Well, after a few weeks of absolutely mind-boggling nonsense, I managed to get some stuff written for the premier episode. I hope that you guys will be happy to see the continuation of the Soap, and that I haven’t waited to long to start again! So, without further ado, here is our brand new Episode One!
Reeve let himself into his studio with the strange feeling that he’d been gone forever. It hadn’t been more than a few days, but the place looked strange to him, desolate without his beloved paintings, and dispirited with only that portrait of Yuffie set up in the main room. He truly was beginning to hate that painting, but there was nothing to be done about it. Her father wanted something very specific, very not Reeve Tuesti, and he’d agreed. All he could do now was finish it and get it out of here. It was making himself work on it that would be the bigger issue.
He sighed and put his bags down, wondering if he would return to Genesis’s place or where he would go at all. He didn’t have a key, after all. It wasn’t like they were really dating…was it?
He flipped the lights on all over his studio and gathered his brushes, mixing paint with a frown, trying to remember Yuffie at her best and brightest. But the paint went on in uninspired strokes, a mere covering for the canvas as opposed to true vibrancy. He hated that he was even willing to do this, but he would give it his best shot.
While he painted, he thought of Yuffie and the afternoon they’d spent together in his hotel room, paid for by Genesis. She’d been animated as always, laughing and fun, alternately flirty and playful. It was hard for a man like Reeve to sort out her true intent. He much preferred people direct in their wants as opposed to people who made him guess endlessly. But he’d seen no sign of a drug and alcohol ruined young woman that day. He’d seen Yuffie without the influence of Genesis’s hangers-on, without the press watching, without a crowd to fuel her need for the spotlight. That woman he could love. That woman was the one he wanted to paint, the one he could call his own if he was ever good enough for her…
He thought guiltily of Genesis – going out of his way to assist him, being oddly thoughtful of the little things. He wondered what the man really wanted, and tried to convince himself that it wasn’t him. If he decided to try wooing Yuffie, to get her to see him as a viable romantic interest, it could go odd with Genesis as her best friend and his self-proclaimed lover.
He sighed and put his brushes down, leaving the partially done painting on its easel. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, knowing that he was putting off the inevitable. He hadn’t rushed here straight from Setora to work on a dismal portrait and he knew it. He’d come to do the painting he’d seen in his mind, he’d just needed the time to truly round it out in his head. Timing was everything in his artist’s heart – it had to feel right before he could start it, and he felt it tugging at him even now.
He busied about for a long while getting things set up, but it was with a glow of content determination that he’d lacked mere hours before. He dragged a large frame into the side room of his studio, away from prying eyes and the sudden entrance of unwelcome visitors. He pieced his canvas and stretched it, taking painstaking care that it was perfect, just the size he knew would do justice to what he saw. He primed it and waited impatiently for it to dry so that he could prime it again and again, and finally he was ready. He got his paints together, gathered his brushes and rags, and locked the small door behind him so that he could begin.
Cloud rushed back towards the front but caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. He skittered to a halt, his heart pounding as he watched someone come out of the side door.
It was Mrs. ShinRa’s bodyguard, the Chechislanian warlord known as Rudolph Doležal, and he was carrying something towards a waiting car.
Cloud slipped his phone out, switched it to camera mode, zoomed in, and nearly dropped it when he saw what the man had in his arms.
It was Yazoo ShinRa’s boneless, limp body.
Cloud didn’t really think, he just started snapping pictures of the man putting her body in the trunk of the car and closing it with neat efficiency. Cloud didn’t even attempt to confront him – she was clearly dead, whatever dreadful plan had already been put into place. But, hopefully, with these pictures he could convince the police department to listen to him. Besides, he wasn’t stupid enough to tangle with a man like Doležal, who had a history of being brutal and merciless.
The man adjusted his sunglasses, moved to the driver’s side of the car, and got in. As it pulled away, Cloud got a snapshot of the license plate and then flipped the phone around.
He’d done some looking since he’d last called the police department, and dialed a number he was sure would offer no help, but he had to try something.
“This is Cloud Strife. Yazoo ShinRa has been killed and her murderer is just now leaving to go dispose of her body,” he said as soon as the line picked up. “I have photographs of the whole thing.”
There was a long silence before Chief Hewley tonelessly said, “Mister Strife, if you continue to badger me with these foolish publicity pranks, I’ll have you locked up for making a false report to an officer of the law. Don’t call back.”
The line went dead, but Cloud wasn’t surprised.
