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Summary: When a distraught but beautiful Josie Sands shows up in Naomi’s office asking her to find her murdered husband’s journal, she can’t help but take the case. But when she starts to investigate, a burned gangster spirals the detective into trouble with all the wrong people--and she’s beginning to suspect Josie is not all that she appears...
Word Count: 3,879
Characters:
Naomi, Abaddon, Raphael, Meg Masters, Castiel
Pairings:
Abaddon/Naomi, implied past Raphael/Naomi
Tags:
fires, brief use of a gun, violence and mentions of violence, detective noir au


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The woman had been crying since the moment she stepped into Naomi’s office. At first, Naomi didn’t know what to make of it, the redhead standing in the doorway with crimson lips trembling and hands clenching and unclenching the folds of her powder blue dress in anguish. Naomi looked up at the other woman and furrowed her brow.

“What can I do for you?” She asked, all business in her tone, though curiosity was certainly eating at her. The redhead sucked in a breath, as though speaking would take every ounce of energy she possessed.

“Please, I--I need--” the woman didn’t finish before she broke down, covering her face and weeping into her hands. Naomi stood quickly--so quickly, in fact, that her chair almost tipped over before she had the sense to steady it.

“Easy now,” she consoled, gesturing to the chair on the other side of the desk. “Go ahead and have a seat; we’ll talk this out.”

The redhead strolled across the small space between the door and the chair and sat down, all the while continuing to sob. A shadow fell over her face as the door creaked shut due to the draft, leaving the illumination of the room down to a mere table lamp and the brighter light outside of the room, shining through the little window on the door. Naomi followed suit and sat down before reaching into her desk drawer and pulling out a folded handkerchief. She extended her hand to offer it to the crying woman.

“Do you want to start by giving me your name?” Naomi asked gingerly, watching as the redhead dabbed at her eyes with the handkerchief. The detective tried not to stare at the way the woman’s long eyelashes glistened with her movements, focusing instead on the way she held her hands, steady despite her emotional display.

“Josie--Josie Sands,” The woman replied, sniffling. “Oh gosh, I’m sorry--I just… It’s been so difficult lately and I don’t know where else to turn...” She began crying anew, covering her face with the handkerchief momentarily. Naomi shifted in her seat a bit and leaned forward, folding her hands underneath her chin.

“You can tell me,” Naomi assured her, a brief smile ghosting her lips.

Josie drew a shaky breath as she dabbed at her eyes, smearing the makeup slightly. “My husband, Christopher, he—he was murdered two weeks ago.” She paused, her face crumpling for a moment before she regained some amount of composure. “I still don’t know who did it, and the police have been all but useless.” Josie shook her head, eyebrows furrowed. “I’ve done some investigating myself out of desperation, though I wasn’t able to uncover much.”

Naomi nodded, her lips pressed together in a thin line, but she kept silent, listening to Josie as the woman continued her story.

“But there’s this bellhop from a hotel—The Grand Regent—and I found out through my searching that he has information about my husband’s killer.” As she spoke, Josie reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out a carefully folded sheet of paper, handing it across the desk to Naomi, who took it from the other woman’s fingers. “I went to the hotel just two nights ago to try and convince him to talk to the police, but he refused and—well now I am at a complete loss.” Josie buried her face in her hands as a fresh wave of sobs overcame her, and a few minutes passed before she managed to compose herself.

“Gosh I’m so sorry…” Josie let out a wet chuckle and wiped at her eyes. “Anyways, that’s why I came to you. I was hoping you could somehow get the bellhop to talk. Certainly a strong, ruthless detective like yourself would have much more of a persuasive effect than a weepy widow like me.” She laughed again, and Naomi felt her cheeks warm involuntarily.

“I’ll see what I can do,” The detective replied with a small grin.

Josie returned the smile, bowing her head slightly. “Thank you so much!” she said, wringing her hands around the handkerchief. “Oh, and there’s one more thing, too.”

Naomi tilted her head in interest, signaling for Josie to continue.

