DISCLAIMER: There are lots of shows being represented here. Do I need to tell you that I don't own any of them? Wish I did, but I don't. They belong to a lot of other people that aren't me. No copyright infringement is implied/meant/deliberate in anyway, shape or form and, no money is changing hands/no profit is being made, etc. It's all just good Christmas-time fun.
FANDOMS: Okay, deep breath. Fifteen shows, including: Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, Law & Order Trial By Jury, CSI, CSI New York, Charlie's Angels, The Division, Cagney & Lacey, Murder She Wrote, Nancy Drew, Cold Case, D.E.B.S., Crossing Jordan and The X-Files.
SPOILERS: There may be a dangling plotline or a reference or two to an episode; See how many of these you recognize.
CHALLENGE RESPONSE: Submitted for the Passion & Perfection Xmas Challenge 2005
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Who Killed Santa?
By Del Robertson
National Women In Law Enforcement Conference
New York City New York
2:45 p.m. (Scheduled 45-minute intermission)
"That had to be the longest lecture of the day," complained the woman anxiously punching the down button. "I hope that little twenty-four donut shop we passed on the corner has good coffee."
"Now, be fair, Detective Benson," admonished ADA Novak, stepping into the elevator. She automatically moved to the rear of the car, taking up her position beside Serena Southerlyn. "The dissertation on Sixty-Nine Ways to Win A Conviction On Nothing More Than Circumstantial Evidence And Hear-Say wasn't any longer than any other presentation today."
"No, it was just sixty-nine times more boring."
Detective Olivia Benson smirked, glanced around the confined elevator space to see who had spoken. Her gaze fell on a petite, raven-haired woman standing towards the back of the car beside a slight blonde. She seemed oddly familiar.
"Do I know you?" she asked.
"I don't believe so."
"Really?" Frowning, Benson tapped a finger to her chin, trying to place a name with the face. "You seem very familiar."
"I get that a lot. People always think they know my name," the woman said in her monotone voice. She held out her hand, "Tracey Kibre. This is my - friend, Kelly Gaffney."
"Nice to meet you," Olivia said, shaking the other woman's hand, "I'm glad you came."
Ryatt-Ritz Hotel Front Lobby
As Detective Benson and the group of ADAs stepped off the elevator, they noticed the yellow caution tape cordoning off the middle of the hotel lobby. Detective Benson spotted a couple of plains clothes detectives speaking with a frazzled looking desk clerk. The blonde had her notebook out, writing down his statement. The slightly heavier brunette was leaning against the desk, snacking on candies out of the courtesy bowl. Out of professional respect, she flashed her badge at them before proceeding towards the crime scene.
The police tape stretched across the length of the front lobby, cordoning off the twenty-foot high decorated Christmas tree that adorned the reception area. A set of large candy canes lined the entrance to a plush, red velvet carpet. Two blondes dressed in skimpy elf outfits were huddled together by a wooden sign pointing the way To Santa's Workshop. Detective Benson vaguely remembered seeing them as they entered the hotel that morning. As she recalled, they were each standing beside Santa's chair while he suffered through a long line of girls and boys perching atop his lap, telling him what their heart's - and their parents' wallets - demanded for Christmas this year.
Detective Benson turned sharply, ready to give the heads-up to her partner. As she turned around, though, and saw the gaggle of women in tight skirts and high heels following closely behind her, she frowned. That's right; It's a women's only conference. No Stabler - No Munch - No Fin. Just my luck to be stuck with a group of District Attorneys prancing through a crime scene.
"Okay, you and you - " she pointed at Kibre and Gaffney, "Talk to the elves. See what you can find out." She looked pointedly at Novak and Southerlyn. "Try to stay out of the way."
Detective Benson ducked beneath the crime scene tape, made her way up the path of red carpet. As Santa's plush velvet chair came into view, she slowed her approach. Santa was slumped down in his chair, arms hanging limply at his sides, white gloves dragging the floor. His eyes were closed, his head lolled to one side. He looked as if he was sleeping or passed out - except for the trail of white foam coming from his mouth.