“Fucking idiot,” Cloud breathed, shoving his phone into his pocket. He had no choice now, for sure. At the very least he would see who was involved in it. He doubted very much that Rufus was – Yazoo dead and vanished was a sure way to start a war with the Cetrans, and as low an opinion that Cloud had of Rufus’s intelligence, he didn’t think the man was that stupid.
But, he’d been wrong before, and from what Cloud knew of the jaded people in Midgar, he wouldn’t be too surprised.
Marlene stayed curled in the corner of the closet, her hands over her mouth and her wide eyes running with tears even after what felt like forever.
She’d been frozen, paralyzed, unable to help her friend. She’s simply watched, horrified, while Rude had choked the life out of Yazoo ShinRa. She hadn’t done anything to help her, she’d just watched her eyes roll up and her body slump into death. Crouched in petrified silence, too afraid for her own life to be courageous enough to save Yazoo’s, she’d witnessed Rude gather Yazoo’s body up along with an envelope, and simply leave with her dangling in his arms like a limp little doll.
Ashamed, terrified, and nearly in hysterics but for her silence, Marlene curled tighter into a ball among Yazoo’s expensive shoes, and quietly sobbed into her hands.
Cloud found his way unbarred, the front door unlocked, the house vast and empty. No one called him out, no one asked him what he was doing there – anyone off of the street could walk in now and do any number of terrible things.
With a grim frown, he shut the door firmly behind him and locked it before he ran up the stairs. He didn’t know the first thing about the layout of this house, only where Mrs. ShinRa’s suite was located, and that she didn’t share it with her husband. He hesitated on the landing until he heard the sound of a game coming from his left, and headed down towards the huge double doors at the end.
“Hey! Hey! Anybody in there?” he shouted, pounding on the tastefully lacquered wood. “Hey! I need to see Mister ShinRa!”
The door was opened by a young man with light brown hair and suspicious eyes who asked, “Who’re you?”
“I’m Cloud Strife, the reporter,” he answered. “Something terrible has happened to Mrs. ShinRa and I need to see her husband right now.”
Oddly enough, the boy didn’t argue. His eyes widened and he stepped aside, hollering, “Mister ShinRa! Some reporter here to see you!”
“Thanks,” Cloud breathed, rushing into the room towards the noise of the game.
He saw Rufus ShinRa in his bathrobe, sitting at the bar in his den while a baseball game played on the suspended, huge flat-screen. The man didn’t so much as twitch when he said, “Mister ShinRa – your wife has been harmed, sir. Your gate guards are dead and her bodyguard has killed her. Please, you need to call the police!”
Rufus turned from the screen and wobbled dangerously on his stool, asking, “What? Who the fuck are you?”
“I’m Cloud Strife,” he said, tired of having to answer pointless questions when a woman was dead and her killer was getting away. “Sir, your wife! Get yourself together, for the gods’ sake! She’s dead! And the man who killed her is still out there with her body!”
Rufus peered at him and asked, “Aren’t you the fellow who took those pictures of my wife with Reno?”
Cloud nearly tugged his own hair out in frustration. In a heated, angry hiss, he said, “That’s not the point! She’s dead and her killer has left with her body! You need to call the cops! Put that fucking glass down, get off of your fat ass, and do something!”
“Sir, you really do need to do something,” the boy put in, and he sounded almost frantic. “Sir – ”
“Both of you shut up!” Rufus roared, and he did fall off of his stool, but managed to catch himself. “This is insane! How the hell did you get into this house?”
All three of them started yelling back and forth, the clamor rising to a deafening roar.
In the middle of the confusion came a purring, tired, and thoroughly bored voice saying, “Well, this is a mess…”
Elena started from her half-slumber when she heard Rufus and Denzel both shouting to be heard over a third, strange voice. She felt Reno stir and quickly sat up, pulling the sheet around her and half off of him.
The man’s blue eyes fluttered but they were cloudy, unfocused, and when they lit on her there was no recognition in their depths.
“Reno?” she asked, feeling the first faint tug of fear that was, for once, not for herself.
“What time is it?” he asked, levering himself up and touching his forehead. “What was that noise?”
“I’m not sure what time it is,” she answered. “It’s late. And Rufus is arguing with someone. Do you want me to go check?”
He glanced around the room, a strange look on his face, his skin paler than normal. After a moment, he asked, “What time is it?”
Elena hesitated a moment before she said, “I…I just told you, I’m not sure. Reno, are you okay? You had a pretty bad seizure so we put you to bed.”