“Christopher always used to carry around a little black book with him wherever he went. It was a date book of sorts, actually. Now the strange part is when the police found his body, the book was gone.” Josie sniffed, wiping at her cheeks. “I’ve no doubt whoever killed him took this book, but what I don’t understand is why. Anyways, if you don’t mind, could you also keep an eye out for any information about it? I’d like it back if possible—it’s the one piece of Christopher left that I can keep close to me.” Josie pursed her lips together in an effort to bite back more tears.

Naomi nodded. “I’ll see what I can do about it.”

Josie thanked her once more and stood, reaching into her dress pocket to pull out another folded sheet of paper. “This is my contact information, so you can keep me updated on everything.” Naomi took the slip of paper from the redhead and pocketed it. “Of course,” she replied. Josie smiled again and turned to leave, but her expression seemed to falter for just a moment with the movement. However, the shift was gone almost as quickly as it had come, and Naomi wondered briefly, as she watched the redhead push open the door and leave, whether she had simply imagined it.


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--


Not an hour after her meeting with Josie Sands, Naomi heard Hael crackling over the police radio in her steel grey '41 Buick: 10-70, Grand Regent Hotel. The Grand Regent, the one with the skittish bellhop who wouldn't talk to the police, but who Josie swore up and down knew where the late Mr. Sands had been robbed and murdered. She left tire tracks in the pavement turning the curve up the hill and beat the firetrucks there, but not by much, judging by their caterwauling sirens echoing down the street. She had maybe five minutes before the whole scene was either locked down or burned up. The Grand Regent was an old building retrofitted for the modern age, but some spark must've slipped between the holes left by penny-pinching bureaucracy. Smoke billowed from a fourth-story window, and the window above it glowed faintly against the dying sunset.

Naomi tipped down the brim of her hat and moved brusquely through the lobby, searching the faces of evacuating patrons as if out of worry for a particular person staying there. As hotel clerks ushered everyone out, she slipped into the side stairwell and bounded up the stairs three at a time.

Room 406: two right turns down the hazy hall from the stairwell. An inferno raged just beyond a door half-broken off its hinges. Naomi pressed her handkerchief to her mouth to mask the stench of sulfur and pushed the door open the rest of the way, squinting into the room with eyes watery from the smoke and heat. At the foot of the bed was a body burning in a circle of embers. Its face wore a pair of yellow-tinted glasses, cracked from the heat; its feet, not yet touched by flames, were adorned with Azazel's signature canary yellow wingtip shoes. Above him on the bed sprawled an empty burgundy suitcase spilling sheaves of paper onto the burning carpet. The rest of the room--albeit drenched with flammable chemicals and on fire--was relatively undisturbed. Whoever did this got what they wanted, the way they wanted it.

She had her suspicions, of course, but she was out of time. The floor under the body buckled and dropped the gangster's corpse into the room below. She'd seen enough, and it was getting hard to breathe.

Getting out of the hotel was child's play; Naomi knew how to play just another frightened woman with a floppy hat and bug-eye sunglasses, and even managed to avoid the EMT's. A second later, hat off, hair down, she was a completely different person, and within moments she was back in her car with no one the wiser. The hammer clicking back on a .45 behind her chided: maybe next time check the back seat before you get into the car.

Meg Masters' cheeks were streaked with tears in the mirror's reflection, but her eyes held a wild fury.

"We've got to stop meeting like this," Naomi tried.

"Shut up," said Meg. "Start driving."

Naomi shifted the car into first, pulling away from the curb. "Where are we going?"

"That's the last thing you should be worried about," Meg sneered. "Just turn when I say."

A thick silence filled the car, interrupted only by the revving of the Buick's engine. Naomi took another nervous glance in the rearview.

"I'm sorry about your father."

Meg gave a bitter laugh. "You can take your sorries and jam 'em up your ass."

"You've got it all wrong, Meg," Naomi gripped the steering wheel tightly. "I didn't kill Azazel."

