|The Dating Game IV: Forensic Mind
Author: Guede Mazaka
“How was the museum?” Guinevere asked, slipping out of her jacket. She neatly folded it over her bag, which she set on the floor by the door. Then she passed latex gloves to Arthur and snapped on a pair herself. Her hair had been hastily clipped back, and strands were already escaping to drift over her nose and cheeks. They were the only softness about her as she purposefully moved around the room. “Or should I ask how grabby the prat was?”
Arthur concentrated on putting on the gloves so he had a good reason for hiding his flush. “The exhibit was excellent. And Lancelot was not a prat. He also, er, kept his hands to himself.”
“Nice to hear that for once.” Though Guinevere didn’t quite sound as if she believed him. She walked into the bedroom, absently waving for Arthur to follow. “Happened in here. He was in bed and the shooter was…stop there. He was right where you were standing, according to the shot trajectory.”
Guinevere had stopped by the bed, which had had its mattress dragged to the floor and its rust-stained sheets lightly dusted with feathers; it seemed a few of the bullets had gutted the pillows. There were drag marks leading from the bed to a nearby window, which was closed. She went over to it and pushed it up.
“The neighbors were throwing fits about having to stare at a murder scene, so we had to tape plastic over the stains,” she said, backing off to let Arthur stick his head out the window.
The dull sheen of ripped-up black garbage-bag plastic patched the fire escape and parts of the small landing just outside. Arthur carefully peeled up the tape and took a peek. “Still only the victim’s?”
“All of it. Ballistics checked out his gun and he got off one shot, but there’s no bullethole that corresponds to it. So the hitman had to have walked off with it still in him.” Her voice faded and rose as she restlessly paced about the room, triple-checking possible places for stains. It was remotely possible that the shot had struck in such a way as to not result in any blood splatter at all, but that would require an absurd degree of luck. And for the shooter to then exit the building without dripping blood anywhere required another bit on top of that.
“Occam’s Razor,” Arthur muttered, pressing the tape back down. He stepped back and stared at the bloodstains, the rumpled sheets, the faint imprints that their shoes had left in the thick shag carpeting.
Guinevere stripped off her gloves and tossed them on her last round about the room. She finally settled for leaning against the wall, arms crossed and glare focused on the window. “Lancelot suggested that we check for detergents, just on the off-chance that the hitman spent a half-hour he wouldn’t have had scrubbing up after himself.”
Her version was surprisingly close to the one Arthur had gotten from Lancelot, though her tone implied that Lancelot had been a jackass, and Lancelot’s had said a good deal about the frustration of staring at the same room for nearly twelve hours and not getting anywhere. It certainly wasn’t the most improbable explanation that could’ve been offered, yet she’d apparently had a bad enough reaction to it to later provoke Lancelot into a fifteen-minute rant on her temper. Normally he ran about five.
“Those bloody lab boys thought that was hilarious. Pricks.” She sniffed and stared at the bathroom door, her profile echoing the Republic-era Roman cameos Arthur had been appreciating only a few hours before. But no chisel however fine could have exactly caught the nervous way she shook out a cigarette, shoved it back in, and instead nibbled on her fingertip.
The only time Guinevere smoked, as far as Arthur could tell, was either when she was thinking hard or when she was trying equally hard to not think on something. “What’d they say?”
He kept half-an-ear to her as he slowly turned about, scanning the room. Hopefully that would elicit a long answer; he needed enough of his conscious mind engaged to make sure he didn’t drift. Except for the episode with Cerdic—and that had been adrenaline and instinct and fear for the others more than anything else—he hadn’t tried to do this in literal years. It shouldn’t be too different than attempting to ascertain a writer’s intent from a close analysis of the words used, but then, philosophical research involved ideals and not the contradictory, grimy truth that was real human psychology.
“Oh, they didn’t say anything.” There was a low sharp snap as she put up her heel against the wall. A moment later, she began to impatiently rock on it. “I think I’ve made it clear I can bitch for longer than they can keep up the harassment, so they generally don’t.”
Placement of objects and the victim’s bloodstains were in accordance with the scenario that he’d been shot from the doorway, then dragged across to the window and hung outside of it: a gruesome warning, but unfortunately, a commonplace one in Arthur’s experience. Probably the victim had been still waking and caught rising from bed. He would’ve dove for the gun and then he’d gotten off that shot, but from there it should’ve gone high. Harder to be jumping out of bed and shooting at the ground at the same time than to be shooting up.
“I don’t understand what’s their problem, anyway. They’ve seen bloody women in skirts before. And anyway, they’re scientists. They should know better than to generalize,” Guinevere snarled. The tapping of her foot increased in tempo.
