Well, I'm finally writing a long Bartiamaeus fic. Not a one-shot, surprisingly. That isn't to say that I don't have a few more of those planned. I'm always thinking of one-shots. I love them. So fun to write...
Anyway, this fic is an idea that's been accumulating for a while, and now I've finally put it into words. I hope you like it! This chapter's pretty CSI-ish, so that might gross some people out. I dunno. But even if you don't like it, please review and help me make it better!
Disclaimer: I don't own The Bartimaeus Trilogy, although I do own the plot and any original characters in this fic, dammit!
A Thing Called Murder
"In films murders are always very clean. I show how difficult it is and what a messy thing it is to kill a man". - Alfred Hitchcock
Nathaniel sighed and ran his hand through his hair. This new… Resistance, if you could call them that, was quite an annoyance. Unlike the last group, they appeared to be organized, and had an idea about what they were doing. Their attacks were unpredictable, and always different. Whoever was leading them obviously was much more intelligent and learned than old Pennyfeather and his lot.
Sorting through his papers, he allowed himself a slight smile. Even if there were such annoying terrorist factions frolicking about the streets of the noble city of London, he had to be very pleased with himself. Two steady years as Internal Affairs Minister, and not one bad spot on his record. Not one. Well, except for this new nuisance. But rest assured, they would be dealt with quickly and cleanly, and in a while everything would be all right, and the English government could focus their full energies on the American campaign, as if the Resistance had never existed.
That reminded him. The American campaign. Ugh, those damn Yankees were getting on his nerves. Every time he achieved a victory on the home front, such as capturing the famous Czech spy Romanas Zebure, the rebels in the Americas scored a victory, or had another tea party, or some other ridiculous extravagance of the sort. It was very difficult to gain any acclaim when those bumbling idiots in charge of the army messed up again, stealing his thunder unintentionally. He'd never thought such stupid magicians would come to be some of his greatest adversaries, unknowingly, of course. No matter. As soon as he crushed the Resistance like a fly under the palm of his hand, he would coax Devereaux into giving him control of the army. That would put those Americans in their proper place.
Sighing, he took a sip of tea and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his eyes. Tonight, he would go to bed early. After a full week with no more than five hours of sleep a day, he was beginning to get awfully tired. Rather irritating, to tell the truth. Someday, he would concoct a spell to wash away sleepiness. But today, he was busy, so it would have to wait for a while.
"Sir?" It was Ffoukes. Since the Duvall incident, he had been promoted (how, Nathaniel didn't know) to the top Assistant of the Internal Affairs Minister, the spot Nathaniel had previously occupied. He looked up wearily.
"Sir, there's been an attack," said the older magician. Nathaniel sighed. "A magician was murdered outside a library."
"Very well. Tell my chauffeur the precise location and I shall be off," replied Nathaniel tiredly. The assistant nodded.
"Of course, sir," he said, nodding respectfully and leaving the room. Nathaniel yawned, stood up, and grabbed his coat from the hangar, draping it over his suit, which was considerably more loose than the one he had been wearing two years before. He nearly snorted when he thought of himself in that ridiculously tight suit. Honestly. What horrible taste he'd had. It was astonishing to him that he was, in fact, the same individual who had worn that tight suit.
Putting a stylish Italian hat over his hair, which was shorter now and, in his mind, quite sexier, too, he strolled out of his office and after his assistant.
The hustle and bustle of Whitehall had come to grow on him even more over the years, and now he began to feel lonely at home when telephones, the clicking of calculators, and bosses yelling at their underlings could not be heard. There was something to be said about the atmosphere of a government building, and, walking through the establishment of the Empire he was currently in, he fully appreciated that. He loved his job.
Stepping out into the clear fall air, he descended the steps quickly, approaching his limousine, which had been parked conveniently directly outside his office. Stepping in and sitting down in a dignified manner, he leaned back, staring out the tinted window.
"To the crime scene, James," he said. The chauffeur nodded, and the luxury car began to creep forward, pushing through the London traffic.
Finally, after much too long for Nathaniel's tastes, they arrived at the scene. The library was a prominent one- he himself had visited it quite a few times- and many magicians were known to stop by. He sighed, stepping out of the car, and approaching the crowd of people, knit in a tight circle around a piece of ground.
"Step aside, please," he ordered, motioning for them to part. They did, although reluctantly so, and he stepped forward, pulling on two latex gloves and kneeling to the ground.
The victim was a middle-aged portly man, wearing dark, trendy trousers and a long, willowy cloak. His mouth was open in a horrified manner, and dried blood caked it. Nathaniel shook his head. This was definitely not pretty.
It was then that he noticed a few drops of liquid on the ground beside the victim, and, curious, he pulled out a cue tip from a plastic container, dipping it into the foreign substance and studying it carefully. It was an odd mixture of colors, closest to an auburn; sighing, he placed it back in its container, sticking it in his pocket.