"Lying's not gonna put me in a better mood, lady." Even through the upholstery, Naomi can feel the gun poking into her back.

"I don't lie. I was investigating another case when I found Azazel, and he was dead and burning long before I got there."

"Keep singing that as long as you want," Meg said. "But it's not gonna change what happens next. You're going to give me back the black book, and then I'm gonna make you swallow your own teeth."

"Black book?"

"Turn right."

Naomi complied, mind racing. To say Meg was directing them to a bad part of town would be an understatement, and there was nothing but warehouses by the end of this street, most of them empty. "Not the black book that went missing in the Christopher Sands murder?"

"No, my personal diary," Meg spat. "The hell do you think?"

"That's valuable evidence. You know if I found that, I'd be filing a report with the police right now, not chauffeuring you to parts unknown." Naomi raised an eyebrow. "What do you need with a date book, anyway?"

"Date book?" She scoffed and sat back with an incredulous smirk. "You really haven't read it, have you?"

"I haven't even seen the cover."

"Yeah, well, if you knew what was in that book, you'd sooner chuck it in the river than turn it over to the cops." She glanced out the window and bit her lip. "Chuck your own self in after, while you're at it. He shouldn't have had the damn thing in the first place."

"Why did he?"

"It was temporary, I thought...It doesn't matter, why am I talking to you about this?" The barrel pushed into Naomi's back again through the seat. Not enough upholstery there to even muffle the shot.

"I didn't kill Azazel, Meg. And I didn't take the book." She chanced a look in the mirror to hold Meg's gaze. "But I can find out who did. I've seen that M.O. before, I know it. I just need some time."

"Pull over."

Naomi set her jaw, pulling to a stop in front of a dilapidated bar teeming with gangsters. They sat there, engine idling, long enough to pull the attention of a few ruffians. Naomi wasn't sure what difference it made, dying in an empty warehouse or in a gutter. Neither struck her with much appeal.

"You've got 24 hours. After that, no amount of your pretty makeup will salvage enough for an open casket." Meg opened the backseat door and got out, pausing a moment to lean down on Naomi's open window, revolver dangling lazily from one hand towards Naomi's lap. "Oh--and maybe you should ask your commissioner why all your pig friends are twisted up in knots over a missing date book." She grinned with an expression Naomi didn’t like much, then walked away.

Naomi was happy enough to drive off without any extra ventilation in her car, but once she was out of Meg's territory, she swore under her breath. She never much liked the Masters', and couldn't say she was sad to see Azazel burn. Now she was working for his daughter?

Everyone deserves justice, she thought grimly, returning to the burned hotel. Even so, what an interesting variety of clientele she was collecting.


--


Naomi parked down the street from the Grand Regent and took a moment to pull her hair back up into a tight bun at the nape of her neck, leaving her hat on the back seat. Firetrucks still clogged the hotel's driveway, joined now by squad cars and throwing flickering red and blue lights against the building's facade. No disguises this time; today, she needed people to recognize the face that had been all over the tabloids.

Room 406 was taped off, of course, with a cop standing guard. Officer Novak. For once, a stroke of luck.

"Castiel," She greeted him with a professional nod and a faint smile.

"Naomi," He jumped a little, clearly surprised to see her. "What are you doing here?"

"I need access to the crime scene," She gestured to the charred door behind him. "I have a suspicion it's relevant to a case I'm working on."

Castiel licked his lips and shot a nervous glance down the hall at a forensic photographer who was just leaving. "I'm not certain that's a good idea, ma'am."

"Really." She shifted her weight. "On what grounds, exactly?"

"On the grounds that this is my murder scene and I'll decide who I want involved in this case." He tipped up his chin, blue eyes wide but steady on hers.

She smiled and glanced down. "We didn't part on the best terms. I know your career took damage in the scandal, too." She met his gaze cooly, her smile gone. "But if we can't interact like professionals I'm not above calling Raphael to provide adult supervision."

Castiel blanched.

