"What do you think, Firo?"
Two men in plainclothes stood in the middle of an abandoned warehouse stained with blood, a body laying against the far wall. A small group of crime scene investigators gathered around the corpse, taking samples and swabbing the stains on the floor. Two uniformed officers sealed off the area with police tape, and one more stood by to give his report as first on scene. Other than the dead body of an older man and the blood everywhere, the room was empty save for some rotting wooden crates off to the opposite side and the trash littering the ground from homeless drifters that made their stay in the warehouse days ago.
The taller of the team, Maiza Avaro, held a notepad in his hands, a few illegible notes scrawled across its open page. He surveyed the area with a calm expression, as if the horror of the murder glanced right off of him. Only a close look at his eyes would reveal the glimmer of regret that meant he was still human enough for the job. Many men lost some part of themselves, the soft tissue of their heart calcified, over the years when working as a homicide detective. Maiza was in no danger of such a fate. He was one of the older members of the police department, and one of the few that held the rank of Detective Grade One.
In contrast, his partner, Firo Prochainezo, had entered the force only a few years prior, though he'd interned and volunteered since his preteen years. Maiza worried about him, since his motivation for joining the force had nothing to do with an affinity for the job, so much as wanting to find a place to belong and a substitute family. Men with those motivations were more prone to having the work suck dry their spirit, the years withering them to a husk. Still, Firo was the most promising man ever to enter the so-called "Martillo" precinct, and the youngest ever to reach Detective rank. He possessed a sharp eye, and a determination that forced, rather than puzzled, the truth out of a situation. He also had a knack for dealing with people and eliciting information. When the man was up for promotion, Maiza had put in a recommendation, and he'd picked Firo up as a partner soon afterwards.
Firo stuck his hands in his pockets and studied the area.
"Looks pretty straightforward to me, Maiza. Throat slashed, no cleanup, older and shabby-looking victim. Some wino picks our victim off for spare change, or some kids looking to rough up a homeless guy. Those types aren't too clever." Firo said, shrugging.
The department received a large number of cases involving the murder of the city's many homeless people. People always looked to the most vulnerable for that kind of violence, and most assumed the police department wouldn't look too closely into it. Though Firo hated to admit it of the people he thought of as family, the assumption often proved true.
Maiza listened to Firo's deduction, shaking his head when his partner finished. He placed one hand on Firo's shoulder and pointed to the victim's corpse.
"Good observation, Firo, but I'm afraid you've missed an important point." He said
Firo sighed. He wanted to live up to his new position, especially after receiving so much attention over his young age, but once more, he'd made a mistake. Determined to rectify the situation, he tried to pick out more details of the scene.
"What is it, Maiza?" He asked.
"Look at the body. It'll come to you." Maiza reassured.
Firo squinted, frowning as he tried to pick out the vital point that rendered his theory incorrect. It took several minutes, but he finally caught the golden glint peeking out from the man's sleeve.
"A watch. A wino would've pawned that off first chance he got. And a mugger would've pocketed it. You thinking this was target-specific, Maiza?"
"Well, I'm thinking there's more here than meets the eye, at least." Maiza said.
Tapping a finger to his cheek, the younger detective took an account of the warehouse layout: the location of the windows , the doors, the light sources, the weather. Pulling out his own notebook, he drew a quick sketch of the place, even though the crime scene techs were already taking photographs. He liked to have information on hand, in case he forgot anything, which happened often.
"Huh. Plenty of entrances for the killer to come through, but not any near where the body's positioned." Firo noted.
"And what does that tell you?"
"Either the killer moved the body, or he wasn't worried about stealth, I guess. If he wanted to sneak up on the guy, plenty of opportunity to wait until the dead guy was near a window."
"Perhaps our victim had a meeting here, with his killer."
"Maybe. Ah, weird place for a meeting, isn't it?"
"Indeed. Or very convenient. No witnesses, no cameras, plenty of abandoned lots and alleyways to park a car in if you don't want to be seen."
"Hey, you saying this was premeditated, Maiza?"
"I'd say that's your conclusion to draw. As primary."
Firo whipped around to stare up at Maiza, eyes widened. The older man smiled down at him, giving his shoulder a firm squeeze.
Unsure he'd heard correctly, Firo repeated, "As primary? You're making me primary on this?"
In affirmation, Maiza tilted his head forward. He'd been watching his new partner closely over the last few cases, and he'd decided the boy lived up to expectations. Besides, the current case appeared interesting enough to test Firo's skill, without being too difficult. Of course, that was only Maiza's preliminary analysis, but after being on the force for so long, Maiza found his judgment worked out more often than not.
"Wow. Thanks, Maiza. But are you sure? I mean, you're still a lot smarter with this stuff than I am."
