[personal profile] counterfeiture
Title: Heart Skipped a Beat
What: CSI AU
Wordcount: 9,900+ right now holy shit
Warnings: language? A/E if you squint
Summary: A girl is found dead at a university’s dormitory. Investigating shenanigans ensue.
A/N: This is so unbeta'd, someone please help? What I have so far is over here, below is a short snippet.



It's three AM, and there's a red scarf caught on a tree branch, its tail ends flapping in the wind and whipping against the glass panes of Arthur's window. He doesn't think much about it; the sound is oddly soothing to his tired mind, and it chases the memory of Cobb and Mal arguing out of his head. Arthur doesn't recognize it for what it is until later, but he falls asleep to its erratic thump against his window, and later, the sound of rain beating against the glass.
That morning, when the body of Mallorie Miles is found in front of their dormitory, with her neck broken and her legs shooting out at unnatural angles, Arthur wonders why he didn't look out of his window that night.

-------------------------------

Arthur picked architecture over engineering for a simple reason - all the scholarship slots for engineering had been taken, but there were still a few available for architecture. The way Arthur figured it, they weren't so different from each other, and he'd rather not apply for a student loan he'll spend the first years of his adult life paying off, so he took what he could get.

This is how he met Cobb, and his girlfriend Mal. Cobb's an irregular student, and Arthur finds him sitting in on one of his freshman classes. "I haven't taken this one," Cobb says, a little sheepish. "I failed it the first time, then I never bothered to sign up for it until now." Arthur, who's taken on a full load at 31 units for the whole semester, nods in agreement, though he doesn't entirely understand yet. A week later, when he's drowning in plates while trying to cram as much as he can on the history of architecture, Mal slides into the seat next to him and introduces herself, while Cobb sits across from them with an amused smile on his face.

"I'm Mal," she says, the curls of her hair tickling his cheek as she leans against him, shoulder to shoulder. "Dom's told me all about you."

The three of them are inseparable ever since, or at least they had liked to think.

"I'm sorry," Arthur says when he finds Dominick Cobb standing on the concrete steps leading away from the dorm. They're a few meters away from where the investigators were, campus police urging people to back up and keep away from the yellow tape. "I'm really sorry." Awkwardly, Arthur puts a hand on Cobb's shoulder; unsure of what he should do. He and Mal were close, she and Cobb even closer, but it still hasn't sunk in that the mangled body lying on the grass behind the school building is the lovely woman that he knows.

The body looks like a stranger - like an alien.

He and Cobb are in the same course, though Cobb is two years ahead and readying for his apprenticeship; it's all they've been talking about for a couple weeks. Cobb's face is an ugly pale shade everywhere but around his eyes; Arthur doesn't need to see this to know his friend's been crying. Arthur's glad he didn't get to see this happen.

"We were going to Paris," Cobb croaks, his voice tight and heartbroken. "We were going to Paris for Christmas to meet her parents. She was talking to her mom yesterday about stuff, Arthur, she was really happy. Why would she jump?" Arthur doesn't know, and he doesn't want to think about what the answer would be. He turns his head, stares at the woman lying on the ground with her hair drenched and sticking to her cheek, and something ugly settles at the pit of his stomach. The news of Mal's death travels through campus like wildfire, which is expected. Everyone who knew her is talking about her, even those who only know of her, because one doesn't get to be the campus's darling and not be talked about on any given day - especially on the day one decides to die. It makes Arthur feel sick; he hasn't started to grieve yet, and people are already saying things he'd rather not hear.

I'm sure she jumped because Cobb's cheating on her, said one girl in the cafeteria, as he walked past.

Cobb pushed her, I heard she was breaking up with him, whispered another in his physics class.

They had gone to a party that night. It was a drink-all-you-can sort of party, though for all intents and purposes Arthur might as well not have gone, since he'd spent most of his time turning down drinks and fending off hands all throughout. Mal and Arthur were invited, Mal on account of being herself and Arthur on account on the track team, and Ariadne had wanted to come along; the four of them arrived together. Ariadne was Arthur's closest friend from back in high school, and while it changed a little when they entered college they were still closer than most friends tended to be; sometimes Arthur would take her on dates just so people would stop asking why he doesn’t have one yet. The party was going well until Mal had thrown a fit and Cobb didn’t react kindly; they made a scene at the frat house before Mal stormed out, leaving Cobb behind in a rare state of emotion. Arthur knows that Mal had taken Ariadne's sobbing into it when she left, leaving Arthur to calm down a confused but angry Cobb, and he also knows Dom left him a little while after to chase after her; he doesn't know what happened beyond that. It would be another hour or so before he and Ariadne would leave, together, and Arthur realizes that he had failed to question the very nature of those events until it was too late.