"But I'm sure you're not genuinely that petty, so I'm going to go ahead and do my goddamn job," She smiled again, with teeth this time, "alright?"

Castiel closed his eyes and sighed, but lifted the tape.

"I knew we could come to an understanding," She breezed past him.

"Be careful," He called after her. Right, Naomi thought, because this is my first crime scene, until he added, "The floor isn't always stable."

"Thank you," She said, bemused that genuine concern had caught her off-guard.

The hotel room was still hissing smoke in places, but was significantly less on-fire than the first time she'd seen it. The stench was awful. The papers spilled on the ground were now mostly burned up, and the burgundy suitcase was seared badly. The flash of a bulb through the hole in the floor belied the photographer documenting Azazel's charred body, which had broken a table in its fall. She'd have to go downstairs later to examine the corpse. For now, she turned her attention to the soggy carpet.

Around the hole is scorched a perfect black circle, too neat to be natural. She leaned over, minding her footing: around the edge was a crisp line slightly indented, and she could make out the five points of a star; someone had taken the time to lay down a design before they set the gangster on fire. If it was anything like the string of murders four years ago, he would've died by a stab wound to the chest with a serrated knife, and the corpse taken here and burned post-mortem. The absence of signs of a struggle supported that, but she wouldn't know for sure until she examined the body.

She ventured downstairs and waited for the photographer to get her shots before stepping in for a closer look. Grimacing at the smell of burned flesh, she saw the pit of a knife wound on his chest, as she'd suspected.

It looked like she'd have to head to the station after all.


--

Naomi opened the file, back in her office. A younger looking Josie Sands smiled up at her. She scanned the little things--age (29), height (5’6”), weight (even Naomi wouldn’t tell another woman’s weight). She leaned back in her chair when going through the other photos, and she frowned a little more with each picture that showed her and her husband together. She blinked; something wasn’t right, and she leaned forward to place the pictures on her desk. Naomi was onto something, and she wanted to know--

Knock, knock. Naomi jumped and looked up at her door. “Come in,” she said, loud enough for the person outside to hear. The door opened. Noises from the chatter outside could be heard.

A familiar face peeked in, and she smiled. “Not working too hard, are ya?”

Naomi shook her head when the door closed. “Not at all, Raphael.”

Raphael leaned against the door, looking around the office. “‘s been a while since I was last in here. It’s still--” Raphael chuckled. “orderly.”

Naomi leaned back in her seat. “I’ll take whatever compliments I can get nowadays.”

Raphael ignored the comment, but Naomi noticed the mood in the office drop. Raphael folded her arms and nodded toward the pictures on the desk. “What are you working on, anyway?”

“These?” Naomi leaned back toward the pictures and got a little excited. “It’s the Sands case. I was just looking over Josie Sands file to see if I could find anything to pull me in the right direction, and I--Okay, come here,” Naomi waved Raphael over to her desk. Raphael hesitated, but unfolded her arms and clicked her heels to the desk to look closer at the pictures. Naomi scattered the pictures in a row. “When I first met Josie, she was wearing this white pearl necklace, and it looked like her neck was a little bruised or something. I couldn’t make it out. But then in these photos,” Naomi pointed at them.

“There’s no necklace,” Raphael whispered.

“It’s perfectly logical Mr. Sands purchased a pearl necklace before his death, but this picture here,” she pulled one from the row, “it was taken almost three weeks ago. And the discoloring looked fresh, too.”

“Maybe it was the lighting? I mean, Naomi, you aren’t one to have a lot of light in this room.”

“Maybe, but it could be something?” Raphael rose, looking down at Naomi. “Raphael, I know you’ll be in heat for even talking to me, but hear me out. That scar around her neck, or whatever it is--it’s not just in one spot. It’s all the way around.”

Raphael was taken back. “Like a rope burn?” Naomi shook her head.

“No, it looked more jagged. And she didn’t--you’d think a woman who had lost her husband would not stop crying on a dime while walking out the door.”

