Author Notes: I haven't written one of these in a while. I used to crank these out all the time but I've been focused so much on my longer fics that I've kind of forgotten one of these. I attribute this story to my marathon watching of Law & Order (SVU, specifically). I've never been a huge fan of procedural crime dramas, but I've been hankering them recently. Anyways, if there are actual cops out there reading this, please ignore anything I got wrong about the detective work. I meant no harm.
Disclaimer: The Rurouni Kenshin world and all characters depicted are a creation of mangaka, Watsuki Nobuhiro.
"What the hell are you doing here Himura?" She questioned the newest occupant of the room. Turning her attention to Megumi, the calm, collected, and beautiful medical examiner, she pointed accusingly at the man in question. "Megumi, tell Himura to leave my crime scene."
The apartment was a small studio decorated with posters and weird odds and ends that accompanied a student who just moved out of her dorm. The unit was small with not much room for all the forensic investigators, medical examiner, and detective to move around in. With the newcomer, the room was getting tighter.
Kaoru Kamiya, local up-and-coming detective, had spent the past two years proving herself to be a level-headed professional member of the police force despite her young age. With a case closure rate of ninety-seven percent, which was above the national average, Kaoru and her partner had earned the respect of the captain and the other men in blue. However, Kaoru also had a thorn in her side in the form of FBI special agent Kenshin Himura.
Megumi continued to look over the body on the floor of the room that showed signs of a struggle. Without glancing up, she distractedly fulfilled Kaoru's request. "Ken-san, Kaoru is saying you should leave her crime scene."
"Do I have to?" Kenshin asked while digging through his inner suit pocket for a pen.
Megumi shot him and Kaoru look and went back to the victim. "Don't drag me into your jurisdictional pissing contest. I'm just here to figure out cause of death."
Kaoru frowned as she realized her friend and medical examiner wasn't pitching in to get rid of the pesky federal agent. Turning her attention to Kenshin she narrowed her eyes. "I haven't called this in, how did the feds even hear about it? Please tell me you haven't been listening to local police scanners again."
"Actually," she turned at hearing the voice of her partner enter. "I called him."
"Et tu, Brute?" Kaoru hissed as Sano waltzed in and planted himself next to her. The room was already cramped and her lumbering partner wasn't helping matters. "Stop bringing your best friend to work."
"Why not? You do." He responded and grinned at Megumi. "What's the prognosis, M.E.?"
"Dead." Megumi mocked. "Prognosis is for the living."
"You know what I mean." Sano crouched down to be level with her. "So what's the cause of the death?"
"Asphyxiation due to poisoning by strychnine." Kaoru answered before Megumi had a chance to.
Megumi nodded. "I'll have to run a tox screen to confirm but the body is strikingly similar to the other victims."
Sano sighed and used his pen to lift the jacket of the victim. "Did you find the calling card?"
"Calling card?" Kenshin queried from the side. "You have a serial killer?"
Kaoru snapped on gloves and moved Sano to the side to search the victim's pockets. "It's a literal calling card. Our perp leaves postcards of famous places from around the world."
"Your perp is a traveler?" Kenshin furrowed his brows as he wrote something down.
"Shrink says that it's an attempt to show a sign of sophistication and that he's worldly, but in reality he's a low to middle class guy with an average IQ." Sano explained.
"Stop telling him about the case." Kaoru grumbled and pulled out a card from inside jacket pocket of the victim. "Great pyramids of Giza."
Flicking open an evidence bag, Sano offered it to his partner. "Do you think we'll get lucky and these will have the perp's prints on it?"
"He's been careful so far." Kaoru slipped the card in and stood up.
"Is there evidence of rape?" Kenshin asked.
Kaoru glared at his multiple questions, "This is not your case. But no."
"So what's the motivation?" He ignored her glare.
"Strychnine isn't as toxic as other poisons, but with the right dose it's a ruthless killer." Megumi jotted down notes on her form. "It causes every muscle in your body to convulse until the person dies from exhaustion or asphyxia."
"Stop telling him about the case." Kaoru warned again. "Time of death?"
Despite Kaoru's insistence, she was still the one fielding out questions so Megumi couldn't help but roll her eyes. She was, however, a professional and answered as such. "According to the rate of decomp, I estimate two to three days. So our Friday night attack theory seems to be panning out. I won't know more until I get back to the lab." Megumi stood up and called toward the head forensic investigator. "Can I take her?"
With a nod from the head forensic investigator, Megumi went about transporting the body. Kaoru motioned for Sano to move out of the way so that Megumi could do her job. Kaoru went over to investigate the victim's pile of mail on her desk. "Victim is Chizuru Raikoji."