A blonde was kneeling on the carpeting beside Santa. Detective Benson watched as she took a q-tip from a kit, swabbed the inside of Santa's mouth and placed it inside a glass vial. Labeling the vial, she slipped it back into her kit. Another woman, a brunette with a jacket clearly labeled CSI was down on all fours, running a fluorescent light along the length of the carpeting. Every so often, she paused, picking objects from the carpeting with a pair of tweezers and delicately placing them into tiny envelopes. With a bemused expression, Detective Benson stepped around the brunette and approached the blonde.
"Benson, SVU," she identified herself, flashing the badge fastened to the hip of her low-cut jeans.
"Is there any special reason a kiddie-porn detective is traipsing through my crime scene; or is it a hobby of yours to contaminate all evidence sites?"
Detective Benson's brow arched. Subtly, her right hand moved towards the back of her jeans, reaching for the set of cuffs she kept there. "I would thank you to not take that attitude with my detective." Benson cringed at the screeching voice, the sound of Casey's approaching high heels as the red-head lurched across the marble floor. Miserably, she hung her head in defeat as Casey came to stand beside her.
"Great, someone else contaminating my crime scene. You a kiddie-porn detective, too, sweetheart?"
"No, I'm not." Casey folded her arms across her chest defensively. "I'm a kiddie-porn assistant district -- I mean, I'm ADA Novak, assigned to the Special Victims Unit."
"Catherine Willows," the blonde smirked, flashed her badge at Novak. "Get off my crime scene."
Benson clenched and unclenched her fist, took a step towards the CSI agent. Novak stopped her with a restraining arm across her midsection. "Actually, I believe you're out of bounds. Crime was committed in New York. My detective is from New York. Your badge is from Vegas." Casey couldn't keep the glee out of her voice. "I think you just got trumped, sweetheart."
"Hey!" The cute brunette in the CSI cap had just finished bagging an empty Styrofoam cup and red swizzle stick and was taking a sample of liquid from the carpeting beside Santa's hand when she suddenly jumped to her feet. She stalked straight up to Casey, poking her in the chest with a well-placed finger. "You can't talk to her that way! You ever hear of first on the scene, you dumb, stupid - "
"Sidle!" shouted the blonde
"- ignorant, fuchsia wearing - "
"Sidle! Down! Now!" Willows raised her voice again.
Biting her tongue, Sara Sidle broke off her tirade. Folding her arms across her chest, she glared at Catherine.
"For your information, Ms. Novak," Catherine continued in a slightly calmer voice, "CSI also happens to have a New York branch."
"And, where is your lead detective from New York?" asked Benson, glancing around.
A deep sigh. "Unfortunately, she's investigating the death of a stripper whose body was found draped across a giant search light."
"Holy Freaking Weird Batsignal, Batman!" Sara Sidle caught the look Catherine shot her, slinked off to continue processing the scene.
"Tell you what," Benson spoke up before Novak could put her foot in her mouth again, "You got balls, Willows. I like that. Behave yourself and I'll let you in on what our Medical Examiner discovers."
Catherine stepped in front of Benson, hands placed on both her hips. She looked the brunette straight in the eye. "That body and all the evidence we've collected is going to our CSI labs to be processed, Detective."
"No." Detective Benson stepped closer to Willows, invading her personal face. She, too, folded her arms across her chest. "ME Warner is taking possession of that dead, jolly elf!"
"Um, excuse me?"
Benson's and Willows' heads both snapped around at the new voice. The two detectives that had been questioning the front desk clerk were standing there. The blonde was flipping through her notebook, nodding to herself. Willows could have sworn she saw her hiding a tiny flask of liquor behind the notebook. The brunette was standing next to her, hands in both pockets of her coat, looking over the Christmas tree from top to bottom.
"Wow. Bet it cost the hotel plenty of overtime for the maintenance guys that had to put that tree up." The brunette stepped forward, crossing over the red carpet to reach the tree. She took her hands from her pockets, touching each ornament within easy reach.
"Great!" Catherine threw her hands up in frustration. "May as well take down the damn yellow tape and have the Macy's Day Parade in here!"
