Possession of Balloons Without a Party

"Neighbors requesting a check on a Reno Street address in the northern Los Angeles area. Questionable smell emanating from an apartment 2. Car to respond, please code 2 identify."

247 South Reno Street, Los Angeles, CA 90057 ‎

April 27th, 12:17 PM

"I think my hair smells like this place."


The police car pulls in front of the LA apartment building. No dog and pony show today. The lights are off and there's no siren play. "Unit 78 reporting in. Officer on site," her fingers find the radio, and check in before she removes her seat belt, takes her keys out of the ignition (go memory!), and slides out of the police car (which is, promptly locked… and then checked). Her rookie tendencies do dictate such activities from time to time.

She looks very much like a police officer today. Her hair has been pinned up into a bun, only adding to that highly professional police officer appearance. That and her navy blue police suit.

Her blue eyes scan the area as she treads up towards apartment 2. She'll check in with the neighbour after addressing whatever happens to be the issue here. If there even is one. Her lips press together as she rings the bell to the apartment. "Hello? Police— "

Silence. From apartment 2, at least; around her, the neighborhood bickers and thrums on — there's always a radio, a child screaming, or a dog barking to keep things lively, even in the staggering heat. Weather of the past has already done its damage to the mostly white building, where paints peels even next to the bell Jack tries.

Slam of a screen door somewhere else. But no response.

As for smells: pick one. There's a flush of them — including what could be marijuana a floor down — but after a few seconds of letting the heat settle, it's obvious that something pungent is cooking in #2.

Jack's nose wrinkles at the foul scent and lack of response. A glance is given around the neighbourhood. Her lips press together as she knocks now. Her tone gets louder with each subsequent rap on the door's surface. "Excuse me, police. Please open up." She waits a beat and then tries for the door knob. It would be all too easy if it turns and just happens to open.

Creaking from a door— sounds behind Jack. An inquisitive salt-and-pepper head peeks out from the doorway, hiding in the span of a latch, but even from there it's obvious that the hair's a cheap wig. Owlishly the wrinkled woman spies on the officer without remorse.

The creak causes the office to snap her head in its direction. Jack's eyes train on the woman as she tries the door knob one more time. Nothing. Her lips twitch to the side. "Do you know who lives here?" she asks while pointing at the door. Breaking into someone's house isn't high on her priority list.

A steady shake of the lady's head nearly dislodges the wig. Now Jack can smell a waft of age and heady perfume from inside the open door, but there comes a grumbled answer, "Ken." From out of the slim crack, she extends a half-curled finger to point to #2. "That street boy, Ken. He needs to take out his trash," she sniffs murkily, "It stinks." The word shoots out of her abruptly, more akin to a cough.

Jack nods her head incredulously as her eyes and nose follow the woman through the crack in the door. "Street boy?" she asks as she take a step towards the resident behind the door. She pauses as she allows her hands to linger on her hips, "Did you call the police to intervene?" She holds up a hand as if to explain, "We received a call, and I'm following up." And will be going inside.

Beady eyes snap left and right; the door crack lessens, "No. No, I don't get up in any of that." Slam. And the sound of several locks finalizes her departure.

A sardonic expression creeps over Jack's features at the sound of the door slamming and all of the subsequent locks. But she follows this up with a sly smile. "Welcome to the neighborhood," she murmurs sarcastically to herself as she smiles again. With a quiet sigh, she raps on the door one last time. "Ken," now that she knows a name, it's easier to give alert, "It's Officer Carter of the Los Angeles Police Department. Don't be alarmed, I'm coming in."

A quick glance is given around the block, and then she takes a deep breath to dematerialize and walk through the door. It's nice not to have to break the door down sometimes…

No holds barred on the stench the second she's through the thin barrier of the door; it was no great construction, but now there's absolutely nothing between Officer Carter and the soggy remains of Ken's apartment.