He shook his head again, but more like he was clearing it than he was negating her words. His fingertips pressed to his temple and he said, “My head hurts. It must be late. Do you know what time it is?”
Elena slipped out of the bed and checked her watch, saying, “It’s about two in the morning. Is that better?”
He got up suddenly, naked but unaware of it. He stood with his back to her, his skin marred with the pink seams of old scars, his loose red hair falling down to brush the top of his backside.
He glanced back at her, a little more himself, something lighting his blue eyes that had not been there when he’d first awoken.
“What did you just tell me?”
“That it was two in the morning,” she answered, trembling. “And that Rufus is arguing with someone, I’m not sure who.”
“Two in the morning, fuck,” he repeated, and bent to snatch his pants up. He looked at her again as he pulled them on and took in the disheveled bed. With a low growl, he asked, “What the fuck were you doing in bed with me?”
Elena blanched but said nothing.
“Did you fuck me while I was out, you crazy cunt?” he demanded, all traces of his confusion gone in a rush of fury. He came at her with his unfastened pants clinging to his narrow hips and grabbed her bare shoulders with hard, bruising hands. He shook her until her teeth rattled and snarled, “Fucking answer me, you whore! Did you fuck me while I was out?”
Elena held her silence, she just stared up at him, unwilling to risk anything at all right now. It was the loud shout that Yazoo ShinRa was dead that probably saved her life. It shocked both of them so much that they just stared at each other in horror, Elena thinking that Reno and Rufus really had done Yazoo terrible, terrible harm.
Reno’s hands dropped from her shoulders and he left the room, fleeing on bare feet towards the noise that suddenly stopped.
Shaking at her close call, Elena scrambled from the bed and pulled one of Rufus’s robes on, belting it tightly before she, too, headed out to see what was going on.
“Lazard!” Rufus said, and for a moment he was almost relieved…until the familiar suspicious rivalry kicked in, making him hiss, “What are you doing here?”
“I came by to drop off some paperwork and found chaos,” Lazard smoothly said, unruffled by the madness around him. He stepped into the room with a soft wrinkle of his nose. “Dead security guards, shouting, missing wives – whatever have you managed to do now, Rufus?”
“I haven’t done a damned thing!” Rufus snarled. “What dead bodyguards? And don’t scold me like a child, damn it! What the hell is wrong with everyone tonight?”
He glared from Cloud to Denzel to Lazard, angry and bewildered.
“Rufus,” Lazard began, straightening his tie out of habit. “The guards posted at the guardhouse are dead, and I distinctly heard this young man say that he saw someone leaving the premises with your wife’s body. Perhaps you can tell me what is wrong?”
“I’m done trying to talk sense to a drunk!” Cloud said, returning Rufus’s glare with a darker one of his own. “I’m trying the police – maybe this time they will listen to me.”
“I don’t think so,” Lazard said, before Rufus could even react. The blond removed his glasses and began to clean them with his spotless white handkerchief.
Cloud gaped at him, utterly shocked.
“Look, Mister Deusericus, I know you’re co-chair of ShinRa Industries, but – ”
“I will take care of this,” Lazard told him, putting his glasses back on. “The police will not be involved. The ShinRa name must be upheld.”
Rufus flushed, ashamed of the level of relief he felt. Once more, Lazard was the one to remember responsibility, to come to the defense and rescue of the ShinRa name. Rufus knew that he should have been the one to so easily rebuff Cloud’s suggestion, to take charge of the situation and turn it to his advantage.
Instead, Lazard was the one to stride in, all silky and urbane, clearly in control.
“Strife,” Cloud supplied, thoroughly put out with having to name himself yet again. “Cloud Strife.”
“Mister Strife,” Lazard said, affecting not to notice Rufus glancing furtively back towards his bar. “I understand why you wish to go to the authorities, but let me assure you that I will handle this little issue without involving unnecessary press.”
Rufus snorted and said, “He is the press! He works for FLASH! And why are you here again, Strife?”
“You let me in to speak to your wife, remember?” Cloud flatly asked, irritated.
“Well…maybe you had a hand in this madness,” Rufus suggested.
“Why, you arrogant, drunk asshole – ”
“Mister Strife,” Lazard cut in, stepping up to block Cloud’s glare in Rufus’s direction. “What precisely did you see? I need to know everything.”
Cloud blinked at him a few times, and then held out his phone, letting Lazard scroll through the pictures.
“I’ve already sent them to my colleagues,” he said, forestalling any attempts to erase them. “I don’t like what’s happened here, Deusericus. Apparently, I’m the only one who cares that Yazoo ShinRa is dead.”