"You're the plains clothes I saw up front earlier, right?" Benson smirked at Willows' obvious annoyance.
"Yeah, that's right," the chubby brunette confirmed. "I'm Lacey. This here's my partner, Cagney." The blonde did a sort of half-nod. "Don't take offense. She ain't that big a talker."
"So, Cagney & Lacey," Willows gritted her teeth, told herself to remain calm. Although, she had to admit the prospect of releasing Sara Sidle on these New York loonies was looking better and better all the time, "What was so important that you felt the need to traipse through a crime scene to interrupt my discussion with Detective Benson?"
"Ah, well, you know," Lacey took a blue candy cane from the tree. Unwrapping the plastic, she took a swipe with her tongue, "Just thought that you might like to know," Making a sour face, she took the candy cane from her mouth, hung it back on a tree branch, "That while you two were arguing about who gets Santa's body, some chick named Jordan carted it off."
"What?!?" Both Benson and Willows exclaimed in unison.
"She said - "
"Shut up, Casey! We heard what she said!" Shouted Benson, turning on the ADA.
"Oh! That's it!" Casey threw up her hands in frustration. Turning awkwardly in her high heels, she barely managed to stay upright as she attempted to dramatically storm away. "You're off the softball team!"
Catherine turned to appraisingly study Olivia. She had to admit the detective had a certain something about her. True, her tank top was two sizes too small. And her low-cut jeans were two sizes too tight. And, her boots weren't made for chasing perps. But, she had to admit she liked the leather jacket. And her attitude. "You want to grab a cup of coffee in the dining room and compare notes?" she asked.
"Best offer I've had all day," shrugged Benson.
"Hey!" shouted Lacey, calling after the detectives as they ducked under the yellow police tape. "Bring me back a pastry!"
Ryatt-Ritz Hotel - Dining Room
"Okay," Benson said, taking a long draw from her lukewarm cup of coffee, "Where are we?"
"Let's see." Willows consulted her notepad, took a bite from her cinnamon Danish. "Somebody at the conference with Medical Examiner credentials by the name of Jordan absconded with our corpse while we were discussing jurisdiction. Cagney and Lacey questioned the desk clerk, who claims he didn't see a thing."
"Then, that leaves Santa's elves."
"Where are they, anyway? Last I saw - " Willows broke off in mid-sentence, staring past Detective Benson towards the hotel lobby.
"What?" asked Benson, swiveling around in her chair, looking out the floor-to-ceiling glass window of the elegant dining room.
"Nothing." Catherine shook her head. "It was nothing."
"Well, it must have been something for you to just lose your train of thought like that." Benson turned around, craning her neck. She only saw the view of the Christmas tree and Santa's chair. The yellow police tape was still in place, but the crime scene was inactive at the moment. "What was it you saw?" she persisted. "Does it pertain to our case?"
The use of our case didn't slip by unnoticed. Catherine decided to let it go, however. They could argue jurisdiction and extrication laws after they caught the Santa Killer. "Okay, don't laugh; but I think I'm losing my mind. I swear I just saw four young women dressed in plaid skirts and white shirts with plaid ties rappel down from the ceiling, carrying some serious heavy-duty firepower."
Detective Benson threw back her head, laughed out loud. When she saw Catherine's disgruntled look, she tried to put on a serious face. She broke out in laughter three more times before she got her next sentence out. "Do you think we should put out an APB on the Catholic School Girls Gone Wild?" Between laughs, she swiped at the tears forming at the corners of her eyes.
"See? This is why I don't tell you anything. We have a demented individual on the loose that killed - " She paused as their waitress approached. A brunette with short hair and a pair of black, thick rimmed glasses stood patiently beside their table, order pad in hand. Willows waited for her to say something. When she didn't, Willows impatiently addressed her. "Yes? Do you want something?"
"Sorry. Guess I just kind of spaced there for a minute, ya know?" She pushed her glasses up on her nose, smacked her gum loudly. "What'll you have?"
"You've already waited on us," responded Benson, holding up her coffee cup.
"Oh." A small, goofy laugh. "Guess I did. Well, can I get anything else for you?"