Two not entirely separate classes clash in the two-room apartment with half-kitchen— one cluttered high and low with accoutrements of something less than a healthy meal. A lazy fly wanders in and out of an overturned test tube. Next to a three-legged coffee table held up on one side, perhaps empty; perhaps not, pizza crates, sits a state-of-the-art six piece stereo system. The flat-screen TV's bigger than the bed in the other room. At Jack's feet as she enters, a stack of saran-wrapped adult video DVDs and a back-pack with a college-grade Calculus book sticking out of its over-turned front pocket.

On a normal April day, he might not have been missed for longer. But in the pressure-cooker of the day's weather, Ken, resident of apartment #2, has brilliantly ripened. Face-down, between the coffee table and the ratted couch with patches of white filling showing on every cushion, it's still possible to tell that he's bloated, cheeks like water-balloons waiting to pop full of blood and pus.

Jack's gag reflex on the scent prompts her to clamp a hand firmly over her hand and nose. Her skin turns a green hue, and she swallows it back as best she can. She forces her dominant hand to her side, in the event that she'll need her firearm, but this is through will alone. None of her instinct wnats to let either hand drop from her face.

She treads carefully further into the apartment, and sees the body. Her blue eyes widen, and her gag reflex kicks in again. A hand clamps firmly over her mouth as she feels her lunch begin to come up from the depths of her stomach. And sure enough her lunch revisits Ken's carpet. Only increasing the smells and queasiness of the room.

Jack takes a breath and feels her body shake underneath the disgusting situation which she's entered. But she is an officer of the law. So she uses her radio, "Unit 78, calling a 10-45D. I'm on site. Please respond."

"Roger, 78. Unit inbound…"

* * *

As soon as time and traffic allows, the young officer gets progressively more company than Ken.

Parking outside of the apartment units on the street, Detective Liza Sloan comes striding toward the driveway. She's not exactly making brisk work of it; while the sunny day assaults the tailored suit-jacket she reluctantly re-clothed herself in, her ambling steps away from the car allow her time to check the screen of her phone. Beyond the shade of her wide sunglasses, she only spies her most recently sent message: the bubble containing the text Call me if you get msg from court clerk. Hot bod 4 u @ 247 south reno!

Tucking her phone away into her back pocket, she's on the lookout, now decidedly more committed to the crime scene she's approaching.

Leaning against the doorway, Officer Carter looks more like a statue than a living, breathing person. Her arms cross over her chest, and her eyes stare out at the world across the street like some type of sentry bidding (or not bidding) passage to the crime scene. Her blue eyes don't even seem to blink as she stands there in silence. The memory of the smells lingers in her sense, but she doesn't let it phase her again. Plus the smells seem to have dissipated some— one point for maybe using the old fashioned entrance rather than her unique entry method.

She does, however, turn her head as Liza approaches. She manages a faint nod (evidently this is a very serious day) towards Sloan. "Detective," she greets stiffly. But then she shakes her head a little, almost shaking herself out of her own stupor. "It's kind of a mess— "

"Aren't they all," the detective answers casually, pleasant despite the circumstance, and almost distracted, swaying to one side as if to glimpse past the officer. Looking at Jack (not quite evident through the near-opaque lenses of her shades), she tries to place the rookie's name. J… C…?… forget it. "First on scene, yeah?" Though she doesn't ask any further on that note, there's something prompting about her tone of voice. "This place have more than one entrance?"

There's almost a twitch of a smile at the detective's response, but Jack fights it reasonably well. "I was hoping for a conversation and potentially a fine. Not a body," she shrugs. Of course, the smell had been far worse when the officer had gotten on scene, but that much is a given. "Heat and decomposition kind of go together or something." Jack's chin drops at the the first question in a small nod. "Yeah. First on scene. I knocked, talked to a neighbour, and then knocked again before walking in." Through the door. "No, no other entrance. Just the one," she points with her thumb towards the door just behind her.