“Generalize?” The man had also been a longtime assassin himself, so he would’ve been shooting for vital places. Odds of him hitting a place that’d throw blood around increased. But then, Guinevere had said the room had been dark, and even assassins weren’t perfect. This one had had a good time beforehand—BAC of .25 plus cocaine, recent sex—so his reflexes could have been off. He could have been…Arthur walked back over to the door.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Guinevere curiously watching him. She started to say something, then cut it off and returned to her previous subject. “They meet one bimbo in a skirt, they think any woman wearing a skirt’s brainless. They meet a woman with no make-up, hair a disaster and wearing baggy jeans, they think ah! Someone with mental capacity.”
Thinking from the point-of-view of the man that had been shot hadn’t yielded anything, so Arthur tried the hitman’s perspective. Perhaps the assassin had known beforehand that his mark would be incapacitated by drugs and sex, but no one knowledgeable would have relied only on that, unless they’d added a tranquilizer to the mix. And if they’d had the chance to do that, then why not use poison in the first place? So no, they’d had to shoot him. Which only circled back to the lack of blood from the killer…
“And I spent all that damn time trying to talk to them, too—God, I wish I could have one time where I can get information without having to flash cleavage and then spend ten minutes telling them sex is absolutely not going to happen. Lancelot only goes there if someone drags him—labs or anything to do with rigorous thinking scare him—and yet they’re perfectly deferential to him. It’s—it’s—”
“Infuriating?” Arthur put a hand on the doorframe and looked into the next room. He saw the footprints he and Guinevere had made, now shapeless depressions but still faintly visible. The report hadn’t mentioned any tracks by the hitman, though of course they might’ve faded or been trampled by the maid who’d discovered the body. “I’ve had colleagues that thought like that, and I never could understand it. They’d be frustrated to no end trying to have the simplest conversations, or they’d be too busy being repulsed to follow what was being said. I mean—not that I’d be repulsed if you wore trousers, because you have some very becoming skirts, and I’d—”
A soft chuckle and a finger laid over his lips interrupted him. Guinevere’s thumb curved around his jaw and pushed his face towards hers so she could kiss him very slowly and thoroughly. When she backed off, her smile was lazily affectionate. “You’re never going to understand why the wait-lists for your classes are the longest in the college, but I like you anyway.”
Then she kissed him again, which spared him from even attempting to figure out what she’d meant. It even distracted him for a good five seconds from their purpose in being here, though eventually his mind firmly reminded him. “Guinevere—”
“Don’t make out at a crime scene?” she teased, nibbling at his jaw. “Where’s your sense of adventure?”
“Temporarily used up for the day.” Actually, he hadn’t been thinking about the inappropriateness of the situation, but now that she’d brought it up, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He tried not to look too disgusted.
Unfortunately, he failed. Fortunately, Guinevere just laughed and didn’t seem to hold it against him. “Did Lancelot actually talk you into sex at the Met? Dear God—you realize the more you feed him, the more he’ll ask for.”
“The idea had occurred to me,” Arthur dryly replied. He did better at not showing how amused he was by that comment coming from her, seeing as she didn’t seem to have any compunctions against putting his office to un-scholastic uses.
She laughed again and patted his cheek while he slowly looked up, wondering how on earth he was going to translate his hunch into reason. But once more, Guinevere surprised him: she looked upwards herself, frowning. Then her eyes went wide and she gasped. Narrowed her eyes and hummed thoughtfully.
Her hand landed on his shoulder; he was already stooping to grab the foot she lifted. She was a little lighter than he’d expected, so he had to awkwardly cut short his heave so as to not bang her head into the ceiling. Guinevere didn’t notice, or if she did, she didn’t care. What interested her was the tile right above them, which was the tiniest bit ajar. While Arthur attempted to hold her steady without grabbing too high, she lifted the tile. “Oh, my God.” Guinevere didn’t sound shocked so much as incredibly disgusted. “This—this is out of a movie! Grapple-hook scratches? What the hell were they playing at?”
“You’d be surprised at how influential movies can be,” Arthur grunted. Her knees were either bumping into his cheeks or smacking his nose, but the only way to avoid them was to look directly up her skirt. “Not everyone is ex-KGB or ex-MI6 or what-have-you. A lot just work their way from the street up.”
“And this one got lucky with his stunt. Though not for too long. I can see stains.” She spoke with all the relish of a cat savoring its very own bowl of cream. “Arthur. You realize sleeping together means you can, in fact, look. You’ve seen it before. This morning, for instance.”
Well, yes. But it still was—Arthur didn’t—thank God she was coming down and he didn’t have to wrestle with the issue any longer. He set her down as gently as he could, then started to straighten. His back made him pause halfway with a twinge that was slightly more than a warning, so he massaged the area and went more slowly. “Seems time’s catching up with me…”
“Not with what counts,” Guinevere murmured, leaning up to peck his nose. “Brilliant. That saves me a week’s worth. Now, I need to call the lab dicks and you need to get home.” She paused, then turned wide pleading eyes onto him. “But don’t let Lancelot wear you out, all right? I was looking forward to something fun after all this overtime.”
Arthur garbled an answer. He was getting rather good at that.