Arthur had never wanted to hit himself as hard as he felt like until now.

So he spends the day going through the motions - he goes to class, crams for quizzes, does everything he can to avoid thinking about the fact that his friend is dead, that he never noticed anything wrong, that maybe he could have prevented this from happening if only he'd seen something, had caught any indication that she would jump. Arthur knew this was stupid; it doesn't stop him from feeling like he had a hand in Mal's death. Arthur's mind goes in circles, in cycles of avoidance and over-thinking, and by the time Ariadne catches up with him - and, ostensibly, with Cobb - Arthur feels like he's run miles and miles without stopping.

"Do you think he'll be okay?" Ariadne speaks up next to him, wringing her hands into the tails of her shirt. It wasn't exactly a secret to anyone that Ariadne was infatuated with Cobb; most of the girls in their college were. "I mean, Jesus, she's dead. That's gotta be hard for him."

"Don't talk like that," he tells her, snapping his textbook shut. There are too many noises in Arthur's head; he's still wondering why he hasn't cried. "Mal’s the dead one, not Cobb. Next thing you know people will think you killed her just so you get a free shot at him."

Ariadne turns to face him so fast he winces in reaction, and she looks completely dumbstruck. Belatedly Arthur realizes what the implications of his statement have been. "Why would you even- you think I did this? You think–"

They're in the library, keeping Cobb company while pretending to study, but for all it was worth they might as well have left him; they lost Cobb between the shelves, left him sitting on the carpeted floor and staring at rows and rows of books. Arthur could see the tip of Cobb's shoes from their table. Somehow this makes him feel worse for Cobb than when he'd seen him puffy-eyed that morning. "There were cops earlier, there's going to be an investigation. People are already thinking someone pushed her."

"Well, it wasn't me," Ariadne says vehemently, and a few people look up to stare at them for a handful of seconds. "You know where I was last night. You were there. Hell, Arthur, we live on the same floor, and we were all pretty drunk and alone when we left."

"So was Cobb." Arthur could feel his knuckles turning white as his nails cut into his palm. "So was Mal, and she's dead and she left with your scarf wrapped around her neck so how do you think that's going to look?"

"You think he did it, don't you," she accuses instead. "Of all people, Arthur, you think he pushed her."

"I don't know what I think," he lies. Because Arthur didn't see where Cobb went after he left, and there's a voice in his head that whispers, maybe Cobb did push her, and it's the worst thought of all.

---------------------------

Detective Thomas Eames is one of those detectives that make you either want to punch him or laugh with him. He has this smile on his face that’s both very charming and very annoying, and most people pick and choose which side of it they want to see. Yusuf, one of the CSIs from swing shift, would agree, as would Robert Fischer, another CSI on loan from night shift. They’re spread pretty thin, what with the budget cuts and the reorganization, so everyone’s been getting shuffled around like deck cards and poker chips. Eames only smiles about it – as long as he has a job, he doesn’t really complain. The night shift supervisor can do all the politicking games he wants; Eames is happy being a detective hanging with the lab techs.

That said, Eames arrives at the scene a little late; the criminalists get there before he does because his car decided to crap out, and this was usually a bad thing because he’s supposed to clear the scene first before they could process. So Eames makes the apologies he needs to make, then goes on to ask around about the dead girl as his little notebook fills up with barely legible handwriting.

The dead girl’s name is Mallorie Miles, a philosophy student in her fourth year, according to the campus security who found the body; he was also the one who called it in. He also said she didn’t live in this dorm, but her boyfriend did, pointing out a young blond man with bloodshot eyes standing outside the tape, straining at the grip of a police officer. It looked like a standard suicide – girl gets depressed by college life, jumps off a building. But from what he understood, Ms. Miles was a well-liked - and well-envied - student. She was part of the student body, was a straight-A student, and was dating a Dominick Cobb, who lived in the dorm where her body was found. He also found out that she lived with her father, a professor in one of the colleges on the university. According to the bystanders, Ms. Miles had no reason to be depressed; she was a very lively, very happy woman with a boyfriend who adored her and a father who doted on her. She was the light of many people’s lives. Eames writes all of this down, from teary confessions of adoration to the more honest comments of envy and dislike, then went over to walk to the body as the coroner’s van rolls in.