That one it is, then. "Right on," Liza replies, as casually yet efficiently as a 'thank-you, officer'. She takes a deep breath, dubiously fortifying her lungs with the still outside air before making her way inside, where it's a hundred times worse. Though absent nerves, she is cautious, almost reluctant to enter the apartment, potential crime scene that it may be — a potential that has her especially aware of her own presence and the acronym of her unit. If the ACRU hadn't been called in, the scene wouldn't still be sitting here stagnating and everyone involved would be moving on, not waiting for the weird team assess weirdness

Liza, currently a one-woman team without her partner, stops in the open doorway just short of entrance, taking precaution with the scene incase it isn't just the ordinary overdose it seems at first glance. The decomposition hits her at the same time as the sight of the room, stalling the push of her sunglasses onto her head into unpleasant slow-motion. Her dark eyes water at the rims, revolting against both the heat and the smell. She does her best to crush the entirely natural autonomic instinct to say no thanks, bye, see ya later— she holds herself professionally, taking in the sight of the way too deceased's abode in a stationary little panorama, absorbing what the young cop before her had. The detective, however, will have to linger in this unpleasantness longer her first time in. Dig deeper.

And try harder not to throw up.

Prepared with her own protective gear (she's learned, already, in her short time with the unit, to be autonomous when it comes to working with non-ACRU; thankfully, not expecting help from anyone is a longtime trait of Liza's), she armors her shoes in thin paper and holds a package of gloves as she ventures further, to a corner across from the body, which she simultaneously wants to look at the most and the least.

When the Detective enters the house, Jack lingers behind. She's not really in a rush to get back in there after tossing her cookies the once. She tugs the jacket of her uniform and takes a really deep breath of fresh-ish (she can still sort of smell it from out here) air. At least it won't be like the first time she went in. She couldn't have adequately prepared herself for that.

Slow, now-calculating paces bring her behind the detective as she crosses her arms over her chest to peek down at the body. She finally finishes exhaling and biological need compels her to inhale. Prompting her nose to wrinkle in discomfort and she chokes back her own gag reflex. But she says nothing else. Not unless asked. Freak squad can do what freak squad does.

Is it freaky enough to qualify, that is the question. Possible overdose, but it could be just that — or it could be like the bodies Liza saw with the ME, weird, but still possibly just that. Her thoughts escape just as a murmuring hum in her throat, sounding mildly complaining — getting closer to that permeating, invisible cloud of airborne revulsion might play a role, too. She steps over the same porn DVDs and back-pack, strolling around the edge of the living room past the half-kitchen, squinting at various sections of clutter. Trying to lean toward getting an angle into the bedroom, something else, besides Ken, who she'll inevitably have to get closer to in this small apartment, catches her eye. "Is that a test tube?" It is, in fact, obviously a test tube, but without another detective present, her commentary drifts to the officer.

Jack follows Liza's paces, nearly mimicking the other woman's footfalls as she treads further into the scene. She's seen this all before, she's been in here, yet every time she enters, it's as if smelling it for the first time. The smells stand out more than anything else, granting that offensive odour in every nook and cranny. But in a way it also dulls her other senses. So the question about the test tube warrants a tilt of Jack's head, followed by a slow nod. "Yes?" it's more a question than an answer. "His neighbour said he was a street boy— thought he had to take out his trash— "

"Yeahhhhh… can't— exactly disagree with her…" Liza replies under her (occasionally held) breath, picking her way around pizza boxes, clearly the least of the apartment's problems. "Whatever her definition of 'street' is, I'm guessing it doesn't add up with rocking all of this." She waves her hand vaguely from the TV to the stereo. It slaps to her leg as she keeps prowling the apartment. "Unless— what's his name?— " An innocuous, quick little query shot specifically over her shoulder — she really hasn't caught the unfortunate soul's name — and she goes on, " … is dealing something more expensive than…" She lets her eyes wander back again, around Jack, "… math grades and porn. Seen this kinda drug dealer home decor a hundred times, crap everywhere, can't bother to get a decent chair but the entertainment system, that's tricked out, top of the line. College kids have the same priorities, though."

