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CHAPTER 31 ~ ENOUGH
After leaving the office, Gunther sat in his car for several minutes. That had gone a hell of a lot better than he'd feared, and he wasn't so sure that Valois hadn't influenced Nick just a little bit.
He turned his gaze up the hill, where he could just see the roof of the manor rising into the early morning sun. He really ought to go over there and check on the repairs. And, god, he should check the family cemetery, too. He hadn't been back in so long; Lolita's grave would be overgrown, and he couldn't bear to think of that.
Firing up the engine, he reversed out of the car park and drove toward Skyborough Boulevard. Wondering at the traffic, as a small jalopy tucked in behind him, he glanced at the dashboard clock. Ah. Ten-to-nine. The last-minute dash to get to work on time.
He parked up outside the manor and opened the door, the scent of burned wood assaulting him. It had been weeks since the fire, and even from this distance he could see that work was progressing well, but the smell of smoke lingered, making him shudder.
The family cemetery was a little overgrown, but surprisingly tidy when he reached it. He knelt beside Lolita's headstone, gently tugging out the weeds that had grown between the bright little daisies he'd planted there; bright as her eyes and her smile had been.
"God, love, it's been a chaotic year," he murmured as he worked. "Since that night you appeared everything's gone crazy."
He yanked out a dandelion, throwing it far away from the little plot. "I wish you could meet Valois," he said softly, pausing to touch his fingertips against the headstone, cool in the early winter sunlight. "I think you'd like him--"
What the hell was that clicking sound? He half-turned his head. Someone was standing behind him, and... shit! That was a camera!
"You're trespassing," he said coldly, turning back to the grave. "Fuck off before I call the police."
"Just a few questions, Mr Goth. Nick Fergus from the Sunset Valley Scoop. I found it very interesting that you've managed to dispose of two rich wives now. Any comment to make on that?"
Gunther went cold. "What did you just say?"
"One rich wife in the grave, the other in the nuthouse. Oh-so-convenient, wouldn't you say? How much do you stand to profit from Mrs Goth's committal?"
On his feet in an instant, Gunther turned and glared at the man. "I stand to profit nothing," he gritted. "And you will get the fuck off my property, or I'll throw you off it myself."
"Oh, threats of violence, too?" The man smirked, and Gunther's hands curled into tight fists by his sides. "Are you a generally violent man, Mr Goth? Would your wife say that, d'you think?"
The answer came at the end of a sucker punch that knocked the reporter to the ground. Gunther stood over him, thinking that would be enough, but the guy was tenacious and reared up off the ground with a move that came out of left-field. He barrelled under Gunther's guard, catching hold of him and hurling him through the air to land heavily on the grass.
Clutching at his ribs and momentarily-winded, Gunther squinted up into the sun behind the guy, who had his fists raised ready.
"Oi!" came a bellow from the house, as one of the builders stuck his head out of a window. "Knock it off, or I'll call the cops!"
"The fuck d'you want?" Gunther rasped at the reporter, getting to his feet and ignoring the builder. The reply was only physical, though, as the reporter came at him again.
"Jesus fucking Christ!" Gunther managed to dodge the blow, spinning away from it until he was caught by the hedge. The man came at him again, but this time Gunther was ready for him, with a roundhouse kick that had served him well in several bar brawls at uni, many years ago.
The reporter went down like a sack of potatoes, and Gunther stood there, panting, as sirens sounded in the distance. The builder came running over with his mate, and only when he reached Gunther did his jaw drop.
"Oh shit, you're the guv'nor of this place!" he gasped. "Sorry! I'd never have called the police if I'd known!"
Gunther looked up, despairing, as a policeman ran into the cemetery. Yeah, this really didn't look good, did it? He sighed, submitting to having his hands cuffed behind his back while the builders stood there, looking guilty.
"You do not have to say anything. However, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence."
Gunther sat quietly as the policeman started the tape and checked to make sure it was running. He felt cold inside, shivering slightly. How could he have been so fucking stupid?!
"Please state your full name and address."
Gunther swallowed. "Gunther Goth," he said, hoarsely. "Thirteen, Skyborough Boulevard, Sunset Valley."
"The suspect was apprehended after a brawl at his home in which another man - one Nicholas Fergus - was knocked unconscious. Police were called by a Mr--" The policeman consulted his notebook. "--Anthony Scurridge, who was working as a builder on the suspect's home, which had recently caught fire."