"Pale skin, long dark hair, slim. She fits the profile." Sano continued taking notes as Kaoru went about taking in the apartment.
"Nothing obvious is missing." She said as she moved around the room and stopped at a photo of the victim with a friend. "She looks like the other two victims."
"We can look into the family history back at the precinct." Sano said as he glanced around the room.
"Chizuru Raikoji, female, twenty-three, single, living-alone while attending med school. She lost her parents at a young age and went through the foster care system until she turned eighteen. Good grades got her a scholarship to go to the state university where she studied biology and is now in med school. Looks like she was pre-med, and made the Dean's list every semester." Kenshin read off the information off of his smartphone.
"Is that the new app for the feds?" Sano looked over his friend's shoulder at the phone. "Man, I wish the precinct could afford the subscription to it. Instead, we have to do a background check the old fashion way."
"Twenties, orphan, successful based on her own merit." Kaoru sighed and took off her gloves. "Definitely fits our profile."
"Explains why no one reported her missing until now." Sano sighed and led the way out of the apartment while Kaoru followed. "Killed Friday night and no one expects them in class or work until at least Monday."
Kenshin took a final survey of the room before following behind them. "You're not going to look over the crime scene?"
"The perp is careful." Kaoru fumed, not at Kenshin but at the idea of the killer. "It's better to let the forensic team do their work than for us to contaminate the scene."
Climbing down the three flights of stairs Sano scratched his head. "How's he picking the victims? How does he find women who fit his very specific profile?"
"None of the victims know each other?" Kenshin questioned. "Maybe they were in foster care together?"
Something within Kaoru snapped and she pivoted sharply on her foot to glare into Kenshin's face. "Agent Himura, this is not your case." She punctuated each word carefully.
There was a tense moment where Sano just watched on amused. Kenshin kept still, but then smirked. "Oh, I don't know about that."
Kaoru pulled back a bit and furrowed her brows. "How does this fall anywhere near your jurisdiction? The crimes haven't crossed state lines."
"Well, see that apartment building?" Kenshin pointed back to the structure they just stepped out of. "It's actually university housing, which receives government funding."
"Nice try." She shook her head. "State college, state funding."
"Not unless the federal government gave a grant to the university to provide affordable housing for their med students." Kenshin raised a brow. "The federal government takes the living standards of our future doctors seriously."
Sano scoffed. "Yeah, because they have such a hard life of menial labor wages in their future."
Kaoru ignored her partner's comment and addressed the federal agent. "You're over reaching your jurisdiction. I'll get my ADA to kick you off this case with a judge's court order."
"Enishi always was good at his job." Kenshin admitted.
"It also helps that he's not a fan of yours." Sano added.
"So how about you go work a case that's actually yours and we'll go question the victim's best friend." Kaoru grumbled as she walked over to their car.
"How do you know who the victim's best friend is?" Kenshin questioned.
"She's the one that reported her missing." Kaoru tossed the car keys to Sano for him to drive. "We know how to do our job without you babysitting us."
Their parallel parked police-issued vehicle was only a few paces away so she easily ducked into the passenger side of the vehicle to end the argument. But Kenshin stopped her from closing the door and leaned down to be at eye level with her. With Sano still making his way around the car, Kenshin had enough privacy to address Kaoru directly.
"I may not be on the case, but you can come to me for help." He offered. "Call me in as a consultant."
Kaoru stared at him for a moment then tugged the door out of his grip. Door closed, she rolled down the window as Sano was turning the ignition on next to her. She glanced up at Kenshin, "Don't patronize me. I'm not green enough to not know when I'm in over my head, and I'm still swimming."
Kaoru faced forward, giving the Sano to cue to drive. Her partner shot Kenshin a look and shrugged. There really was little he could do when Kaoru became like this. As one of the younger detectives on the force, she had been underestimated more than once. In the beginning, she was given a tougher time for being a woman but eventually had the good ol' boy's eating their words. They had accused her of being overly involved and passionate, but they later realized that's what made her a good detective. Kaoru was fiercely intuitive and surprisingly sharp. Her precinct now was filled with supporters, but that wasn't until she had to break each of their gender and age bias. Years of earning her keep had hardened her enough that she was quick to get on the defensive, so Sano couldn't help but pity the poor foolish Special Agent Himura.
His best friend really didn't mean any harm, and was actually there as a favor to Sano. There was definitely an apologetic round of drinks in Sano's future. As he drove the short distance to the victim's friend's residence, Sano sighed. Kaoru never asked for help.