Liza's aware that she's talking a lot, thinking out-loud, not seeming to care at all that it's to this rookie she only just recognizes. Jack isn't only a convenient receptor for her rambling, however — she singles her out as an actual person to breezily say on the very heels of her commentary, "You know, you can jet and go shower in peppermint if you feel like it. I feel like it. Friggin' dead body scenes."

"Ken. His name is Ken," Jack fills in the blank before staring at the paraphernalia present, prompting her to wrinkle her nose again. "Yeah… it didn't add up. The story didn't make sense. Didn't know how a street kid got an apartment less anything else here." Her nose wrinkles as her weight shifts. She shrugs and glances back to the door. "You don't need anything else then? I kind of… feel disgusting. I think my hair smells like this place."

"It does." Liza speaks automatically from experience, as assuredly as if she smelled Jack's hair. "Nah, I'm— " Trying not to breathe; it's not working. The detective's perpetually on the verge of a cringe. "I'm good," she says, friendly, "just keep your eye out for any drug paraphernalia on your way out, yeah? But don't touch anything." The less time she spends looking around herself in this environment, the better — for her, her stomach, and the floor. Which is why she gets on with it now, dropping into a hovering crouch by the coffee table to look at its contents and the deceased, trying to find the signs of an OD and the elusive something weirder. "Okay, Ken… let's see what you've got."

"Alright," comes Jack's quick response as she turns on a single foot. Her blue eyes scan the floor and tables as she saunters towards the door. Her gaze falls on the backpack, and it prompts her to lift an eyebrow. "How many street kids attend college?" she asks as she squats down to examine the calculus textbook. "And how did he go from street to apartment so quick? I mean, the neighbour knew Ken lived here and she knew that he was from the street and identified him as a street kid… seems… weird, I guess." She shrugs. "And fast."

"Yeah. But he could be crashing with somebody," Liza surmises idly while she starts her closer scan, simply to throw it out there rather than to impress any belief one way or the other. She suppresses a cough. "Maybe this isn't even his place. We don't even know this is Ken, I mean, I'm not jumping to go' fishin' for his wallet."

"If he even has one," Jack observes as she peeks at the backpack. "I don't want to disrupt the scene, but… maybe it's worth looking at the textbook? When I was a college student I wrote my name in all of my books. Too expensive to misplace or lose— "

A bloated bulge of what was once a young man's arm has been moved from where it was starting to leave a stain of juices on the dirty yellow carpeted floor; there's a depression in the shag easier to see, where the coroner must have removed the weight. He did so to notice the tourniquet strapped to the man's arm below the rolled-up button-down sleeve. So far, so OD.

There, next to a couple of old, half-rolled up, magazines and a Diet Coke is a professionally clean syringe, looking new out of its package except for the trace of darkness at its tip Liza recognizes as dried blood.

Trodding of steps on the outer apartment walk are more apparent to Jack, closer by, before the shaggy dark-blonde head of the coroner shifts around the doorway. "Detective?" Muffled. His mouth's obstructed by the breathing mask Josh Young's known to don during crime scenes; the unfortunately occupied man's said to have enhanced olfactory perception. "Dug out of the couch cushions," he notes, folding a doubly-gloved hand towards the suspected method of drug-ingestion.

Liza's distracted "yeah" is a belated reply to the officer over the textbook, but it doubles for the masked coroner. "Looks shiny and new, huh?" she says of the syringe, pushing up onto her feet — tiny blessing, lifting her slightly away from the unpleasant remains. "Ugh. Kinda jonesin' for some of your fancy face-wear right now, gotta admit." As soon as she's up, she's down again, though, trying to squint thoroughly around the tourniquet — where veins, in ODers, are usually overused. "He look like a frequent flyer to you, doc?" she poses casually, never-minding that the coroner is Mr. Young, not Dr. Young.

