Washington:Dark City

Lieutenant Sanchez strolled down the corridors of the Washington Police Force headquarters. This was 1st Precinct. Police legends had walked these halls. Ella fantasied that maybe even Thomas Jefferson Hooker had once been here, before remembering that he was part of the LCPD. Ella was brought back to reality when she saw a door marked Briefing Room C. She was here to brief her team. Strictly speaking it wasn't her team. The Commissioner had handpicked the individuals from a variety of taskforces across Washington. Ella had been given operational authority to solve this very unusual case.

She checked her watch. It was 9:58am. She pushed open the door, and marched in with purpose up to the lecturn. The assembled officers who had been socialising suddenly fell into line and sat down. She quickly reviewed the faces and matched names to them.

Detective Richard Locklear. A solid, capable investigator with a passion for fast cars and fast driving. He'd bent the rules a few times, but never actually broken them. He'd probably make a good lawyer if he ever crossed to the dark side.

Special Agent Laura Wetherly of the FBI. A brilliant criminal profiler. One of the good things to come out of the FBI in recent years. She had some field experience and some lab experience, as well as friends in high places. All valuable things to be able to call on.

Sergeant Jason Tyler, marksman and tactician. Bloody good with a rifle. She chuckled to herself as she realised she'd used one of Sam's mannerisms. Cool, methodical and competent.

Agent Joseph Romano. A sneaky bastard from the DEA. Responsible for a number of succesful undercover stings. Sanchez recalled reading about one or two unsuccesful ones on his file also. Out of the team, he had perhaps the most colourful upbringing.

Sanchez wasn't going to waste any more time, "Welcome everyone. Lets get started with the briefing and we can catch up with getting to know each other after that. The original plan was to have a more relaxed introduction, but we've got our first case already. This morning, residents of Mountain Luxury Apartments complained to Landlord Jacques Watson when satellite channels started displaying significant interference. After a few initial checks, he headed up to the roof to examine the dish. Upon reaching the roof via the lift, he found a burning corpse tied to the radio mast. He promptly called 911. Officers on the scene have called for detectives, and the Commissioner decided to throw us in the deep end. There's a team on location now, but we're due to replace them upon arrival. We roll out in five..."

Tyler's police cruiser parked up in the underground lot of Mountain Apartments. A few moments later, a supercharged dodge viper belonging to Locklear pulled up alongside it. As the team stepped out of their vehicles they were hailed by a uniformed officer on patrol. Sanchez pulled her jacket back to reveal her badge resting on her belt. The patrol man waved them past towards the elevator.

As they approached, Wetherly pointed to two statues resting on the upper left and right frames of the lift door. Carved out from marble, one was a winged griffon and the other a gargoyle. Between them was an engraved pattern suggesting exotic European origins. It was clear to see why Mountain Luxury Apartments were called so. The elevator was spacious and luxurious, and even had two leather armchairs inside. Everyone stepped inside, and Sanchez hit the roof button. The doors silently closed, and there was only the slightest whine as the carriage ascended.

"This place is the mutt's nuts!" exclaimed Romano. He examined all the polished brass interior fittings. They were stamped with what looked like stylised Egyptian hieroglyphics. He ran a hand over one of the leather arm rests. "I wonder how much dough you have to make to rent a place here."

"Probably more a month than you make in a year, Joe," jibbed Locklear. "In fact, that little caress cost you five bucks!" Romano's eyes glazed over as he imagined bringing his honeys ... any or all four of them ... to a place like this, claiming it was his pad.

They reached the roof in what seemed like mere seconds. As soon as the elevator doors retracted, the smell of burnt flesh reeked out. It was almost strong enough to make Wetherly gag. She buried the impulse through sheer willpower and stepped under the yellow police tape with the rest of the team. Unfortunately the smell was not enough to blunt the horror of the smouldering corpse. As reported, a body had been chained to one of the satellite dishes. As they spread out, the other officers on scene stood up to let the detectives investigate.

With her hand over her mouth, Wetherly stepped forward to examine the corpse. "Victim is male, middle aged. Lack of blood on the ground would suggest little or no bleeding. This suggests whatever caused the fire may have cauterised any open wounds. "

"An accelerant?" queried Locklear.

"Probably. It will be difficult to identify even with lab tests," Wetherly answered. "There's more," she paused before continuing to snap on a pair of medical latex gloves. Her fingers explored the abdomen, "It appears that the digestive tract has been completely burnt away. Likely from the high temperature. Major damage to the kidney, spleen, stomach, heart. Lungs are half gone too. Damage seems slightly less the further from the centre. See, the feet still have some skin on the soles."

"Burnt from the inside out?" Sanchez wondered, her teeth set in a grimace. Wetherly nodded, stepping back to get some air.

Romano stepped forward pointing to one of the corpse's wrists, "Is that a bracelet?"

"Good eyes, Mister Romano. Well done," confirmed Wetherly. She lifted the bracelet away slightly away from the charred wrist. "I think it's an identity bracelet. The numbers are damaged, damn. We may be able to get more from it after a spectroscopic analysis." Seeing the blank look of Sanchez' face, she explained, "We zap it with stuff and hopefully recover some partial numbers."

During their investigation, Tyler had scanned the buildings surrounding Mountain Apartments. This was the highest building within this residential district. The closest building that was taller was maybe a mile away. It was likely that no one would have caught sight of the crime. Glancing over the edge, he estimated to be 180 feet up or so. Twelve stories, he recalled from watching the numbers from the lift display. There were two fire escapes going down opposite sides of the buildings that connected with every floor. They were well maintained, like everything else in the building.

"Where to go from here?" he wondered.