowered it. He looked at Tifa, who had turned away at the first shot.
"He seemed awfully anxious to see you dead," he observed.
Tifa turned to look at him. He noticed she carefully avoided the sight of Dulane. Before she could speak Rude interrupted.
"We've got the gil back. Dulane is dead. This mission is over, isn't it?"
For a moment Tseng said nothing at all, just stared at the girl, who quickly lowered her gaze.
"Yes, I suppose so," he said finally.
"All right," Reno said. "Time to party!"
"If I remember correctly, that is what got you into this in the first place," Tseng pointed out. "We got the gil back, but you still left your post. If you had stayed to guard the gil like you were supposed to this never would have happened. You can be sure that's all going to be mentioned in my report."
Reno gave him a sour look.
"On the other hand, we did manage to get it back," Tseng continued. "And we bagged Dulane as well, so all and all I'd say it wasn't a bad day at all. Rude is right, we're through here. Let's go."
He turned to leave.
"But what about her?" Reno said, pointing at Tifa.
Tseng turned to look at Tifa again, his piercing eyes seeming to look right through her. For a moment he said nothing.
"Forget about her."
Reno shrugged and walked out the door. Tseng turned to look at Rude, who nodded that he'd be along in a moment. Tseng shrugged and left as well. Rude turned to look at Tifa. He paused for a moment, obviously waiting for the others to get out of earshot.
"He was telling the truth, wasn't he? You really did steal that gil," he said when he was sure they were alone, his face expressionless.
Tifa avoided his gaze.
"You got it back," she pointed out.
Rude stared at her and rubbed his chin.
"You did set him up."
Tifa's non reply said it all.
Finally Tifa returned his gaze. It almost seemed too good to be true that her plan had actually worked. She knew the Turks were more than a match for Dulane, the problem was getting them to do anything about him. Seeing Reno and Rude had made her think of the dead drop, and the gil they talked about the last time she had been there, and suddenly it came to her that perhaps here was a way to get them to help her, whether they knew it or not. Seeing the florist had reminded her of Dulane's trademark white rose, and when she thought of that, she knew she had to make the attempt.
"He murdered a friend of mine."
For a long time Rude just stood there, looking at her. There was certainly more to her than met the eye. Finally he nodded.
"You took an awful chance."
She nodded in agreement. She had been scared to death when she had taken the gil, sure that the Turks would come back and discover her. She had been scared when she had made the call to Dulane, and again right after when she contacted the Turks to leave them an anonymous message that Dulane had their gil and where he was going to be. And of course she had been scared when she confronted Dulane. The timing had to be just right. The Turks couldn't show up too soon or too late. It had been a close thing, and she hadn't really expected it to work. She had been desperate. She had wanted it to end, and had grasped at any straw, any plan, no matter how wild, to accomplish that. It had been more luck than anything else, but it had worked.
"I guess I did," she replied.
Finally he turned and started for the door, but reversed himself when he reached it.
"Good luck to you," he said. For the first and possibly last time, she saw a grin on his face. "And...come and see me in a couple of years. We may have a job opening for you. I've got the feeling you'd make a mighty fine Turk."
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