His attention was then caught by a speck of brown on the gray asphalt surface. Crawling over to the speck, he squinted his eyes, picking it up. It looked like a piece of wood, festively carved. He pulled out a plastic bag and placed it within it before pulling out the container with the cue tip in it and turning to Ffoukes.
"Get these to the lab," he said. Ffoukes nodded.
"Yes, sir," he replied dutifully before turning and heading off down the street.
Nathaniel poked and prodded the dead body for a few more minutes before sending it, too, to the lab. As he watched the body be carried away, he sighed. Murder really was a messy thing.
Nathaniel strolled through the crime lab impatiently, swinging open the door to the office of the resident scientist. Morris Fischer was looking into a microscope, not even acknowledging that he had heard Nathaniel enter the room.
"Any luck?" Nathaniel asked. Morris looked up.
"Oh, hi, John," he said cheerily. Walking over to a computer behind him, he held up a plastic container. "This is the mystery substance found at the scene and this-" he held up the small wooden structure in his left hand "-is our mystery carving."
"Again, any luck?" Morris smirked back at Nathaniel.
"What do you think?" he replied knowingly. Nathaniel smiled hopefully.
"That you identified what both of our pieces of evidence were," he said. Morris shook his head and grinned.
"John, you know me too well," he sighed. With a small chuckle, he turned to the computer screen. "Well, our mystery substance was actually three mystery substances. One consisted of potassium benzoate. Any guesses?"
Nathaniel looked at the ground thoughtfully.
"Isn't that a preservative?" he inquired. Morris nodded.
"Yep," he replied. Smiling, he shook his head. "Fine, John, I'll give you a few more and let you try again. That same one consisted of aspartame, caffeine, and caramel color, making it the dark brown shade it is."
"Still don't know," said Nathaniel, shaking his head.
"Okay, it also had high fructose corn syrup…"
Nathaniel thought quickly, putting the ingredients together.
"Sounds like something edible," he remarked. Morris grinned and turned back to the monitor again.
"And for one last major ingredient, carbonated water," he read from the screen. Nathaniel's eyes grew wide.
"A soda?" he said quizzically. Morris nodded.
"Bingo." He walked over to the microscope, tapping it lightly and leaning against the table on which it rested. "Now guess what gave it the red tint."
It didn't take Nathaniel long to figure that one out.
"Blood, of course," he answered sensibly. "What else could it be?"
"You are correct again, Mr. Mandrake," said Morris in a deep, television show host voice. "Now would you like to try for a million pounds?"
"Any clues?" he asked. Morris smiled.
"Afraid not," he said apologetically.
Nathaniel began to rack his brain for a second before shaking his head, deciding there was no point. "Oh, well, just tell me, I guess."
"Ah, that's too bad," commented Morris wryly, jeering at Nathaniel, enjoying his brief superiority. "It was saliva. Spit, to put it simply. There were two separate DNA strands, too, and I already checked; one of them belongs to the victim, Samuel Ross."
He was met by an indignant frown from Nathaniel.
"I know what saliva is, thank you very much," he snapped irritably. Morris shrugged back in response and he sighed. "So, are you saying our suspect was drinking a soda before or during their murder of the victim?"
"Yup, they even left enough for a DNA sample," said Morris simply. Nathaniel raised an eyebrow.
"Well, that's a bit disturbing, and lucky, too," he muttered darkly. Adjusting the cuffs of his suit, he straightened up. "Well, I guess I'd better be down to the morgue. No doubt Kellington's got a full report waiting."
"To be honest, I don't envy you," he called after Nathaniel as he walked out of the room. "Have fun!"
Nathaniel looked back skeptically as he threw open the door.
"Don't worry, I will," he said sarcastically. Nervously, he buttoned one of the buttons of his long coat. Trips to the morgue never completely suited him very well. It was always so… gross.
Nevertheless, Nathaniel entered the morgue no more than three minutes later, navigating the darkness of the cellar-like room until he approached a table. A body lay on the table, and a man stood over the body, scissors in hand.
"Have you cut him up yet?" he quizzed. Kellington sneered dryly.
"No need to," he responded bluntly. "It's clear: he was suffocated."
"Strangled?" Nathaniel stepped up to the table.
"Not quite," said Kellington, tilting up the head of the body. "Look, no marks."
Nathaniel looked at the body doubtfully.
"But that still doesn't explain the blood coming from the mouth," he said, bemused. Kellington sighed.
"Yes, but this does," he replied, opening the mouth and pointing a small flashlight back into it. "There's a circular cut in the back of his throat, where the tonsils used to be. It's not too clear, though; it looks like he twitched quite a bit, if you get my saying."
Comprehending the facts before him with unmatched speed, Nathaniel smirked.
"Would you say that circular cut is about the same size as the opening of a soda bottle?"