Lazard frowned at the pictures and looked back at Rufus, who was sidling up to his bar. The man poured himself another drink and peered into the bottle when it didn’t yield a full cup.
“Are you serious?” Cloud cried. “Your wife is dead! What the hell are you doing?”
“Looking for his dignity, no doubt,” Lazard observed, and handed the phone back. “You knew an awful lot about what was happening here, Mister Strife. I believe it would be wiser to keep you close for now. I want to see her suite. You’re coming, too, Rufus.”
Reno hit the room right after they left it, and felt another bout of nausea wash over him. He couldn’t remember why he was in this house or what had happened, he just knew he’d had a really bad seizure but that he’d managed to get to a bed before it struck.
He sat down at the bar and dropped his head into his hands, willing the shakes and the sickness to go away. Something bad had happened to Yazoo, they thought that she was dead, and every time he heard that shout in his mind his whole gut cramped up with sick fear.
He tried to remember where he’d been, what he’d been doing, but this kind of thing had happened to him before after a particularly terrible seizure. At least this time he hadn’t pissed himself, but he could do without the temporary amnesia. Last time he’d recalled things after the fact, but he wasn’t sure he could this time. Nothing was reminding him of anything, nothing was jogging foggy memories.
He felt the nausea fade and staggered to his feet, following in the wake of the small party headed to Yazoo’s suite. He felt like he should remember something, because he was sure he’d been here before the seizure struck…but all he got was a wretched feeling of loss and the surety that, whatever had happened, he was responsible for it.
There was no sign of a struggle, no whisper that aught had gone awry. Cloud had told Lazard of Rude’s history on the way to Yazoo’s suite, of what he’d found out and knew from personal experience. Lazard was at once dismayed and unsurprised that Rufus had failed to do any sort of check on the man at all, and Rufus was too offended by their censure to feel bad about it. He hung in the doorway with Denzel, moping and sullen, his empty cup in hand.
“And are you quite sure of your facts?” the man asked, crossing to the closet within Yazoo’s neat, spacious bedroom. He wrenched open the door just to check and revealed the cowering, trembling body of Marlene.
Reno shoved his way past Rufus and Denzel as Lazard gently urged the stricken young lady to her feet, holding her up with one arm around her narrow waist. She looked scared out of her wits and couldn’t stop shaking, sputtering over and over, “He’s killed her! And I didn’t help her! I didn’t!”
“Hush, now, it’s alright,” Lazard soothed, and Rufus began to show signs of alarm now that there was a witness. He huffed indignantly when Reno pushed past him, not expecting his friend to have woken up so quickly.
“Where is she?” Reno demanded.
“You tell us,” Cloud snarled, rounding on him, hands on hips. “You were one of the last people to see her alive. How much did you pay Rude to kill her, huh?”
“What?” Reno asked, confused. He glanced back at Rufus, who was flushed and angry.
Denzel came forward and put his arm around Marlene from the other side, helping her to sit on Yazoo’s bed and holding her close while she sobbed, his baleful eyes on the arguing men.
“I didn’t pay nobody to knock her off! What the fuck are you talking about?”
“You kicked me out of her room!” Cloud flared. “You told me to get lost and not come back, and on my way out I found the security guards dead in the shack! By the time I finished checking for the camera footage, I came back to find Rudolph Doležal stuffing her body into the trunk of a car that no one seems very interested in finding!”
Reno paled and backed up a step, looking back at Rufus again. In a low, strained voice, he asked, “You didn’t check up on him, did you?”
Rufus flushed but said nothing in answer. He only gestured at Reno’s bare torso and said, “Go get your clothes on, we can talk later.”
“We’ll talk now!” Reno snapped, and Lazard watched the proceedings with keen, attentive interest. “I told you to check that guy out! I told you! What the fuck happened here, Rufus? Where is she? Did you honestly think that I wouldn’t care if you fucking knocked her off? We gotta find that car, Rufus! He can’t get away with this!”
“He choked her and he left,” Marlene whimpered, hiding her face against Denzel’s throat, soaking his skin with tears. “I saw the whole thing! And you were here, Mister Reno! How could you let this happen?”
She lifted her head and fixed her accusing, angry eyes on his shocked face.
“You argued with her! You hurt her! And when you left her all alone and suffering, he came in and finished the job!”
Cloud glanced from one to the other and said, “Tell me again how you didn’t set this up.”
