There was a dead body.
There was a small trickle of blood that still came from the gunshot wound, it was blackened by powder, just above his nose. The eyes were startled, face still in a half smile, as if he'd been about to greet someone when he wound up with a bullet in his face.
Shell casings were all around the area, around the body.
Detective Buffy Summers stood over the decased, careful about keeping her boots out of the bright red puddle that was around the dead body. She wasn't worried about getting the blood on her other than not wanting bloody tracks all over the area as she tried to work the scene. The coppery scent of blood was in her nose as she croched down, lifting one of the casings with the end of her pen. "9MM. That's a rather big gun to bring into a party," she said.
Buffy looked around at the guests who were still milling just outsdie of the area. "All of these, only one hole in the victim. And no one saw a thing?"
"They were all in the bathroom," said a male voice.
Buffy saw a pair of shoes stop next to hers. They were black, shiny and without question expensive.
Buffy knew the voice, felt a shiver run through her body at it. She did her best to shove it away. "Angelus." She began standing to face him.
Detective Liam Angelus. He was the department's golden boy, and he was the bane of her existence.
"What are you doing here, Angel?"
His brown eyes looked past her and at the surroundings. He took in the party decorations, the glasses about the room. "I was told you might need a little help on this. Nothing more than that."
"I can handle things, thank you."
"One of the guests as the Mayor's big party turns up dead? The press is going to be all over this, and you need my help." Angel reached out a hand before he could stop himself. He pushed a strand of her blonde blocks that had come loose from the ponytail she habitually wore off of her forehead.
Buffy managed-just barely-to keep herself from slapping his large hand away from her, reminding herself that they were practically center stage right now, in the public eye. The last thing she needed was a picture of her doing that on the front page of the local papers in the morning. "Fine," she growled. Pulling out a notebook, she started filling him in. "The victims name is William Pratt. He was shot once and at point blank range. The weapon, a 9MM pistol. So far, that is about as much as I know. There's uniforms taking names and searching the property. It was a big party."
Angel's eyes slowly took in the scene, the assembled guests. "Who was our victim killed with?"
"No one," she said. "Maybe he was a friend of one of the Mayor's children or something." She stepped back when a man, dressed in all black, walked up. "Hey, it's about time you people showed up. Is it really that busy down at the morgue?"
Ethan Rayne made a noise at her, then sat his black bag and pulled out something that looked like a long meat thermometer. He slid it gently into the victim's side, down into his liver. After the reading, the numbers popping up on the front, he pulled it out and wiped it with a sterile alcohol swab. "Time of Death was around 10:30. I would say the Cause of Death is rather easy to establish with this one."
"Well, I didn't think he had been stabbed with an ice pick. I need everything you can get though, Rayne. This is a hot case, press is already gathering outside. I want to his blood tox screen as soon as possible."
"You'll get it as soon as I get it," Ethan said, standing up. "Why aren't you off on some date tonight, young woman? Beautiful night for it."
"What? You don't know? Good homicide detectives don't have personal lives, or romantic dinners. Those are for normal people." She patted the man on the back. "Soon as you can, okay?"
He waved his men in and the rest of the CSI crew as she and Angel stepped back. "I want to interview Harmony tonight." She turned and looked at the tall man beside her. "I suppose you want in on that."
It was more a statement then a question, but he answered it anyway. "Yeah."
"Great," she rolled her eyes and started to walk away to where she could see the Mayor and his family standing, just outside the line of sight of the press.
Angel stood and watched her for a moment, wondering why the hell he couldn't get her out of his head. She was beautiful, yes, with long hair that seemed to curl with a mind of it's own, defying rubber bands and bobby pins when it came to taming. Her eyes were strange, a hypnotic green. On top off it all she had a body that stirred a man no matter how many times he'd been stirred before.
And they two of them had had one incredible weekend, two unforgettable days and nights where he'd done his best to purge this need he had for her from his system.
It hadn't worked. He could still taste her on his tongue, feel her under his hands. He dreamed about her at night, waking with sweat beading on his forehead and her name on his lips. He'd catch a whiff of her scent, spicy and warm, and he couldn't help but look for her, watch her. He wanted her again, in his bed, under him, crying out his name in need and release.
He took a deep breath and lifted his hand amazed to see it shaking slightly. He had to get over this need for her. He could still remember dropping her off outside her apartment. She'd brushed a kiss across his lips, thanked him for the fun weekend and walked away without a second glance. As if it hadn't meant a thing to her. And she'd stayed away from him since, avoiding him as if he had the plague. Her attitude when forced to be with him was always antagonistic.
Buffy turned to look back at him and he quickly blanked his thoughts, hurrying to catch up with her. He could play the game just as well as she could.
