Disclaimer: The characters belong to Dick Wolf, René Balcer and the actors who bring them to life. No harm intended, no money made.
Archive: Fanfiction - anywhere else, just ask
Feedback: Please! It's always welcome
"Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy: its after-flavour, metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been poisoned."
Charlotte Brontë (1816–55), English novelist. Jane Eyre, ch. 4 (1847).
Chapter 1 - Vengeance
Another date with Denise broken. Never mind that he wasn't supposed to see her until tomorrow morning. Being called to the scene of discovery of a murder victim at midnight on a Saturday pretty much guaranteed that he wouldn't make it for their Sunday brunch, and probably not the matinee performance of 'Rent' either. Shit! She was already considering calling it all off – he could feel it. This could very well be the final nail in the coffin.
The only information he'd been given over the phone was that a City Councilman and his wife had found a male murder victim as they cut through Central Park on their way home from Tavern on the Green. Approaching the taped-off area in the Park, Detective Bobby Goren saw a small cluster of police and CSU personnel milling about on the path, waiting for the generators and portable floodlights to be put in place before stepping all over the grassy crime scene. One person in particular caught his eye and he wondered if she had been with the victim, or if she was simply a curious spectator. Viewed from behind, he couldn't help but admire her petite, slender form draped in a black cocktail dress. A complicated series of clips swept her hair up off her neck, exposing a graceful line that extended down the expanse of pale skin and spine revealed by the vee at the back of her dress. The muscles of her well-formed calves were flexed atop the three-inch heels of the sandals she wore. It was a mildly cool evening and her hands rubbed her bare biceps in an attempt to generate some warmth.
"Hey, Rick," Goren greeted a CSU supervisor he recognized, all the while keeping his gaze on the chilled woman. At the sound of his voice, she turned and Goren started in surprise. How could I not know it was her?
His partner, Alex Eames, walked over to join him while he stood mutely apprizing her, pondering the tiny spark of interest he'd felt before realizing who she was. "Not a word, Goren," she warned. He must have looked as shocked as he felt. Bobby shook his head and held up his hands in surrender before she finally gave him a crooked smile of greeting. She stood beside him and he leaned down so only she would hear him. "It would have been a good word," he said in a low voice. Eames shivered and he automatically reached to remove his jacket for her, but she shook her head. "I'm fine."
He frowned but didn't force the issue. No longer able to ignore the obvious, he had to ask, "Hot date?"
"Not any more," she grumbled.
Bobby attributed the ribbon of pleasure that snaked through him to the old adage that, 'Misery loves company.' If he was going to have to cancel a date, at least he wasn't the only one.
"What do we have?" Goren forced his thoughts to the business at hand.
"I probably don't know any more than you do. Male victim, discovered by Councilman Rose and his wife." Eames was rubbing her arms again and this time Bobby didn't give her a chance to argue. She smiled her thanks when he draped his leather jacket over her shoulders and she pulled the lapels tight.
"Detectives." They heard one of the technicians call out moments before the world around them exploded with sound and light as the generators and floodlights kicked in, leaving them blinking in the sudden brightness.
Bobby was about to duck under the yellow tape when he heard his partner swear, "Dammit!" He looked back and saw her eyeing her shoes. One slender heel had apparently sunk into the soft ground and was now skimmed over with dirt. "These are new shoes," she complained angrily. Bobby had to smile. He was unused to Eames being so typically female about things like shoes. "Wait here," he told her. He walked over to one of the CSU techs and came back with a pair of the cloth-like booties they used to cover their shoes when necessary. "The grass is dry, just be careful where you step."
"Thanks," she said as she took the booties from his hand. "I'll watch for glass."
"I was thinking more about the dogs." He grinned at her look of disgust. Gripping his arm to maintain her balance, Alex slipped off first one shoe then the other before putting on the booties. When wearing heels, her head barely cleared his shoulder. In her stocking feet, Alex's ear would rest exactly over his heart if she were to lean against him. Dangerous thought.
They carefully walked over to where the body lay, splayed out with his head tipped back and his arms and legs spread wide – nude except for his white briefs. There was no mistaking what the murderer intended for the world to see.
"Strangulation," Eames said it first.
Goren nodded then crouched next to the body. "But look at the marks." He turned the victim's head from one side to the other to reveal the angry welts and deep scoring on the flesh behind each ear. "These were caused by upward pressure. The killer would have to have been much taller – above him somehow."
"The victim was kneeling?"
"Maybe," Goren sat back on his heels. "Or maybe this is a hanging." He looked up and pointed toward the branches above them. "But not from this tree. There aren't any branches strong enough to hold him."
Alex swiveled around, scanning the ground surrounding the body. "I don't see any drag marks."
Bobby stood up and looked over the same stretch of ground. "And no tire tracks. Which means if he was hanged, he would have been carried here." He cocked his head and looked back at the body. "He weighs what? Maybe 220?" Eames nodded agreement. "Well…there would have been more than one assailant."
Spying Rick directing some of the technicians, Goren called him over. "Come daylight, you'll need to check all the trees in a…a hundred-yard radius for evidence of a hanging." Rick glanced uneasily at the body then back at Bobby before answering, "You got it."
Walking slowly around the body, Goren was considering the psychology behind the scene before him. "He's laid out here…exposed. On display…"
"Humiliation." Eames immediately caught on to what he was thinking.
"But why not go all the way?" He stopped pacing and frowned at her in question. "Why go to all this trouble then… leave him in his underwear?"
"Aversion to male genitalia?" Eames looked up at him and he nodded. Good possibility. "Lesbian?"
"Or a victim of sexual abuse," Bobby spoke softly. He made a small gesture with his chin and they each began to fan out in opposing directions, looking for evidence or anything out of the ordinary that might be relevant.
"Eames." He spotted it, about fifty feet away from the victim.
She walked over to where he was kneeling in the grass and considered the object in front of him. "It could be unrelated," she said of the two-inch square wooden toy block, the kind given to toddlers to teach them their numbers and the alphabet.
Goren spotted a CSU photographer and waved him over. "Take pictures of this, please." After a series of flashes, Goren picked up the toy and held it out for an evidence bag. Still crouched, he did a final scan of the surrounding area.
"Let's finish up here."TBC…