DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: CI and its characters are the property of Dick Wolf and NBC. CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A very special thank you to Debbie for taking on the job of beta for this fic as well as the 22 others and especially for agreeing to write her specialty, Birds of Prey, as part of this 24 fandom series. Thanks, Deb, I truly do appreciate it.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A dilapidated warehouse stood alone at the end of the seemingly forgotten street, the only building left standing among the broken, empty slabs of its counterparts long since destroyed. The broken windows and sun-damaged paint job gave every indication that its structure was far from sound. Detective Megan Wheeler was certain that the person who'd dumped the dead body inside had no idea that the building had been scheduled for renovation by the same company that had allowed it to deteriorate to its current state.
"Mr. Collins, we apologize for the inconvenience, but this is a crime scene," said Megan, her patience beginning to wear thin. The representative from Connors and Tidus, Inc. had been quite vocal with his unhappiness of his stalled renovation project.
"Detective, getting this warehouse up and running is one of our top priorities. We're in dire need of storage space, not to mention the convenience of its proximity to the water." He gestured toward the man-made channel directly across the street from the building.
Megan gazed over at the waterway, pretending to be concerned about the businessman's problem, but in actuality, she was wishing her partner would make an appearance; she could really use some backup right about now. Collins was like a dog with a bone. "I do understand. We just need a few more hours."
"What?" The man was close to blowing a gasket. "Time is money! Every hour . . ."
"Ah, Mr. Collins, another speech on the importance of time and money?" A smooth, steady voice, oozing with sarcasm, interrupted the businessman's tirade. Both he and the detective turned toward the source Collins, growling aloud because he recognized the voice, and Wheeler, smiling because she was fairly certain she had, too.
"Detective Curtis, what are you doing here? This isn't your turf," said Collins, anger etched on his features; he'd thought he'd seen the last of the detective.
"It seems another body has mysteriously been unearthed in one of your buildings. I'm beginning to think that perhaps it's a new groundbreaking tradition for your company." Sofia smirked. "What? Couldn't find a ceremonial ribbon to cut?"
Megan stifled a chuckle as well as her curiosity as to when Sofia had become a New York City detective. She also managed to successfully bottle up her hurt at the other woman for not trying to contact her. With too many questions, she focused on the case at hand instead.
Sofia nodded, finally addressing the other detective. "Two actually, Detective Wheeler, one appears to be accidental, the other not so much."
"It was an accident! The company had no way of knowing lightening was going to strike that crane operator. I mean, come on, what are the odds of that?" Collins was quick to defend his company's role in the death, but Sofia had since discovered something very pertinent to the events leading up to accident.
"Yes, lightening strikes are rare," said Sofia, deciding not to lay down her cards just yet. "So, what about the body found near the renovation of the building on 4th?"
Collins fidgeted, not at all happy with the direction the conversation was taking. "Probably just someone who had a beef with Travis."
"You knew the victim?" asked Megan, wondering if perhaps he also knew the man found beneath a pile of rubble in the warehouse just down the street.
"He was the foreman of the job where the crane operator was killed," supplied Sofia, also wondering about the identity of newest victim.
Making a show of checking the time on his gold Rolex, Collins said, "Look, I've got a meeting I need to attend. I'd appreciate being notified when we can resume the project. You can call my office if you have any more questions." With a quick nod, he turned and walked briskly toward his car.
"Something fishy is going on with that guy." Megan watched as Collins peeled away in his car. It was apparent that he knew more than he was letting on.
"You're not kidding." Sofia relaxed her stance and turned toward the other woman. "Want to get a bite to eat, and I can fill you in on what I know so far?"
Megan blushed, remembering the last time she'd dined with the detective. The two of them had hit it off immediately, but they'd both held back, knowing a long distance relationship would never work, especially with their job demands.
"Um, well, I should probably . . ."
"Hey Wheeler, one of the construction guys thinks he recognizes the victim," said Mike Logan, stepping into the middle of the conversation. He'd studied his partner on the way over from the warehouse and noted that she seemed out of sorts. His eyes had immediately zoomed in on the blonde and the gold shield she wore on her belt.