Since Firo had only been partnered with Maiza recently, and he'd only made detective a few months ago, Firo had yet to assume the role of primary on any of their cases together. He had complete confidence in his ability to assist in closing cases, knowing full well he'd earned his young promotion. However, the thought of taking lead, of assuming Maiza's usual responsibilities, left him a bit unsure.
Maiza moved his hand and patted Firo's back. "Absolutely. I think you're ready."
Firo made a fist, grinning to himself. "Alright. I'll close this in a cinch, just you see."
One of the criminalists waved over to the pair, a labeled evidence bag in his hand. Beside him, the first on scene chatted with the scene photographer, waiting for a detective to take his statement. Firo raised a finger to signal that he'd be right over. For a moment, he prepared to ask Maiza for his instructions, before he remembered he had to call the shots on this.
"How about you go canvas the area, see if there's anyone who might've been hanging around last night? And I'll take these guys." Firo suggested.
Maiza nodded and walked off towards the main warehouse entrance. In all likelihood, they'd find no viable witnesses. Anyone they found in the area would be too strung out or mentally degraded to give an accurate testimony, if they even agreed to talk to a detective in the first place. Still, it was a step in the procedure, and so they had to take care of it. So Maiza set out, sparing one glance back at his partner, before leaving the investigation in his hands.
And with a spirit full of resolve, Firo headed over to the criminalists, prepared to prove himself to the police department he'd given his life to.
By that evening, the body had been prepared for autopsy. It must have been a slow week for the mortician, because Firo's cases usually didn't get such priority status. Not helping was the fact that the head coroner lived with Firo, and she went out of her way to avoid any accusations of favoritism.
Ennis leaned over the corpse, examining the slash across the man's throat. She wore a pair of light blue scrubs over her thin frame, her red hair bobbed to keep out of her face. Her eyes narrowed with an intense scrutiny, the analytical processes going through her mind visible in her expression. Deft, her fingers clutched a stained scalpel, which she maneuvered over key areas of the wound. Every now and then, she made a note in the file laying on a counter to the side, or she turned on her recorder to make a comment.
Across the room, Firo watched her work, a methodical and gruesome process he'd watched countless times before, and he thought to himself how lucky he was to have Ennis as his roommate. They'd been living together for years, and Ennis's intelligence still astounded him. She nodded at the throat wound and went to make a note, leaving Firo to squint at the injury to try and figure out what she'd observed. However, unlike Ennis, he couldn't extract any information from the sight.
Since Ennis tended to remain quiet while working, Firo decided to ask. "So, what're you thinking, Ennis?"
She paused, about to take a sample. Without looking up, she responded.
"The slashed jugular is the cause of death. It appears to have been caused by a small knife - waved blade, rear serrated. You'd probably know more than me about that." She said.
As a knife aficionado, Firo was inclined to agree. It puzzled the rest of the police force, who thought it a useless skill since they carried guns. Firo liked using knives, though, enjoyed the directness of it, the amount of agility and dexterity they needed to master. A blade in his hand felt more like an extension of himself than a handgun ever did.
"That's a common make. You'll find that at pretty much every shop in this city selling knives. I don't think we'll find any leads there."
Ennis tilted her head. "Well, that follows. The wound is consistent with a knife being dragged left to right across the throat, from behind."
"What?" Firo said, walking closer to look at the mark himself. "But that kind of knife isn't made for slicing. It's a stabbing knife."
"Exactly. And the serrated edge makes for a messy draw. Combined with the angle of the cut, which indicates a shorter attacker, by the way, I'd say the killer is rather inexperienced. Wouldn't you?" Ennis said.
"Huh. A first kill? Well, lends wait to Maiza's target-kill theory."
Ennis grabbed a syringe from her tray of tools and began to draw fluids from the abdomen. Tests on it would indicate drug or alcohol use, in conjunction with the blood samples taken earlier. Firo watched as he walked back around to the counter.
"Where is Maiza, anyway?" She asked.
Firo folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against the counter, flashing Ennis a grin.
"Eh, he's off looking through the crime scene evidence, trying to get some dirt on who the guy was. No ID, from what I hear." Firo said. "But he doesn't have to be here. Only the primary does."
Ennis glanced up. "Oh? He made you primary? Congratulations. I am sure you will do well."
"I know I will. But thanks." Firo said.
Shuffling his feet against the tiled floor, Firo looked down. He rubbed his arm, trying to formulate the right words. After a couple minutes of silence, Ennis moving to complete each step of the autopsy with precision, he decided to posit a question.
"Hey, I was thinking, maybe we could go out to celebrate or something tonight? Ah, maybe get dinner?"