"Looks professional." So lies Young's interpretation of the clinically clean syringe, kept so free of contaminants until brought here, to the unfortunate man's apartment. Lifting a hand, he spreads a finger beneath the mask, tightening its clench; it can't be performing flawlessly in the room void of air circulation. "Not frequent," he adds briskly, mouth opening and closing with the finality of the stiffness with which he keeps his breath regulated inside here. "But enough that I began to explore it as an overdose." Eyes venture right then left, not in exploring but a reiteration of what he must've experienced arriving. "This neighborhood, demographic… I would've said dealer. Maybe didn't realize what he was getting into. But then I happened upon that syringe, and your MO." A slight turn up of his voice at the end, subtle though it is, asks the question of whether he was wrong or not.

"Yeah…" Another idle agreement from the detective, if not a convincingly solid one. Liza comes just short of rubbing a gloved knuckle under her chin before thinking better of it even though there protective gear has touched next to nothing. She'd focused back down on the body — and the syringe — but her eyes pop quickly back up to the coroner, twinkling. Her head bobs. "Hey, so, can you like, bloodhound the syringe? You know, figure out what's in it before it makes it back to a lab?"

The phrase bloodhound the syringe causes Officer Carter to wrinkle her nose. She wouldn't want enhanced smell, particularly not at this scene. Her hands retreat into her pockets for the time being as she leans forward to inspect the syringe in turn. Maybe she can learn something.

Creases in the mask suggest Young's aforementioned nose has wrinkled; he contemplates. "As you're aware," he knows his phrasing is extraneous, but drawls through compel, "This isn't admissible." Glancing once to the left, the coroner drifts back towards the half-closed door as if in retreat, but when his feet move, it's in towards the rotted corpse oflikelyKen, and the two official policewomen. Picking carefully, in newly booted feet, he slips up to the table, keeping back from the side of the table with the corpse. When he reaches, he flips the tight film of his first gloves out, revealing the clean and unaffected second pair in order to pick up the syringe since his first have now been picking up contaminants. Straightening, his chest puffs with the large breath absorbed inside the mask before, raising his free hand, he drags the material down off his face. Water seems to jump to his eyes immediately, but with this carefully held estimation of a 'clean' sample, he lifts the syringe just half an inch away from his nostrils and, eyes closing, breathes so deeply that it tempts nausea in the women with their normal senses just to think of the result.

Young's eyelids flutter. The syringe drags a couple inches to the right, running its length beneath his controlled inhaling. Then it lowers; he opens his eyes. "No trace," his hand lifts to replace the mask over his face. He exhales too fast then inhales shallowly. "That is, of drugs. But there's blood."

"Jesus," Liza complains over the perplexing news. "How much blood?" She stands up straight, distancing herself from the body, a look of distinct thought troubling her face transparently. "I figured, drugs, hey, at least somethin' more normal's goin' on, but this? Yeah, this feels like the mystery bodies." Her attention swings to Jack. "Hey— " A pause fills the space that should be filled in by a name. "Make sure anyone who steps foot on this scene doesn't treat it like some throwaway OD, okay? We're gonna treat it like a homicide 'til further notice." Her glance past Young lands on the syringe again. Murder weapon numero uno unless she discovers otherwise. She wanders — trying to pick through the apartment to find out more about its apparent resident.

He stalls with, "His blood…" as a light question, glancing indecisively at the weather-worn body of the victim. Confirmation is a nauseating sniff away. In consideration for the newly re-established scene, the coroner steps gingerly alongside the body and slips the syringe in an approximation of where he found it. Nothing's going to be perfect about this scene; it already had been dismissed the once. "It's unusual not to smell anything else. That's awfully professional and— what exactly did he think he was injecting. Air?" Speculation of the civilian sort, more than a detective's prowling; when Young glances over at Jack, he silences himself out of some kind of respect for the actual badged members of the team.

Wandering brings Liza to the sink where the small college-student-grade science lab has been stewing. A couple of pictures plastered on an otherwise clear fridge show what the young man's face might have once looked like before nature took its turn. Her discovery of an open box of party balloons in the sink seems to confirm a few suspicions.