“Fischer Junior’s bitching that you were late,” Nash, attending coroner, says as Eames comes level with the body. “Someone woke him up from his beauty sleep?”

“He’s still daddy’s little boy, Nash, leave him alone.” It wasn’t a secret that Robert Fischer’s father was one of the country’s most notorious defense attorneys with an improbably high success rate. There wasn’t a police department that didn’t hate his guts, so you could imagine the tough love Fischer had gotten when he decided to take up criminology instead of law. Eames adores the kid, he really does, but Fischer Junior, as they call him at the lab, can be a sharp little bitch when he was in a mood. “What’s she telling you, Nash?”

"Lividity's fixed, so it's safe to say she died in this position," Nash tells him, as Eames crouches next to the body. It's 7:23 in the morning, and they haven't moved her yet; the criminalists were still collecting and documenting evidence, and they were probably going to take a little while with all the bystanders around. "At first blush, I'd say she died sometime after midnight, maybe somewhere between 2:00 to 4:00 AM."

"Well," Eames starts, taking out a pen from his jacket pocket and pushing back stray hair from the girl's face with the tip. There were five floors to the dormitory building; Eames thinks she must have fallen from the top floor, or off the top of the building, judging from how many broken bones she had. That or she fell head-first from the fourth or third. "The dispatch call came in at, what, 6:14 AM, so she probably died sometime around when the rain started if it took a while for someone to notice her down here." The body was partly hidden by a cluster of trees near the building; it wasn't much of a concealment, but visibility was limited when it was raining.

"There are bruises on her feet and knees," Nash adds. "Vertical lines on the soles, circular marks on the knees. Signs of a struggle, maybe?"

“Hmm.” Eames counts the windows on this side of the building, notes it down. "I don't see any defensive wounds on her hands and face."

“She looks like the type to claw your eyes out, so she was probably hit at the torso if there was a fight.” The clack of heels behind them makes Eames and Nash turn; Yusuf joins them in their morbid huddle. "That's a great coat she's wearing," he adds, as he clicks away and takes photographs of the body. Yusuf, with his latex-covered hand, peels back the collar to check for the label. "Nadine bought one like this for our anniversary. Cost her five hundred dollars, I think. The dress is probably twice that."

"Over one grand for a single outfit, not counting the shoes, the earrings, everything else." Nash repeats, shaking his head. "Why's she slumming it with student housing?"

"Probably because she doesn't live here," Eames answers. "I'm gonna have to ask the boyfriend, see if I can get anything that isn’t waxing poetic about her beauty in life."

Yusuf is pushing at her jaw, swabbing on the inside of her cheek, when Eames decides to stand and survey the crowd. There's a whole mill of students and faculty alike; some were crying, some were simply gossiping, and a few were taking pictures. He motions for a cop to confiscate the cameras, or at least get them to stop taking pictures. It isn't exactly illegal, but Eames finds it distasteful. The boyfriend, Cobb, was a few meters away, looking lost, but there's another student that Eames didn't see when he arrived on the scene. He's dressed in a dark-colored vest, a crisp shirt underneath, and his slacks are well-pressed. The young man is comforting Cobb, if a bit stiffly, and is looking directly at the body sprawled in front of them.

Eames is about to excuse himself when the two are joined by a slight girl dressed almost entirely in scarves. The girl wraps her arms around Cobb, almost clinging, and the boy in slacks steps back with an odd look on his face. Then the three of them walk away, the girl's hands wrapped around Cobb's arm, the boy's hand hovering on the girl's shoulder before dropping back to his side.

"That was interesting," Yusuf says; apparently he was watching the same scene as Eames. "Think you have a suspect?"

"You think this isn't a suicide?" Eames asks, though he knows he doesn't have to ask, because Nash calls their attention to a set of puncture wounds on the girl's neck, hidden by a clump of hair. Eames smiles wryly, holding the girl's hair back as Yusuf zooms in on the wounds, and watches as Nash moves the body into a bag and rolls her into the coroner's van. Fischer had already collected a red scarf off a tree branch earlier; the frayed patch on the scarf matched the red threads they found caught in the girl's left earring. "I guess it isn't completely a suicide."

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July 2015

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