The rest of the day was grueling for the two detectives. After the interview with the friend, which didn't amount to any new leads, they were back to the precinct getting briefed on any new forensic evidence. The killer was smart, and learning with each kill. The partial print they found on the door frame of the first victim's apartment was the only trace he left, so far. The killer wasn't in the system, so either this was his first streak or he had never gotten caught.
The victim, Chizuru, was a lot like the others. Orphaned but pulling themselves up in the world by their own volition. However, ambition had its price and loneliness was it. Already as people with no family connections left, the victims didn't have many people to miss them. The few friends the victim did have described how the victim spent most of their time focused on school or their occupation.
After going through the recorded history of the victim for the umpteenth time, Sano decided that his partner needed leave. He had to practically pry the file out of Kaoru's fingers and push her out the door to finally get some rest. She had already spent the previous night sleeping in the precinct bunks, but had only gotten about two hours before she was back on the job and this case.
Kaoru had finally relented when Captain Saitou shot her a reprimanded look from his office. The wordless warning was enough to have her grabbing her jacket and leaving the station. Even if she was off the premises, it didn't mean that she was off the case. Her mind turned over the fact in her head as she returned back to her apartment on autopilot.
In front of her door she dug around her pockets for her keys. She really was sleepier than she had let on. When she finally fished out her keys, but they fumbled out of her hands and landed with a loud clatter on the floor. She sighed and bent down to scoop them up, but had the odd feeling that she was being watched.
Her instincts immediately kicked in as she pulled out her gun and aimed at the corner diagonally across from her front door. "I know someone's there."
"Whoa, it's just me." A familiar voice and face came around the corner.
Seeing the mop of red hair and raised arms of surrender, Kaoru sighed and holstered her gun. "Oh, it's just you Himura."
"Just me? I'm hurt Kaoru. And didn't I tell you to call me Kenshin when we're alone?" He grinned and walked up to lean next to the frame of her front door. "I'm glad to see you've finally made your way back home."
"Sano practically shoved me out of the precinct and Saitou followed up with his famous glare." She unlocked her door and leaned her forehead against the door. "I don't think I'll get any sleep."
"Because I'm here?" Kenshin asked with a smile.
She shot him a look. "Stupid comments like that are going to get you kicked out."
"You haven't invited me in yet." He pointed out.
Kaoru rolled her eyes and swung the door open. "Yeah, because you always wait for an invitation."
Once inside, she stepped aside for him to enter. Closing the door behind him, she secured the deadbolt of the door. She couldn't get her jacket off fast enough to hang on the rack by the door.
"Long day?" He followed her into the kitchen as she went straight for the fridge.
"That's putting it lightly." Digging around the contents of her fridge she frowned. "I have mustard, yogurt, and one tomato." She glanced over at Kenshin who was shucking off his own jacket. "Even you can't make anything out of that."
"Nothing that won't make you sick." He helped himself and looked in the cabinets. "There's some cereal."
"And enough milk for two." She grinned with the milk jug in hand. "Dinner of champions."
Kenshin shook his head and smiled. "What are you going to do for breakfast? We used up all the milk."
"You can take the tomato, I'll take the yogurt." She reasoned. "There's always coffee and donuts at the station."
"Seriously? The donut stereotypes is real?" He laughed.
"It's a time honored tradition." She argued. "What, Feds don't eat donuts?"
"Nope." He grabbed two bowls and set them on the counter. "I'm getting the impression this is normal when I'm not around. I would have brought food if I knew."
"And miss out on Cap'n Crunch?" Taking the box, she poured out the cereal into the two bowls. When a small wrapped package tumbled out, she handed it to him. "Here, you can keep the prize."
"What is it?" He asked as he opened the tiny plastic bag.
"'Glow in the dark pirate ring.'" She read off the box and frowned. "Is Cap'n a pirate?"
"What? You're going to report him to the Coast Guard?" He fiddled with the ring. "You know what it means when one person gives another a ring right?"
Kaoru rolled her eyes. "I'm so happy for you and the Cap'n. I'm sure you'll live a long and happy life together."
"With a possible outlaw?" He took the offered bowl and handed her one of the spoons he pilfered from the drawer. "I'll stick with the law abiding local sheriff."
"I'm a detective, not a sheriff." Kaoru walked them over to the couch and carefully plopped down with her dinner. Kenshin took the seat next to her. Ready to dig into her cereal, she paused and set the bowl down. He watched her from the side but wasn't surprised when she unclipped her gun holster from her waist and took out her badge. Setting the items on the coffee table, she picked her bowl back up.
"I've gone to bed with my gun way too many times." She grumbled. "I feel something prodding my hip in the middle of the night and when I remember that you didn't sleep over, I realize I just collapsed on my bed in my clothes after getting home from work."