The revelation causes Jack's nose to wrinkle again as she takes a slide-step backwards. "Yes, ma'am," she responds with a crisp nod of her head. Her eyes squint as she catches Young's glance towards her. Right. She's an actual officer at this scene. Her jaw tightens some as she takes another slide-step backwards. She's going to go speak to her colleagues. She treads slowly towards the door where she'll be able to breath freely once more.

Either it's someone's birthday, or the resident of this house is prepped to store drugs — the confirmed suspicion that Liza keeps to herself while she half-idly goes through some of the balloons in the box, thinking. A half-formed grimace rests on her face and forgets itself. "Well," she tosses back to the coroner, "he coulda ODed on air…" An unlikely theory, her voice indicates: she's just talking. "Embolism, right? But that'd be a friggin' weird way to go…"

"Don't we, ah…" a waver of Young's hand — bear with him, "Specialize in the weird, detective?" Like a good coroner, he's picking his way carefully back across the way from the body towards the door, his mask lending the grim appearance the scene calls for with its rotten quality. "And, yes. It'd be a subtler way to kill someone, however, if this were a set-up, I'd tend to think that the person would remember to plant drugs."

"Yeah, yeah," Liza gives Young her gritty laugh in response to the weird: something she's buried in whether she wants to be or not. She tosses her head back somewhat dramatically, imploring the ceiling — and studying it briefly while her gaze is up there. The fling of her head back down lends to her long step away from the sink — maybe she'll find something where the guy sleeps.

En route, her phone vibrates in her pocket, eager to alert her to a call she's just as eager to answer, although the caller has to wait while she extricates one glove from her fingers. "Partner!" she answers with half-false exuberance; taking a too-hearty breath in the sickly atmosphere, it's followed by a cough and a muffled muddle of 'jesusfuckingchristmas'.

"… Sloan." The voice of Eric Whelan says — questions, really — in a soft, non-committal tenor.

A painfully typical bedroom's no escape from the waft of scents; Ken had been eating in here recently, and that's gone rancid faster than the body. Some crawling thing scurries out of Liza's foot route.

Another exclamation is sent her partner's way via the cell, this one wordless in her instinctual hurry to avoid the crawling thing. "… You're missing a real party over here. There's even balloons. I got an OD that isn't an OD, it's a mystery wrapped in a tourniquet," Liza says, spiced by cynicism that crumbles fast over her casual air. "You done with the trial?"

"Yeah, I'm on my way. Try not to have— too much fun? Without me." More hesitation peppered through Whelan's voice as he traverses a single sentiment; not doubt of her, but weaseling out of picking a particular tone for the situation. He wallows between teasing and uncertain professionalism.

"Yeah— !" Detective Sloan, on the other hand, is purely breezy, a joke that's barely a joke when it comes naturally by default. A cramp is placed on her tone, however, by the tight sensation of nausea trapped low in her throat, straining her voice. "No promises!" She hangs up. 

More or less alone — trying not to step on anything living in the disgusting room — she takes in all the unpleasant sights, checking a few more metal boxes in the drug dealer category as she goes along. It's a swift perusal, and her departure is faster — with intensely brisk strides that keep her moving professionally rather than running straight outta there. 

She hangs out by Jack in the cleaner, if less than refreshing air for a moment before heading on over to talk to the neighbor while Whelan is en route.

Liza's gleaning that the prickly old woman's been in the area long enough not to all-out squeal on her questionable neighbors when an old light blue Camaro rumbles up to the scene, its passenger flashing an appropriate badge before tucking it beneath his V-neck sweater. Though he's above average in height, Detective Eric Whelan lacks a certain imposing quality to both his figure and stance, and he slumps slightly when he walks, making it appear as though it's slightly inconvenient for him to be that tall. Grey in his already unusually light hair makes him look even gentler, rather than grizzled.

"Hello…" he intones softly, almost as if doubting that this is the proper word, on spotting Jack near the entrance.