"No, we're fine. Thank you - " Benson squinted, reading the waitress' nametag, "Sabrina."
"You sure about that, sweetie?" The waitress pulled her glasses down by the rim, winked at Detective Benson. "Pie's on the house."
"NO!" shouted Willows. Then in a calmer voice, "No, thank you. Just the check, please."
"Right." The waitress flipped through her order pad, felt the pockets of her apron. "Now, I know I had that a minute ago. Let's see," she tapped her chin with her pencil, "Where did I leave that?"
"Oh, for crying out loud! It was two coffees and two Danishes. Can't you just ring it up?"
"Now honey, I'm afraid I can't do that. Rules, ya know?" Again, she pushed her glasses up. "But, just stay right here and I'll get the hostess for ya." A pause, then a smacking of her gum. "Or the bill. Whichever I can find first."
She stood there a minute longer, staring at the two women who were watching her expectantly. "Oh, right. You wanted your bill." With another goofy laugh, she turned around, strolled off in the direction of the kitchen.
With a moan, Willows clutched her head in her hands, stared at the table top. "We'll never get our bill, you know."
Undaunted, Benson merely shrugged. "Where were we?"
Catherine consulted her notes again. "Those two ADAs that were questioning the fairies; where are they?"
"Elves." Came a soft southern drawl from the next table.
Benson and Willows turned, spotting the attractive brunette for the first time. She was sipping a frozen drink; something exotic with miniature umbrella décor. She wore a large, floppy hat. Waves of stylish brunette hair cascaded over her bare shoulders. A white terry cloth robe was worn open, displaying her tiny, white two-piece bikini.
"Excuse me?" Willows addressed the woman.
"I believe ya'll are referring to Santa's elves. You called them fairies."
"And, do you know much about elves, Ms. " Detective Benson asked, looking the brunette over from head to toe.
"Ms. Garrett." The brunette rose from her chair, extended her hand to Detective Benson. As Olivia shook her hand, she sat down at the table with the detectives. "Kelly Garrett." She flashed a mischievous smile. "I believe elves only come out at Christmas, detective. But, fairies are known to be out all year long." She batted her eyes, exaggerated her southern drawl even more. "Why, I'd dare say I would know a fairy when I see one."
Detective Benson's eyebrow arched. With a slight smile, she tilted her head at Kelly. "I take it you like fairies, Ms. Garrett?"
Before Kelly could respond. Catherine interrupted. "This is all well and good, but we still haven't established what happened to the " She shot a slicing look at Kelly. " elves."
"Kibre and Gaffney took them up to their room for further questioning."
"Ya'll are wasting your time with those two, anyway." At the questioning looks from the detectives, Kelly elaborated. "Their background check and financials came back clean."
"Excuse me, Ms. Kelly Garrett," Detective Benson leaned in closer, almost whispering in the gorgeous brunette's ear. "You're too cute to be a cop; So, who are you?"
Kelly pulled a business card from between her breasts. She presented it to Detective Benson with a flourish. "Kelly Garrett of Townsend & Associates. I'm a licensed private investigator." She nonchalantly pointed over her shoulder at their waitress. "I believe you've already met Sabrina. Our third partner, Jill, is posing as a tennis instructor. You'll meet her later."
The detectives glanced up at the waitress. She was still in uniform, wearing that same goofy grin on her face. When she realized Kelly was revealing their cover, however, an instant transformation seemed to come over her. No longer was she the incompetent, gum-chewing help. Now, she seemed to be a brilliant undercover sleuth. Detective Benson studied her intently as she joined them at the table.
"Now I remember you!" Olivia snapped her fingers in recognition. "You were featured on the front page of some true crime magazine a while back." Olivia frowned. "I read you were from California, though. What the Hell are you doing at a women's law enforcement conference in New York?"
"Our boss, Charlie, spares no expense when it comes to helping a client," Sabrina said, blowing a bubble with her gum and popping it.
Catherine Willows leaned across the table, addressing the waitress. "Let me get this straight; You're here because Santa knew he was going to be killed?"
"Oh, Santa wasn't our client." Now that she was no longer undercover, Kelly's southern belle accent seemed to be fading. "Our client is the kindly, little old lady that's related to Santa!"