"Yeah, it looks around the same shape and size," he said. Peering at it through the mouth of the victim, he smiled. "Actually, I'd say I'm certain."
"So, a soda bottle was stuck down his throat, making him bleed, and he was alive while it happened. Is that all we've got?"
"I think it's safe to say he was suffocated to death using the soda bottle, judging by the fact that there was no damage to the throat besides the cut," stated Kellington, cutting the victim's skin down the middle in the torso. Looking at his insides, he nodded. "And look, he's got some blood in his lungs."
"Is it possible he died from the blood getting into his lungs?" Kellington shook his head.
"No, it would have taken a bit for that to happen," he said. "He would have suffocated by the time it trickled down the windpipe, anyway. Say, how was your body found?"
Nathaniel looked up at the ceiling, trying to remember the crime scene.
"He was lain on the stairs leading to the library," recalled Nathaniel. "Can we establish a time of death?"
"Yes, I think," said the mortician. He studied the body carefully. "Him being tilted against the stairs would have meant that the blood could have seeped down his throat and gotten into his lungs. The blood in his lungs isn't hard, yet; it will be in a few minutes, no doubt. So we can say that the murder probably happened early this morning, when it was still dark out."
"Kellington, you're a genius," he said happily, patting him on the back.
"I know, John. I know."
"Hey, John, guess what?"
"What?" rescinded Nathaniel, still feeling happy about the large amount of information they had received so far in the investigation.
"That piece of wood we found, I traced it back to its shop of origin," Morris stated, holding up the small carving. "It turns out, the Grimons' Store of Fine Arts and Crafts advertises their entire catalogue every year on the Times web site. And wouldn't you know it, this just happened to be Item 34H, or the top part of a bedpost made from Italian wood."
Nathaniel nodded, examining the wood, gloves still on.
"What quality is the bedpost?" he inquired. Morris looked back to the computer screen.
"It's of average quality, made for commoners mostly," he said. "I guess the decoration on top is just to make it look expensive. Anyway, did Kellington establish a cause of death or time period?"
"Of course, it's Kellington," he replied casually. Noticing Morris's inquisitive look, he continued. "Sometime, early this morning, our victim- what's his name, again?"
"Yes, our victim, Mister Samuel Ross, was attacked, subdued, and a soda bottle was stuffed down his throat, suffocating him and cutting the back of his throat, near the tonsils, in the process."
Morris stroked his chin thoughtfully.
"So, basically, this is our crime so far: Ross is attacked, he struggles, the soda bottle is stuffed down his throat, slitting the skin, the mixture of blood, soda, and saliva falls to the ground, Ross is subdued, laid back on the steps, and suffocated."
"Where did Ross work?" Nathaniel asked. Morris glanced at a sheet of paper.
"All it says here is that he was a businessman," he said. "Middle to upper class, too, judging by these tax reports."
Nathaniel shook his head. It just didn't make sense.
"If he was an able magician, then why didn't he summon a demon to defend him?" he wondered. Morris shrugged.
"No, it says here he'd been attacked once before, although he summoned an imp to fight away his assailant," Nathaniel said, walking next to Morris and reading off the sheet. He bit his lip and tugged at his coat nervously. "If he's survived an attack before, then why didn't he summon an imp this time?"
"Well, actually, there were traces of magic at the scene," stated Morris. Nathaniel whipped around.
"Yeah, and using that new technology system we just got- you know, the one from that company in Madrid- it traces it back to an imp, one who goes by the name of Regulus. And the magic matched Ross, suggesting the imp had been in his employ."
"Had been?" Nathaniel asked, bewildered.
"Yup. From the traces of magic we got, it looks like ol' Regulus bit the dust, too."
Nathaniel ran his hand through his hair worriedly. This was not good.
"Any other bits of magic lying around?" he asked. Morris shook.
"Nope, none at all. The body was found by a commoner, and then it was promptly blocked off," he said. Nathaniel frowned. This wasn't right.
Then, it hit him. It all fit into place, like pieces to a puzzle. Smirking, he glanced at Morris.
"Tell Ffoukes I need to talk with him when you next see him," ordered the young magician, sweeping his coat behind him dramatically and walking towards the door. "He needs to label this as an attack by the Resistance. Oh, we've got them this time. This time, they won't get away."
-To Be Continued-
Author's Notes: I really like this chapter because, mainly, I love CSI and this chapter was inspired by that show. Grissom is just so kick-ass. Anyway, Morris was a bit of a joy to write; I really like his sarcasm. But really, it only matters what you like. Tell me how to get better, please! Review! I want to get better, and I need your help!
Next Chapter: In Ignorance Isn't Bliss, Kitty confronts the murderer and things get a little tense at the headquarters of the Resistance. Spies are sent after Mandrake, and Kitty eavesdrops on two friends of the victim. All of this leads to one final surprise...