Detective Whelan receives a slight squint of Jack's eyes as she gives him the once-over. He doesn't look like a detective to her. Although, he does have the badge. "Hi," she manages, a little more surprised sounding than she intends. Her throat clears, "I mean," *ahem* "Hello." She forces a smile. It's been a long day, and the nausea hasn't subsided much. And then, more authoritatively, because she is an officer on duty, she remembers with a slight raise of her eyebrows that signals oh yeah, I almost forgot, "We're treating the scene as a potential homicide rather than an OD." In another moment, her eyes track downwards, "Just thought you should know." Shrug.

" — alright, ma'am, no worries. Thank you for your time." The uniquely distinctive voice of Detective Sloan doesn't so much drift into perception as cut deeply through the still air; it's raised to get through to the old woman, whose neighbouring home she's leaving. She hasn't been completely shooed off the step when she sees the latest arrival.

Charting a course for Detective Whelan, she's smiling in the casual way of a cop whose day isn't as interrupted by gruesome crime as the average person. "Hey. How was court? Sneakin' out on us to see justice served, whatever." You'd think they were public servants or something: a tease in her smile, the roll of her dark eyes. Landing on the door guarded by Jack, her gaze falters for a second, just a split second, a darker seriousness there. "The guy inside's definitely into dealing. I got from the neighbour that he was involved in a gang, too — she didn't wanna come out and say it, but it jives. Thing is, so far I haven't found any fucking drugs. Including— well," Liza takes a heavy, begrudging step toward the scene, "I'll give you the tour."

"It's the neighborhood." Eric's head bobs indistinctly towards both the house and Liza, neither truly confirming nor confronting. After the pause, as he's lumbering up the building stairs behind her, he drones, "Sorry. Cleansed today for court." A real pause; he hovers on the stairs, gloved hand on the railing, and gets his first whiff of what's coming down from above. Something dead but certainly not angelic. He recovers in a second, hop-skipping the step he waited at, and plunging into Ken Okinawa's leftovers. "You weren't exaggerating about the hot bod…" he observes lowly.

"A hot bod isn't something to exaggerate." If only they were talking about any other kind; Liza's steps slow, nearly against her will, a subconscious effort of her body to avoid walking in. She wades dutifully inside, pressing a forearm against her nose and mouth. Her eyes rebel, catching water at their rims. "I wanna get a direction on this thing and get gone," she admits, lower, too. Peeking further in the increasingly familiar apartment, the tour begins: "Meet Ken."

Against the better instinct of his roiling insides— exhumed by a hard cough to the side into his elbow crease— Eric delves deeper into the apartment, climbing shyly around pieces of furniture, an inexperienced crime scene attendant, to crouch near the introduced body. "Hello, Ken," he murmurs, entirely void of irony; he's speaking straight to the bloated face, lightly squinting in more than nausea. "How were you…"

Watching his greeting, a faint smile rests along Liza's mouth; it seems more out of place now that they're among the dead. She waits at a distance with her wrists curled against the small of her back, marring the neat hang of her jacket. "Syringe," she points out with a dash of her head to the side. "Get this: our coroner said there was never any drugs inside."

"Huh…" said distantly; Eric's vaguely paying attention, working hard to keep on task while a portion of his brain sets on a new regiment. "That's a… multi-talented coroner." Eyelids flutter. Abruptly, Eric unwinds to his full height, staring attentively at the empty couch cushions.

"Hey, multi-talented. That's ACRU, right?…" Sarcasm swims somewhere beneath. Liza is distracted by her — multi-talented — partner and his evident distraction; she takes a step forward, her other door dragging, not yet committed. "… see somethin' over there…?"

Again, he's half-there: "Ken…" He side-steps, barely avoiding crunching on the body as if he no longer sees it there, circling, instead, a singular couch cushion with an invisible occupant. "He's having," her partner wheezes subtly, "a heart-attack. It's— " a hand outstretches, fingers reaching achingly to assist a person long past aid; perhaps even meeting the grasping hand of a man experiencing his last, agonizing seconds.