Oh god, the fire. Oh fuckfuckfuck, this was looking worse and worse by the minute...
"Suspect was arrested at zero-nine-thirty on the morning of December third, twenty-thirteen, by Officer Carson. Now, Mr Goth. In your own words, please. What exactly happened this morning?"
Two hours later, Gunther sank onto the thin-mattressed bed in the holding cell as the door was slammed shut behind him. He looked around, bewildered. He hadn't known whether to use his one free phone call to contact his lawyer, or Valois. In the end, he'd decided the lawyer was his best bet. He, at least, could arrange bail and get Gunther out of here... so he could then face Valois.
Valois. Oh god, what the hell would Valois say? Gunther had told him he'd only be a couple of hours, and already he'd been gone for four or five, judging from the quick glance he'd managed at a wall clock on his way down to the cell. He'd be worried sick... or really fucking upset.
Or really fucking angry. Stupid, stupid, STUPID! He stared at the wall, willing back the tears that threatened to spill over. He wasn't going to cry. God, no. He was stronger than that, damn it.
I need you. Oh god, I need you. I'm such an idiot.
It was late afternoon before the door opened again. Nobody had brought him anything to eat, and he was starving. He wondered if this was the evening meal, or something, but to his immense relief the familiar face of Albert Swain, his lawyer, greeted him when the door opened.
"Bail has been met, so you're free to go, Mr Goth," he said with a smile, and Gunther could have hugged him. The young policeman stood behind him, ready to take him back upstairs, and it was a suitably chastened Gunther Goth who stood at the discharge desk five minutes later, his hands wringing in front of him as his possessions were detailed and signed back to him.
"One watch, one belt, one pair of shoelaces, one hundred and ninety-three simoleons in cash, one wallet containing four credit cards, a debit card, a parking permit for DP Corporate, and family photographs - total of three," the policeman intoned, as he handed the items back to Gunther. He'd been nonplussed when they'd taken his belt and shoelaces, until the cop had explained that nothing was left with a prisoner that he might use to harm himself.
"Right, then. Bail money was set at twenty-five thousand simoleons, and has been met. Your guarantor is Mr Albert Swain of Swain, Collins & Etherington. You will be expected to report to the station every Friday before 4pm until further notice. Your case will either come to trial, at which point you will receive a letter notifying you of such, or be dismissed. Again, you'll receive a letter. Please sign here to confirm receipt of your personal effects."
The signature looked nothing like Gunther's normal one, but it would have to do. He was shaking so badly, through shock and lack of food, having had nothing to eat or drink since that morning's coffee and the whisky in Nick's office. And god, he could feel the mother of all migraines looming, too. What a joyous end to a shitty day.
"Thank you. Now, do you have someone who can take you home? If not, then you can call a cab from the payphone over there."
"I will take him home," a familiar voice said, and Gunther's stomach dropped. Oh fuck.
They drove in utter silence, Valois's hands steady on the wheel as Gunther sat, feeling utterly miserable, in the passenger seat. He hadn't even realised Valois had a car, especially after all of his jokes about broomsticks. It seemed, though, that he'd taken a lot of things about Valois for granted.
He looked around and realised that they were heading into the town centre and not to the outskirts. He was about to ask Valois where they were going, when the car pulled up outside a familiar house: Valois's old place on Water Lily Lane.
This was getting worse by the minute.
"Valois?" Gunther asked, in a small voice. "Where's Mortimer? Is he okay?"
"He's staying with a friend tonight," came the clipped reply before Valois got out of the car. He leaned back in. "Inside."
No sooner was the front door shut behind them both than Valois grabbed Gunther and yanked him close, staring down at him.
"Who did this to you?" he growled.
Gunther swallowed. He'd never seen Valois this angry, and he felt physically sick at the rage he could see in his lover's eyes.
"I--" The words wouldn't come.
Valois's grip tightened, his furious gaze searching Gunther's face, noting every scrape and bruise.
"Who did this to you?"
Gunther's stomach lurched and, at the clear alarm in his eyes, Valois let him go, watching him as he ran to the bathroom. Gunther slammed the door and fell to his knees in front of the toilet, the stress and pain of the day finally taking its toll as he threw up and started sobbing.