Raphael sighed. “I don’t know what to tell you, Naomi, but you are in one hot mess.” Naomi looked up from the pictures. “No pun intended.”

Naomi sighed. “First it was Mr. Sands, then Azazel and the hotel going up in flames--It’s just not adding up anymore.” Naomi rose from her chair, hands on the desk. “I need more files on Azazel.” But then Naomi frowned. “You’re going to stop me, aren’t you?”

Raphael turned to the door, hand on the knob, but paused. A small sigh was heard. “You know, I really shouldn’t even be in this room with you. It’d ruin my reputation, and probably ruin yours more,” she whispered.

Naomi frowned. She respected Raphael with all she could, and to have the relationship strained because of a skeezy journalist who liked to put a bad rap on people, well--she wasn’t the happiest person. Naomi watched as Raphael dug in her pocket, and pulled something out on a string.

“I can’t be seen helping you, but I certainly wouldn’t know it if you took this key and went to the case files downstairs.” And Naomi swore she saw Raphael give a little smile and a wink.

Naomi shared a smile back. Raphael threw her the key and Naomi caught it. Soon the door was open, and stayed open; high heels clicked against the floor toward the loud chatter. It wasn’t long after that Naomi followed, with the key and her files in hand.

Naomi noticed Raphael go toward her own office, and while she passed the other detectives, she could hear the whispers. Some were sympathetic: “I can’t believe he’d do something like that.” Most despised her: “Metatron’s right. Look at her.” It wouldn’t be long before she was in another room, alone with more case files, specifically with Azazel’s smile grinning up at her. There were loads of papers in the files, all records, and while she could hear the comments still stirring outside the door (“How she can still hold it together is beyond me” and “The department doesn’t need someone like her here” were the two that stuck out the most), she needed to get down to business.

Metatron would have to wait.


--

Ring...Ring...Ri--

“Hello.”

“Ah, hello. Josie Sands?”

“Speaking.”

“Yes, hi, this is detecti--”

“Oh, right. Naomi.”

“Y-Yes. This won’t take long, but would you mind answering just a few questions? It’s about your case.”

“I’m all ears.”

“Okay. Could you tell me when your husband purchased that pearl necklace?”

“Excuse me?”

“Your pearl necklace. When did he purchase it?”

“Oh, this old thing? A few months ago. He thought it suited me.”

“And you wear it everywhere?”

“You certainly have an eye on it.”

“It was gorgeous.”

“No, I’ve never taken it off. Why would I?”

“No reason. Now, could you tell me where that scar comes from?”

“What scar?”

“The one around your neck.”

“There’s no scar.”

“You certainly have quick answers.”

“And you’d be better having a quick mind.”

“What’s the scar from?”

“You mean this old thing? Battle scar.”

“Battle?”

“Lovely time for a little war, don’t you think?”

“Who are you?”

“Someone you want to get dirty with, detective, and someone who can make them run.”

“Them?”

“None of your concern, for now.”

“What’s your name?”

“Didn’t you know? It’s Josie.”

“You aren’t who you say you are.”

“Says you, detective.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Nice little article in the paper. Metatron sure wants your head on a stake.”

“That’s nothing.”

“Oh really? Sure sounds like something to me.”

“It’s really nothing.”

“Everyone’s after a little black book--”

“Do you have it?”

“I wish. I want it.”

“Why?”

“You could ruin a life in this town with just a few words. Say, you could have a little fun with that scribe.”

“...No.”

“Liar.”

“Just--who are you?”

“Get the book, and I’ll consider letting you in on my big dark secret. And take down the scribe with you.”

“He’s the least of my worries.”

“He’ll get his. For now, I’d dig on Azazel. Burnt out scum like him deserves to just rot, but rumor has it you’re in a bind with the daughter.”

“How did you--”

“Get on her good side. Help her out. I can wait.”

“Well I can’t.”

“Make dinner reservations then. Until next time, Naomi.”
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SRS 2013 Main Round 1

October 2013

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