This is a new and strange phenomenon for Eric's partner to comprehend completely; it takes some getting used to. Liza's second foot catches up and then she's near him, but still keeps her distance, her eyes searching him and the empty space— she feels like she's looking at a ghost. "Do you…" Uncertainty seeps from the hoarse cracks in her voice. "Can you see anythin' around him? Anyone?"

Eric Whelan doesn't blink. "No…" is slow and ponderous from his distance, back in the room hours ago with Ken Okinawa's last moments. What Liza doesn't see is the speckles of gold-flecked dust lingering in human shape, masking out a facade that chokes and scrunches in an unfathomable panic. A slow, eventual death before the newly made body tips over, slamming a cheek onto the floor, fingers empty and clutching. When it ends — when Ken is dead — the flecks dissipate and when Liza sees Eric's forehead crumple into concentrated waves, they attempt to reassemble, sloth-like until Eric risks permanence in his wrinkles. Backwards, backwards… "He injects…" a slow, release of breath; Eric blinks, and then he's looking, really looking, at Liza. "He dies. He doesn't talk to anyone. No one puts it in him."

Liza clearly doesn't know what to make of it. She meets her partner's eyes, hers narrowing without sign of crease. She's grasping for more sense than the story tells. "Alright…" Hardly seems enough of an answer after he basically watched someone die. Tension finds her forehead, creasing it in turn.  She turns sidelong, gesturing over the body. "There's blood, there's nothin' else on that syringe, unless the lab proves Young wrong. So… what. What was it. Did you get the feeling he…" Liza's eyebrows rise, struggling with her still-forming understanding of how the other detective's unique insight works. "I mean, did he— did he try to kill himself?"

"I don't— believe so?" A relative newcomer to investigation, Eric fails to commit; it also seems to be his neutrality of choice. "Perhaps. He didn't seem to inject himself under duress. I'll… walk around." Presumably, to see if there are any more traces — a murder might leave a spark of emotion as well as a victim. Not that their suspect may necessarily even have been in the room, but, dutifully, the new detective steps around the table, glancing a last regretful time at Ken's corpse, before picking his way from one college-cluttered corner of the living space to the next, absorbed. It's after a couple of minutes of this that he veers back to Liza a few steps, frowning with consideration.

Liza is, those couple of minutes later, conspicuously close to the door, her arms crossed, trying to lock her in place. Having given her partner his space, she did her own snooping all over again, informed by only the traces of the past she can see in the present, but the slightest hint of fresh air wins out over a third go. “Anyone ever tell you your thinking face is really serious?” Liza’s would-be smile never quite makes it; she nods her chin up, prompting. “So what’re you thinking?” Her arms uncross, falling loose at her sides. “Are you as confused as I am?”

Eric stares solemnly at her, "Yes." There's almost a faint whiff of why but she asks her next question and his nostrils curl softly as his lip moves in ponderance. "He didn't have a girlfriend. Thinking I want to know more about him, but he didn't have a girlfriend and that's normally the first place." A sniff — despite its danger in this environment — and he slips his hands to his hips beneath the swing of his straight-cut suit jacket over that extraordinarily suburban sweater-vest, and in this heat.

"You got that from your Magic Eye?" Liza asks as her own eyes narrow; curious, rather than critical, her gaze digs into her suburban-vested partner, then hops off with a sigh. "He's got someone — gangbuddies, family, we'll look 'em up. I dunno about you, but I'm ready to get some air."

"You investigate enough of these types," remarks Eric without judgment, thumb thrusting back at the littered college bedroom, "You get to recognize desperate masturbating when you see it." Easy strides take him up to Liza and past as he nods, "Start with the college, I suppose…. Huh. Magic Eye."

Liza's smooth features pinch into a grimace worse than that inspired by the crime part of the crime scene earlier.  "Ughhn— man." A smile is spreading from it quickly from the expression as she follows Eric, knocking her elbow into his in a purposeful jab. "Sure you didn't recognize your own room decor, Whelan?" she jibes. "Hey, you go to college?"

Eric shuffles down the stairs ahead of her, unmoved by the jibe and the jab, "Not for very long."

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