“Alright, that’s enough,” Lazard said, forestalling any angry arguments. He pulled his cell phone out, saying as he sent messages, “If I find out that anyone in this room ever speaks of what happened here tonight, I will have them exiled to a very tiny, very private, very desolate little island in the middle of the world’s coldest ocean.”
They all looked at him, too surprised to respond.
“I will take care of this,” he said. “Denzel, please take Miss Marlene to Rufus’s den and see what sense you can make of her story. Cloud, go with them, please, and make sure you take down everything that she says – you’re in this up to your eyeballs, now, we may as well make use of you. We’ll discuss compensation afterwards. Rufus, you’ll stay here with me and we’re going to have a very long and doubtlessly boring discussion regarding your culpability in this situation. And Reno, I suggest you go home and tend to your business, because this is none of yours.”
Denzel helped Marlene to her feet and Cloud sullenly assisted him. The talk of compensation had mollified him, but he was clearly unhappy about not pursuing Yazoo’s killer.
Reno bristled and nearly started another argument, but suddenly paled and swayed to one side. In a breathless and pained voice he said, “Only for now, Lazard. We’ll talk later. I wanna know what happened to her, and I wanna know what we’re gonna do to find her and bring her body home.”
“For all intents and purposes, Yazoo ShinRa is dead,” Lazard coolly told him. “What we’re going to do now is make sure that no more ShinRas meet the same fate.”
Reno glared at him a moment longer before he reluctantly followed after Denzel, Marlene, and Cloud.
No one saw Elena in the shadow of the foyer doorway, quiet and alert, able to hear quite clearly everything that was said in Yazoo’s bedroom.
Once everyone was gone, Rufus once more was alone with the co-chair of ShinRa Industries, a man who was equal in rank to himself, if not better groomed for the Presidency.
“Sit, before you fall down,” Lazard said, untying the sash on his coat and shedding it, draping it carefully over the back of the little chair at Yazoo’s desk.
He was impeccably dressed in a tasteful suit, his lavender tie perfect and his white shirt starched. Rufus felt a shoddy second next to him, unshaven, dressed in his bathrobe, his hair uncombed.
Lazard began to open the drawers of the desk, rummaging through things as he said, “You have set yourself up to have a big problem, Rufus – one which could end in a very bloody, very long war.”
“I didn’t have my wife killed,” Rufus sullenly said, glaring at him.
Lazard sighed and turned to face him, saying, “I have it on good authority that you were in league with Reno to do some unknown thing to Yazoo. Wutain assets were mentioned. Care to elaborate?”
Rufus poked his lower lip out and refused to answer.
“Rufus,” Lazard said, and made an elegant gesture of exasperation. “It may have escaped your notice, but I am here to help clean up whatever mess you’ve managed to make. Now, tell me everything, or I’ll inform the President that he needs to increase weapons production because we shall very soon be at war with the Cetrans.”
Rufus paled, beginning to realize what the loss of Yazoo meant. His wife’s family would have questions, would demand answers he simply did not have. If Rufus could not satisfy them, if there was the slightest whisper that he had played a part in her death, then they would clamp down on this country and exterminate the lot of them. The treaty between them had vanished with Yazoo, and suddenly things were a good deal more serious.
“I see you begin to comprehend the gravity of our situation,” Lazard said, pushing away from the desk to go sorting through Yazoo’s nightstand.
Rufus had to swallow twice to get his pride down, but his voice was steady when he asked, “What do you suggest?”
Lazard lifted a slim black book out of the drawer, followed by a ribbon-bound packet of similar books.
“I will inform the police that Yazoo has fled the country in the company of a very dangerous internationally wanted criminal, leaving no note of explanation outside of the fact that she felt trapped here,” he said. “This will explain her lack of presence in society and garner you sympathy. It will also put the Jenovas in your corner as opposed to tossing you out of it.”
Rufus weighed that and asked, “Can’t we just tell him that he kidnapped her? It’s partially true.”
“No, they would expect a ransom demand and would grow suspicious when none was forthcoming,” Lazard explained, folding back the cover on the loose book to scan the first page. “They would also demand to know why you allowed such a man to guard her in the first pl – ”
“He said her father had sent him,” Rufus cut in, earning himself a scathing look from Lazard.
“Did you verify?” the man asked, and when Rufus flushed, he added, “I believe it is safe to say that he was lying. No, Yazoo running away would explain her lack of contact with her family – she would be ashamed of flouting their wishes and fearful of their anger. She could remain ‘absent’ indefinitely. Besides, in Cetran tradition, only death can end a marriage, so until there is a body, you remain her husband and a part of their family.”