"Harmony, how long did you know the victim?" Buffy asked, jumping right into the interview. They had borrowed the Mayor's study for the interview. Leather chairs and a long black leather couch grouped off to one side of the huge desk that otherwise dominated the room. Thousands of books graced the oak shelves. Expensive antique objects d'art were everywhere. The room reeked rich and made her nervous.
"Um, we met at Daddy's offices about six months ago. He works-worked there. Why would anyone want to kill him?"
"That's what we're trying to find out. You two were close?"
"We were in love. We were going to be married." The tears started streaming again and Buffy flinched at the wail that came from the pretty girl.
Angel picked up the glass of water he'd gotten her and handed it to her. "Then I'm sure William would want you to do everything in your power to help us find his killer, don't you?"
Harmony gulped audibly, wiping black mascara from under her eyes with the square of linen. She nodded as she swallowed again, visibly calming herself down.
"You and the vic-er-William were engaged?"
"Oh, well, not officially yet. But it was only until he got the money thing straightened out. As soon as he did that, well, then he was going to get me a ring and make it official." Harmony folded the handkerchief Angel had given her earlier into a tiny square, opened it and started again.
"Money thing?" Buffy asked, her eyes sharpening.
"He owed some guy some money, um, that guy that owns the Casino north of town. Willy something."
Buffy knew who she was talking about. Willy was a hustler turned con artist turned Casino owner and all around scum bag. She had had cause to invade his privacy on more than one occasion and she by far wasn't his favorite person.
"Some money? Or a lot of money?"
"Oh, um, he didn't talk about those things with me." She sniffed and used the handkerchief again. "He always said I shouldn't worry my pretty head over things like that. That it would give me wrinkles." Huge tears glistened in her big eyes that she turned Angel's way batting eyelashes to let one tear slide down her pale cheek. "He's gone now, and I'm all alone."
"Uh, yeah, Harm?" Buffy called the attention back to her. "Can you think of anyone who'd want to hurt William? Anyone at all?"
"His ex-girlfriend. That slut. She didn't want to let go of my William, said she'd get even with him for dumping her. Drusilla Keeble." She watched as Buffy wrote the name in her notebook. "I bet she did it, she killed him."
Buffy almost groaned out loud as she saw the sobs starting to build in the blonde again. They weren't going to get much more out of her tonight. But she had one more question. "Where were you when he was shot, Harmony?"
"Spike-William asked me to get him some water, said he wasn't feeling too well. I went to hunt down one of the servers. That's when I heard the shots."
"Okay, Harmony, and thank you. If we have any more questions, we'll be in touch."
"You'll get them, won't you, the killer?" Harmony asked as she stood up to leave the room.
Angel stood with her and led her to the door. Buffy could hear him making all the right noises, saying all the right things. It was one of his best attributes, besides being a top detective, he always knew the right thing to say.
She didn't need the memories of that weekend in her head right now. That unforgettable, intensely passionate weekend. She hadn't known what to say to him when he dropped her off, had waited to hear him say he wanted to see her again, but he hadn't. He hadn't called, he hadn't come by her place. He hadn't done anything since that morning except be a thorn in her side. But oh, for that one brief, beautiful weekend, she'd known passion and need and desire. She'd known what it felt like to have a man want you with everything in him, look at you with eyes that seemed to sear the skin and reach deep inside to send a girl's heart fluttering madly. She'd known the power of seeing a man bursting with need for her, of hearing him groan that need when she touched him, when she kissed him. The power of making him lose control with her hands, her mouth, bringing him pleasure so intense he'd turned almost wild, throwing her to the bed and taking her until her nails scoured his back.
Buffy felt the blush suffuse her face and cleared her throat. This was work and she wasn't going to think of that weekend anymore. It was over and done, just as they were.
Angel turned, and for one second, he saw in her eyes the same thing he'd seen that weekend, the woman she kept hidden so well any other time. He took two steps forward and saw the blankness fall in front of her eyes like a shutter slamming shut.
"Well, I think we need to pay a call on a few people. That is if you plan on tagging along?" Her tone and face held no expression as she waited for an answer. He was a complication she couldn't afford but a part of her hoped that he'd say yes.
"Can't think of anything else I'd like to do at almost midnight but go and get people out of bed. After you?" He held open the door waiting until she left her card with the Mayor and checked in with the CSI's. She stopped and gave the officer in charge some instructions and then got in her car. Using her radio, she got addresses for both names that Harmony had given her.
Drusilla lived in the city and worked as a waitress down at a small dive close to the harbor.
Willy had a swank joint outside of town where the rich folks with "new" money lived. But she had an idea she'd find him at his casino playing lord and master and keeping an eye on things.
"What's your gut say?" she asked Angel as she put the car in reverse to back out of the mess of cops vehicles and party vehicles still surrounding the huge home.
"Will is going to be easy to find. His place don't close until it has to. I say we go with the ex girlfriend first."