Olivia threw both hands up in surrender. "But, that murder happened no more than a half hour ago!"
"When you work for Charlie," Sabrina said with a smack of her gum, "That's plenty of time to fly across the United States."
At Detective Benson's confused look, Kelly leaned over, patting her reassuringly on the arm. "Don't fret over it, honey. Let's just say Charlie is a very powerful man and leave it at that."
"Don't let them pull the wool over your eyes, detectives." A woman carrying what suspiciously looked like a cup of hot tea approached the group. "They're not here in direct response to the murder. They've been undercover at the hotel for a full three days now."
The woman looked to be about in her fifties, with fading blonde hair styled into a bob. She wore blue slacks and a blue sweater over a plain white blouse. A set of glasses hung from a cord about her neck. She looked for all the world to be someone's sweet, little old granny. At an unhurried pace, she placed her tea cup on the table, pulled out a chair and sat down. She folded and refolded her linen napkin, placing it daintily in her lap.
"I take it you're the kindly, little old lady that's related to Santa Claus?" Catherine asked.
"Jessica Fletcher of Cabot Cove, at your service." She flashed a brilliant smile, took a sip of her tea. "Santa was my dear, sweet brother's cousin's mother's third nephew's son on my mother's side, twice removed by her father's side." At Detective Benson's confused look, she leaned in, patted her on the arm in a reassuring gesture similar to the one Kelly had done moments before. "Don't strain yourself, my dear. There's a relation there somewhere. It may be miniscule, but it's enough for me to get involved in the case. I solve murders, too, you know."
"That's right," beamed Sabrina. "Why, that murder she wrote about who killed Sherlock Holmes was the best thing I've ever read!"
"So, you're a mystery writer - and you solve cases, too?" Mrs. Fletcher slowly nodded. "Okay, then, if you're a sleuth, too, why did you hire Charlie's - "
" - Angels," supplied Kelly with a wink. "Charlie calls us his angels."
"Okay. Then, why hire the Angels to solve a murder?"
"Because I didn't hire them to solve a murder, silly! If it was that, I would have done the sleuthing myself!" Jessica admonished, taking another sip of her tea. "No, I hired them to help me find the treasure that's supposed to be hidden somewhere in this very hotel." At the disbelieving looks, she added, "And because one of Charlie's Angels is related to me by my second husband's cousin's wife's third boyfriend from high school on my sister-in-law's side -- But I can't remember which Angel it is." She flicked a glance at Kelly and Sabrina. "But, they're all such nice girls."
"And, how do you know there's hidden treasure in the hotel?" pressed Catherine.
"Because it's referenced several times in the journal that was sent to me by parcel post last week - " Jessica took a deep breath, pausing dramatically. " - by the Santa that was working at this very hotel."
Benson and Willows looked at each other. They both turned to Mrs. Fletcher, speaking at the same time. "We're going to need to see that journal."
Ryatt-Ritz Hotel - Seventh Floor
The Hallway outside Mrs. Fletcher's room
They milled around the hallway, collectively eyeing the door. Cautiously, Sabrina Duncan reached out, grasping the door handle. Sensing no resistance, she slowly turned the handle. Looking up, she gave Mrs. Fletcher a questioning look.
"I know I locked that when I left," Jessica whispered.
With one hand still on the handle, she pulled her .38 from her apron pouch. Glancing at her companions, she silently waited for them to draw their weapons. At the signal from Detective Benson, she flung the door open.
"Freeze!" They shouted in unison as they stormed the room.
Two women were standing by the queen-size bed, one brunette, the other strawberry-blonde. The strawberry-blonde was holding open a red, leather bound book in both hands. The brunette was holding a penlight, shining it on the pages as she read the journal over her accomplice's shoulder. They both looked up in shock as the door burst open and a half-dozen armed women rushed in.
"Up against the wall!" shouted Kelly, gesturing with her gun.
Detective Benson rushed past her, tackling the brunette. She threw her across the bed and onto the floor. Before the woman could react she had her pinned to the carpet face first. Knee pressing into the woman's spine, she reached for her handcuffs.