"I don't prod your hip." He argued, but relented at the look Kaoru shot him. "Well, only in the mornings."
She started in on her cereal and grumbled around a mouthful. "I'm sure this isn't what you expected when I said dinner."
"I'll take any excuse to see you." He said earnestly.
Kaoru sighed at how sweet he was being. "Even after what I said this morning?"
"At the crime scene?" Kenshin asked. "You know I wasn't patronizing you, right? I know you're good at your job."
She groaned and tilted her head back. "Why do you always apologize when I need to?"
"Sorry." He said mockingly and nudged her. "Sano called me in because he's worried about you."
"Me?" Kaoru raised a brow and set aside her cereal. "Does he think I'm going to snap under the pressure or something?"
"I think he's more worried about the serial killer." Kenshin finished off his bowl and also set it aside. "Female, twenties, orphan, pale skin, dark hair, slim, self-starter? Sound like anyone you know?"
"You think I'm a possible target?" She nearly scoffed. "You're not here trying to get lucky, are you?"
"You sure about that?" He smirked and placed his hand on her thigh. "Because I'm laying it on thick right now."
"You're here," She sighed and tilted her head to rest it on his shoulder. "Because you're worried. You think I need protecting."
"Are you accusing me of chivalry?" He questioned.
"No, I'm accusing you of idiocy." She quipped. "Your jurisdictional overreach probably threw up red flags. I'm assuming Sano doesn't know."
"About?" He feigned ignorance.
"You know what." She asserted without revealing anything.
"I don't know, you did call me an idiot before." Kenshin reminded.
Sitting back up, she scooted away out of spite. "You know, whatever this is." She said waving between them like there was something visible.
He sighed in defeat and tugged her back toward him. "I'm going to have you confess one of these days, Detective Kamiya."
She tumbled into his chest and narrowed her eyes up at him. "Don't push your luck, Himura."
"Again, it's Kenshin." He reprimanded. "So I'm assuming Sano doesn't know."
"Not if you haven't told him." Kaoru said through a yawn.
"Well, being as you threatened to end this the moment he finds out..." He pointed out. "But I think you underestimate Sano's detective skills."
"No, I don't. He's my partner after all. I'm just incredibly careful." She commented and raised a brow at Kenshin as he shifted beneath her to stretch out on the length of the couch. "What are you doing?"
"Like you said, not trying to get lucky." He pulled her onto him and patted the back of her head. "Sleep. You need it."
Giving in, she made herself comfortable and rested her head on his chest. She really was sleepy and Kenshin was always surprisingly comfy. "Do you think, if I were to get targeted by this serial killer, no one would notice me gone for days?"
"With a worrywart FBI agent as your boyfriend?" Kenshin reassured her. "He'd never even get the chance to think about you, let alone get near you."
"I never said boyfriend." She said, but without argument behind it.
"I know." He said with smile and rested an arm on the back of the couch and wrapped the other around her.
There was long minute of silence and he thought she had fallen asleep. But then, she whispered, "This case just feels personal, you know?"
"Because you fit the profile?" He asked.
"Because he's targeting foster kids. Going through the system... we watch out for each other." She explained, sleep evident in her voice. "I may not have known them, but they were my sisters. I can't let this guy get away with it."
"You won't." He grabbed the blanket off the back of the couch and spread it out over them. "But you need sleep to do that. Sleep deprivation makes you half the investigator you need to be."
She nodded weakly. "Wake me in twenty minutes."
"I said sleep, not nap." He chastised.
"Yeah, but that's around when you're going to be tired of having me sleeping on top of you." She mumbled.
"Do you want to move to the bed now?" He offered.
"Too sleepy to move." She snuggled into the man and the blanket. "Thanks for taking the first serial killer watch."
He smiled and slipped the hair tie from her ponytail. With her soft dark hair loose, he quietly stroked it while thinking about Kaoru's current case. She didn't know it, but Sano had filled him on the details of the case over drinks the night before. He had mentioned that Kaoru was most likely pulling an all-nighter at the station and had started obsessing about the case after the second victim. The first victim being an orphan was a coincidence, a second victim was an attack.
It wasn't Sano who had asked Kenshin to come in as a consult; instead, he was the one to offer his services to Sano. Something in the pit of his gut told him that Kaoru would be dragged into this case in the worst way possible. And if he was wrong, then he could breathe easy. But until then, Kenshin concluded that staying overnight at his trigger-happy girlfriend's place was worth the peace of mind. The fact that he could be with Kaoru while she didn't have to pretend to be annoyed by him, the federal agent, was just a nice bonus.