A/N: As usual, my willpower didn't last. This is the new casefile I mentioned in my author's note in WHBH. Inspired by my friend Xiris, who requested that I write him into one of my stories as "a very efficient serial killer." His wish is my command!
Startled, Eames pulled up short to keep from walking into her partner, who'd just come to a sudden stop in the middle of the path they were following through the park. "What?"
He stepped aside, allowing her a view of the scene his body had been blocking. "It's . . . it's him again."
She took a step past him and looked at the body that lay on the ground, surrounded by crime scene technicians, most of whom were crouched awkwardly a few feet away from it and trying to lean forward without touching the dark patches of grass that surrounded it. Alex knew all too well what that dark-stained grass meant. "Jesus," she muttered, raising a hand to rub her forehead as she turned to face her partner, "I was hoping . . ."
"I know. Me too." She looked shaken, and for a moment he considered asking if she wanted him to work the scene alone, but on the heels of that thought came the realization that she'd be offended, not appreciative, if he were to say such a thing. "Ready?" he said instead, slipping his hand into the pocket of his coat to fish out a spare pair of gloves.
She took a breath, then nodded. "Yeah."
Without further conversation, they headed down the gentle slope that led to the body, each automatically slipping into the role they were accustomed to playing at a new scene.
Eames looked around the clearing, searching for a detective on the scene, until she spotted a stocky, bearded man with a gold shield on his coat. "Detectives Eames and Goren, Major Case," she said shortly, using her pen to gesture over her shoulder at her partner, as she walked toward the detective. "Do we know who we're looking at?"
"Hey. I'm Brazzo," he replied, offering a hand to her at the same time as he turned to glance at the body. "Park West Detail. She's got a school ID in her pocketbook that says her name's Maria White. Card's from CUNY, good 'til '11."
"A grad student, then." She nodded and jotted that down, then took another look around the scene. "Who found her?"
"Young couple, in for the day from Jersey," he replied, jerking a thumb over his shoulder toward a shaken-looking young couple. "David and Elena . . ." He paused, checking his notebook. "David and Elena Keller, Upper Montclair, New Jersey."
Eames nodded again gave gave him a businesslike smile. "Ok. Thanks. Hang around, my partner might want to talk to you too."
"Has she been moved?" Goren asked the area at large as he squatted down at the edge of the blood-stained grass that surrounded the body.
"Uh, no," said a wiry man standing to his left. "The couple that found her . . . it was pretty clear she was dead when they got there. They didn't bother. Uh, I'm Detective McGuire," he added uncertainly when he got no response to his explanation. "That's my partner, Brazzo, over there."
Goren laid two fingers lightly over the woman's cut throat, probing the edges of the wound. "Uh, yeah. Hi. Is the M.E. here?"
McGuire blinked, wondering if he'd said something wrong. "Um, yeah. I think it's one of the woman M.E.s. She's -"
"Fancy meeting you here!" interrupted the woman in question as she entered from stage right, giving Goren's heel a friendly kick.
He looked over his shoulder and offered her a distracted smile, then returned his attention to the corpse in front of him. "Morning, Danielle. Want to tell me what I'm looking at here?"
"Well," she replied, sounding irritated by his distraction , "since you asked so nicely . . ."
Reluctantly turning his eyes away from the body again, he gave her a mildly impatient look and waited.
The medical examiner sighed and crouched down on the opposite side of the body. "Her ID says she's twenty-three. Looks relatively healthy. Cause of death . . ." She fingered the neck wound. "Pretty obvious, I think. Judging by the amount of blood, it looks like she died here."
"Struggle?" Goren asked, picking up one of the victim's hands and examining the fingernails.
"Not much. He probably hit her before she knew what was happening, and once she was bleeding . . ."
Sighing, he put down the hand and moved his attention to the torso, which was bare except for a bra. "This looks expensive."
"Huh?" Danielle said, surprised by his observation.
"My partner will probably know," Goren went on, ignoring her exclamation and leaning toward the body's legs. "Was she sexually assaulted?"
"Yeah," she said tightly, all traces of her smile disappearing as she gestured toward the victim's groin. "You're going to wish you hadn't heard about it, though."
Suspecting that he already knew what he was going to hear, he just clenched his jaw and waved a hand to tell her to go on.
"Definite vaginal trauma," she sighed, beginning to point out the injuries as she spoke. "Torn skin and abrasions."