"Logan, this is Detective Sofia Curtis. It seems our cases have crossed paths." Megan slid her hands into her pocket, trying to hide her shakiness; Sofia showing up out of the blue had really thrown her. So much so that she'd forgotten that Logan had already met Sofia.
Extending his hand, he smiled. "So, you left Sin City and moved to the city that never sleeps."
Sofia smiled and took hold of the offered hand. "Yes, although I rarely slept in Vegas either."
Nodding in understanding, Logan released the firm grip. He instantly liked Sofia and, for someone who didn't trust easily, that was saying something. Sparing a glance at his partner, he got the distinct feeling that Wheeler liked the detective as well.
"Why don't the two of you go have lunch and compare notes?" He gestured toward the warehouse. "I'm going to try to get a positive ID on our vic. I'll meet back up with you in a bit."
"You sure?" asked Megan, keeping her voice even, but hoping her partner wouldn't change his mind. Besides needing to learn more background on their case, she was very interested in hearing why Sofia had decided to move to the Big Apple.
"Yeah, you two go on." Logan grinned and motioned the two detectives toward the cars.
"In the course of my investigation of the murdered foreman, I talked to the wife of the crane operator. She said the weather had been stormy the day her husband had died, and that one of the other workers informed her that the foreman had told Collins they'd have to wait until morning to do any of the work which involved use of a crane." Sofia took a sip of her tea and continued. "Collins and the foreman had a private conversation, and the foreman returned and ordered the operator to climb into the crane. She said there were some other workers who teased and goaded him until he finally just climbed in and started to work. Thirty minutes later, lightening struck."
Megan took another spoonful of potato soup and allowed the information to take hold. "So, the same foreman turns up dead a week later at another renovation site?"
"Yes, my partner and I drew the case. So, when I heard there was another victim found at another one of the company's sites, I needed to see if it was related."
"Where's your partner?"
"He's following a lead." Sofia leaned back in her chair. "We think the crane operator's brother may be responsible. No one's seen him since the funeral. If this latest victim turns out to be somehow involved in the operator's death, he'd move up to the top of the list."
"Do you suspect Collins?" asked Megan, pushing her bowl away and concentrating on Sofia. The fluttering sensation in her stomach had come back in full force.
"No, my money is on the brother. Collins is just your run-of-the-mill asshole. Even though he's directly responsible for putting the crane operator in danger, he didn't break any laws. I'm hoping the widow decides to sue though."
"If she does, I have a friend who would take her case. Serena would love to nail that bastard to the wall," said Megan, smiling at the thought of Serena taking on Collins and his associates.
Sofia returned the easy smile. "I was planning on calling you when I got settled in."
Surprised at the sudden change in topic, Megan turned a bright red, her freckles more prominent than ever. "When did you arrive in the city?"
"Barely a month ago, I've been immersed in case after case since I first stepped into the precinct. I thought I'd have a little down time to get used to things."
"There's no such thing as down time here." Megan fiddled with her napkin, still not certain where, or if, she fit in the detective's plans. Sofia seemed to be able to read her mind.
"Well, in that case, why don't we make plans to have dinner Friday evening and hope nothing comes up at the last minute?"
"You mean like another dead body?"
Reaching over, she placed her hand on top of Megan's. "Shh, you're going to jinx us." Sofia didn't move her hand and neither did Megan.
"Okay, no dead bodies." She smiled. "So, what happened in Vegas?"
"That'll take a while to explain."
"Well, Logan hasn't called yet, so we've got some time."
Sofia nodded and began. "I haven't been happy there for quite some time, and then a friend of mine was kidnapped by a crazed killer and left out in the desert to die. It was up to us to figure out where she was before time ran out. So...."
Megan rotated her hand and held on to Sofia's as the detective continued her explanation of how the law enforcement agencies banded together to save one of their own; she listened intently as the drama unfolded.
". . . Sara was given a second chance." Sofia locked eyes with Megan. "I guess I was hoping to find one, too."
Squeezing the hand she held, Megan smiled. "You have, Sofia, and so have I."
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