Even though they'd been living together for so long, the two were just platonic friends with one another. Firo raised no complaint about that, even though merely thinking about Ennis accelerated his heartbeat and lit a spark of joy inside him. He knew Ennis stayed busy with work and keeping up with the field, so there wasn't much time for her to date. And she seemed oblivious to his feelings, anyway. Firo didn't care, though. Just being able to watch her work and having the privileged to come home to her was enough to satisfy him.
"That's a good idea. We should bring Czes as well." Ennis said, referring to the young prodigy who'd come to live with them after a series of odd events a couple years ago.
"Yeah. Of course. We'll bring him." Firo said, defeated.
He didn't mind spending time with Czeslaw; he'd just hoped to have some time alone with Ennis. It was his fault, though. Should have made it clearer to her what he wanted, because Ennis always misinterpreted his intentions, but the thought of being so direct made him freeze up. So Firo didn't begrudge her for the mistake.
Firo forced himself to turn his focus back onto the autopsy, and the case at hand, trying to ignore his anticipation for the night ahead. Even with Czes along, a night out with Ennis incited fervor in the young man. He found it difficult to keep focused when he kept imagining Ennis in a nice suit, or maybe even a gown, or -
"Firo? Are you taking note of this?"
"Huh?" Firo said, brought back to the present.
And looking at her, he thought she looked just as striking in her oversized blue scrubs as in any formal wear. He smiled and walked to her side.
"Yeah, of course I am. Just run me through it again."
'Maybe I could get her a gift or something. Or put my hand on hers and see if she says anything. Ugh, why does this have to be so difficult? And Claire makes it look so simple.'
Firo leaned back against the wall of the police department building, taking a few minutes of a break between the autopsy and returning to his work on the case. The red-headed coroner dominated his thoughts. But then, she always did, like an apparition that hovered in the corners of his mind, on the edge of every idea.
'Why couldn't I just ask her to dinner alone? Why can't I just say the word 'date'?'
He knew his relationship with Ennis would unfold when the time was right, when both of them decided they were ready for it. He couldn't help but want to speed it along a little, though, in fear that nothing would ever become of them.
Before he could conjure up a solution, the phone in his pocket vibrated. He fished it out and checked the caller ID. Recognizing Maiza's work line, he flipped the phone open and pressed it to his ear.
"Maiza? Hey, I'm just on my way back to the office."
"You should come up soon then. I have identification on the body from this afternoon." Maiza said.
"Yeah? No surprise there." Firo commented, having pegged the deceased as a regular to the system, which meant his fingerprints would be on record.
"Yes, but not quite how we expected."
"Do you recall the assassin case that was in the news a few months back? The acquittal that had the press up in arms?"
Firo searched his memory. "Yeah, guy was starting to go funny or something, started killing people he didn't have contracts on. Luck's case, right? Wait, wait a second - you aren't saying our victim is that guy, are you?"
"I believe Luck Gandor was the prosecuting attorney, yes. And indeed, our victim is the infamous assassin. Goes by Smith, nothing else. No records of another name."
"What? No way, Maiza, you have to be kidding me. A guy with that rep doesn't up and buy it in some warehouse, caught off guard."
"Well, it appears this one did."
"You still want me to take primary on this, Maiza? Would be a pretty big collar for you, I bet." Firo said, knowing his partner hadn't counted on the case being so prolific.
"I'm sure. Quite a case for your first primary job, but I suppose it had to be that way. Your career seems fated to exceed expectations, Firo."
"If you say so." Said Firo, who considered it just a strange coincidence.
"Yes, well, I'll meet you up here, then. Plenty of material to look over. See you then."
Firo shut the phone as the dial tone rung in his ear. Sighing, he slipped the device back into his pocket and looked out towards the horizon.
"Plenty of suspects, too." He said to himself.
Who'd want to kill the hitman? Well, anyone related to the victims, for one thing. Then came anyone involved in a criminal organization that suffered a hit from the assassin. Not to mention all the man's unscrupulous employers and anyone involved with them. Add in the good Samaritans riled up from the media attention, and you had a stew of suspects and motivations and possible routes. This was nothing like the simple case he'd first expected.
Firo grinned to himself, fingers balling into fists at his side. It wasn't what he expected, but he was going to shut this case down anyway. The killer wouldn't even see it coming when Firo hit him with his investigation. And he would succeed.
Because he was Firo Prochainezo, detective grade three of the nicknamed 'Martillo' precinct of the NYPD. And he was ready to prove his dedication, whatever the cost.
A/N: New fic! Thought this would be an interesting idea. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed! Expect more soon.
Pairings: Firo/Ennis, Claire/Chane, Tick/Maria, Graham/Shaft, Ladd/Lua