Rufus considered it and realized that Lazard was right. Pretending that Yazoo had run out on him would work better than revealing the truth.
“You will play the part of the wounded and bewildered husband,” Lazard said. “And you will only speak in special appeals for her to return, all other press will be handled by me. And now…”
He turned and dropped the books into Rufus’s lap, leaning close to say directly into his face, “You need to tell me exactly what happened to bring us to this point.”
Reno made his own phone-calls in the car on his way back to his place, sending out his dogs to try and find that car. He tried Kadaj again, and once more got the disturbing message that the phone had been disconnected, which meant the Cetran boy was more than nominally pissed at him.
But that paled before the larger, more pressing issue – Yazoo was dead.
They were so sure of it that it must be true. No one stuffed a living body into the trunk if they cared for the person they did it to. Marlene watched her get choked to death, watched Rude leave with an envelope…
Something tugged at his memory as the city lights flashed past the window. An envelope, and Yazoo’s sick sobs. He pushed it away out of instinct and cursed himself for it a second later as the ghostly memory faded back into nothingness.
He trembled, sweat breaking out on his pale skin. He really hoped that Mei Li was home, because he could use some Blitz right now to clear his shakes, and she always kept a bunch of the small blue pills on her.
Yazoo was dead, and everything about the last few days was foggy. He knew he’d been with her, and now that she was gone, he wanted those memories back.
“Fuck amnesia,” he growled, shaking his shaggy head, his heart heavy. He’d go through his travel itinerary, he’d check his flights and receipts – surely something would trigger the return of his memories, because he didn’t have the patience to wait for time to unveil them.
He was still equal parts furious and despairing when he returned home, so much so that he shoved Neala aside without listening to her anxious chatter.
He pushed open the heavy wooden doors of his suite and stopped short, taking in the bare foyer with incredulous eyes.
There was no flurry of feathers, no indignant squawking – every last one of his exotic birds was gone.
And he knew…he knew.
Kadaj had always said that Reno would know when he truly left him, because he would take the birds with him, not wanting to leave them in his lover’s careless hands. Kadaj had gone, but he had not broken his word.
He strode through the empty room and into his bedroom, flinging open the closet, then the dresser drawers, searching for some small sign that Kadaj was still here.
Nothing. Not even Mei Li was around to shed light on this for him.
Kadaj was gone, and not all of his panic was from knowing that Sephiroth would skin him. The greater part of it was a deepening of that heavy loss he’d suffered with Yazoo. Kadaj had been a huge part of his life for so many years that knowing he was gone left Reno adrift. Yes, the boy had threatened, but Reno had never imagined that Kadaj would truly leave him.
Now…now he knew better.
Cloud had resigned himself to the situation despite his prior determination that no other life be lost at the hands of Rudolph Doležal while he could stop it. He took a good portion of the blame for himself, for not being more insistent with the police, for not warning her when he had her alone. He’d just never dreamed that something would come of it so soon, or that Reno would allow her to be harmed.
And after interviewing Marlene, it would seem to him that Rufus was more involved than he’d first thought possible.
The events that she described prior to Yazoo’s death were too disparate to be a set-up for Rude, and Rufus could not be unaware that his best friend was both sleeping with and blackmailing his wife somehow. Especially since, from what it looked like, Reno had come directly back to Rufus’s suite after the fact.
“And you don’t know what it was over?” he asked again, leaning against the desk.
“No,” Marlene whispered, huddled in a chair while Denzel kept a friendly, soothing hand on her shoulder. “He made her call her father and have their Wutain assets transferred to some company…Dai something, or Dey something…”
“So her family knows she was being blackmailed,” Cloud mused, thinking that this mess was going from bad to worse.
“D…do…” Marlene hiccupped on a sob and managed to ask, “Do you think Mister Reno had him k…kill her?”
Cloud thought back on what she’d told him and said, “No, I don’t, actually. I think Doležal saw his chance and he took it. This blackmail thing just gave him an opportunity.”
Marlene made a strangled sound and fell into wretched tears, sobbing hysterically, “I told him to come! I got scared when I heard Mister Reno make her cry and I texted him to come! It was all my fault!”
Neither Cloud nor Denzel could think of any way to console her, but Denzel at least tried. He crouched next to her chair so that she could sob on his shoulder, and said to Cloud in a low voice, “You’d best go tell Mister Deusericus.”
Cloud nodded, and headed back out to find Lazard.