"My thoughts exactly." She wheeled between two cars leaving about an inch of spare room on either side and made it through to the gates. Looking over at Angel, she had to grin. He had his eyes closed and she swore she'd heard an amen coming from his side of the car just seconds ago. "You can look now," she said, putting it into drive.
Angel cautiously opened his eyes and then caught sight of the grin on her face. Her smile, the way it lit up her face, caught at his gut. "You know, that's a good look for you."
Buffy spared him a quick look before paying attention to her driving. "What's a good look?"
"Smiling. I don't think I've seen you do to much of it recently. Not since that..."
"I don't want to talk about that," she jumped in, interrupting him. "It was a mistake. It shouldn't have happened but it did. And now it's over so we can just forget about it."
Angel saw the way her body tightened, the white knuckled grip she had on the steering wheel. Everything about her body language said the subject was off limits but he hadn't gotten to where he was by doing what he should do. "Why was it a mistake?"
"Jesus, Angel, can't you drop it. It's in the past, okay?" Buffy shrugged her shoulders to get rid of the stress that was starting to creep up into her neck.
"What if I don't want it in the past? Dammit, Buf, I miss you, I miss the way we used to be. We were friends as well as co workers and we liked each other. That weekend was..." He stopped when she swerved off to the side of the road.
"Either you drop it or you can call a car to come and get you and I'll do this on my own." She didn't want to hear what he thought of their weekend, she didn't want to know if he regretted it. She didn't and couldn't regret it herself even though she now couldn't be in the same room with him without her hands going sweaty and her thigh muscles weakening as she remembered what he did to her.
"It's dropped," he said flatly, meeting her stare head on. For now, he thought, gazing into those bewitching eyes that narrowed with her glare.
They got to where Drusilla Keeble worked, a place that could only loosely be termed as a restaurant. It was a dive located off one of the main streets downtown. Just far enough off for visitors to not notice and strangers to be wary.
They walked in the front door, noting right away how half of the very few patron there slunk down in their seats, making them as cops from the start.
"If you'd keep your face out of the media, maybe we wouldn't be so recognizable here," Buffy hissed at Angel as she made her way to a booth.
"Hey, I can't help it if the press seems to like me."
"They just like your pretty boy looks and smooth smile," she tossed at him as she slid into a cracked leather booth seat. The table was slightly sticky and stained with rings from cups and glasses of old. She almost laughed as Angel gave the seat a disgusted look before slipping partway in and sitting gingerly.
Two menus were slapped down in front of them, two cups rattled in saucers and thumped on the table. "Coffee?"
Buffy looked up long legs encased in pantyhose under a pink polyester waitress uniform with a white frilly apron. Both were marked with unrecognizable stains. A name tag was pinned on the straining material across large breasts. The name tag read: Drusilla. This was their girl. She took a second look when she got to the girl's face. Drusilla was a looker, pitch black hair that flickered from the light of the bug stained fixtures, misty eyes that held a hint of sadness and a whole barrel of streetwise, full lips painted red and with skin that was pale perfection.
Buffy hated her on sight just out of principle.
"Is it drinkable?" Angel asked.
"About the only thing in this dive that's palatable." Drusilla smiled at Angel as she filled his cup, keeping it at 100 watts as she slopped some coffee into Buffy's.
"You're rusilla Keeble?" Buffy asked, moving the cup out of the small puddle of coffee on the table and getting out her badge. "We need to talk with you, take a break."
"Oh, no!" Drusilla banged the coffee pot down on the table hard enough it should have broken, making both detectives flinch. "What'd that bitch say I do this time?"
"Who would that be?" Angel asked carefully, scooting further over in the booth.
Drusila plopped down in the empty space. "That hussy girl, Harmony, the Mayor's kid. She thinks I want that two timer back and keeps sending you guys out after me, trying to frame me for something. It ain't my fault he keeps sniffing back around here." She turned and looked at Angel, batting mile long eyelashes at him. "Can you blame him?"
"Are you talking about William Pratt?" Buffy got out her notebook and pen.
"Yeah, him. Spike. That no good scum. He wasn't even enough for me. That jerk got himself in trouble and he wanted me to hook to get him out. I ain't never hooked and I won't start now."
"What kind of trouble was he in?"
She looked at Buffy then back at Angel. She held up long fingered hands tipped with lethal red painted nails. "What's this all about? What they saying I did now?"
"William Pratt was shot tonight, Miss Keeble. We need to know where you were at approximately 10 p.m."
"He's dead?" Those eyes glittered as she stared back to Buffy.
"Yeah, he's dead."
"Oh," she said quietly, looked down at her lap, her fingers playing with a frayed hem on her apron. When she looked up, her eyes were hard. "I wish I could say I was sorry. I mean that's what you're supposed to say when someone dies. I'm sorry. But I'm not."