"But . . . almost no bleeding."
"Yeah. No blood. He did it while she was bleeding out. And it looks like he used a condom." She paused, taking another look at the savaged body, and sighed. "You think it's your guy?"
Goren, too, looked back to the body, trying to see the bloody form as a woman who had been alive only hours ago. Maria White must have been an attractive girl; even with blood caked in her hair and dirt smeared over most of her face, he could see that she had finely-drawn features and a petite figure. She also had dark hair.
Dark hair, just like the last two victims.
Slight build, just like the last two victims.
Perimortem rape, just like the last two victims.
Tearing his eyes away from the body, he looked at Danielle and nodded. "Yeah, it's him. I'm going to need you guys to go over her with a fine-toothed comb, ok?"
"As if I wasn't going to do that anyway," she said with a sniff of annoyance. "You know -" She stopped there as she caught sight of the woman approaching them. "Would that be the partner who knows all about bras?" she asked Goren, tipping her head toward the newcomer.
"Uh, yeah," he said absently as he turned to his partner. "Eames, come over here and look at this bra."
Eames did as ordered, crouching down next to him and studying the body. "That's a new pick-up line, even for me. What is it about the bra that I'm supposed to be looking at?"
"What is it?"
"I beg your pardon?" she asked, blinking. "It's a bra. Come on, Bobby, I know you've seen one before."
He looked up and gave her a thoroughly unamused chuckle before turning back to the body and slipping a finger under one of the bra's straps. "I mean what brand is it. It looks expensive to me."
Giving him a slightly incredulous look, she leaned forward, pushed his hand aside, and twisted the back of the bra's band so she could see the tag inside it. "Victoria's Secret. Nice stuff for a grad student, but not really a budget buster. Have you found anything else, or were you hung up on the bra?"
"He was busy doing his job, Detective," the medical examiner said coolly. "As was I."
"Uh-huh." Giving the other woman a dubious look, Eames leaned slightly to the side in an attempt to see what was printed on her jacket. "And you are . . .?"
"Oh, uh, sorry," Goren mumbled, glancing at his partner. "This is, uh, Danielle Matthews. She's with the ME's office."
"Ah. A friend of yours?"
Flushing slightly, he shrugged, then turned back to the body. "Her throat was cut and she was raped. It looks like it's him."
"Hmm." She leaned forward again, examining the torso. "This stripping of the body, though . . . that's new. Check out these welts - it looks like he ripped her panties off."
"Rage?" Goren said thoughtfully, tracing one finger over the marks she had pointed out. "There wasn't a struggle, judging from her upper body. She was down well before he got to undressing her, so he would have had no real need to use violence when he did it."
"Escalation," she said, nodding slowly.
"How do you figure that?" she asked, planting her hands on her knees to help herself stand up. "You just said there was no struggle. She's not likely to have provoked him by going down like a stone."
Shaking his head, he straightened up beside her. "It didn't have to be direct provocation. Something about her . . . something she did while he was watching her . . ."
Eames sighed. "Why do I get the feeling we're going to spend the foreseeable future doing deep victimology on Miss Maria White?"
"Oh, come on, Eames. Where's your sense of curiosity?"
She snorted. "It went on vacation two bodies ago. I'm done with the officers - you want to talk to any of them?"
"Uh, I don't think so." He glanced over his shoulder at the small clutch of people standing a few feet away. "Not for now, as long as you've got the basics. You ready to go?"
"You don't have to ask me twice." Belatedly remembering the medical examiner, she turned to the other woman. "We want everythingyou can get off this girl, ok? Everything."
"I've worked homicide cases before, Detective. I don't need to be told to collect evidence. Ask your partner." With that, Danielle Matthews graced the partners with one last abrupt nod and walked away.
Eames, eyebrows raised, turned to Goren. "Ask you, huh?"
He grunted and turned toward the car. "She knows what she's doing."
"Oh, does she now? And how is it that you know this but I don't?" she teased, following on his heels as he started walking.
He gave her a dark look. "I'm sure you've already figured that out for yourself. Just take my word for it - she'll be fine on the case."
Chuckling, she unlocked the car and climbed in. "Are there any women left in Manhattan that you haven't dated?"
"Yeah." He pulled his door closed, then looked down to straighten his tie instead of looking at her as he said, "You."