"Wait! I can explain," protested the strawberry-blonde. Catherine and Kelly had her up against the wall, arms and legs spread while Sabrina patted her down. Fishing into the young woman's jean pocket, her hand lingered for a moment more than what seemed necessary. She extricated a wallet from the tight jeans.
Detective Benson patted down her perp, also. She found a wallet, removed it and tossed it at Sabrina. She caught it deftly in one hand. Opening the wallets, she sorted through them, searching for identification.
"Well," said Sabrina with a loud smack of her gum, "Why don't you start by explaining what you're doing in Mrs. Fletcher's room, reading her journal - " she checked the picture i.d. card " - Ms. Drew."
"Okay." She paused, taking a deep breath. "My mother died in a tragic accident when I was only three, leaving me to grow up with just my father and our kindly housekeeper, Hannah Greun. My father's a lawyer, and sometimes I help him out on cases along with my best pal, George Fayne. My other friend, Bess, is George's cousin. Although, they're as different as night as day. George is tall and tomboyishly handsome while Bess is slightly plump and likes shopping. She sometimes helps out, too. Look - " Nancy tried to turn around, found a hand planted firmly at the base of her neck abruptly shove her face against the wall. " - There's a private investigator license in there, too."
Nancy heard a rifling sound as her wallet was searched. "She's telling the truth." Abruptly, Nancy was turned loose. She slowly turned around, rubbing her aching neck.
George moved to get up, hollered as the kneecap that was firmly lodged in her spine dug in deeper. "They still haven't explained what they're doing here." Detective Benson gave a satisfied smirk as George yelped in pain as she dug her knee in a little deeper.
"We're in New York with George's cousin, Bess Marvin. She won an all-expense paid trip, airfare and hotel included. A cooking show is going to use her recipe for homemade vanilla brownies on the air - and they want Bess to be on the show."
"Actually, dear, " Mrs. Fletcher spoke up, "I think she meant what are you doing HERE in my room?"
"Nan heard that a first printing of Dickens' A Christmas Carol was stolen from one of the guests, okay? We've been searching every room, looking for clues." George wriggled, trying her best to get out from beneath the cop that had her pinned. To her consternation, the other woman had leverage and weight on her side. George reluctantly gave up, laying still on the carpet.
"But, the door was locked." Mrs. Fletcher held up her room key. "How did you get in?"
"Oh!" Nancy Drew had the decency to blush. Reaching back, she pulled a tiny object from her strawberry-blonde hair. "With the help of my trusty bobby pin. Never leave home without it."
"You've been searching all the rooms?" Catherine Willows asked. "How far have you gotten?"
Nancy shrugged. "We started on the first floor and have been working our way up."
"Did you discover anything out of the ordinary?" pressed Kelly Garrett.
"No," Nancy shook her head. "The most promising clue we've found is the journal. And, I guess that wasn't really a clue, was it?" She shrugged. "I'm sorry if we've made a mess of things."
"Don't worry about it, honey." Mrs. Fletcher attempted to console the repentant sleuth. "As long as nothing's happened to the journal."
"Um - don't look now, but - "
Sabrina broke off in mid-sentence. All heads turned in the direction she was pointing. A redhead wearing a white lab coat was seated at an octagon table in the far corner of the room. A small desk lamp was turned on, illuminating the naturally dark corner. She held the journal beneath the lamp, closely examining it. She flipped the book this way and that, rifling the yellowed, brittle pages.
"Hey!" shouted Kelly. The woman barely glanced up. "Who are you and what do you think you're doing?"
"Scully. F.B.I." She jerked a thumb towards the badge pinned to her labcoat. She picked up a letter opener from the desk. Turning to the back page of the journal, she began cutting the last page away from the bookbinding.
"That's a priceless heirloom!" Mrs. Fletcher screamed.
"What the Hell do you think you're doing?" shouted Benson, scrambling from off the top of George. She tried to push her way past the rest of the women, who seemed to be in shock, their mouths hanging open in disbelief.
"The truth is in here." Undaunted, Scully deftly cut the backing away, separating the last page from the rest of the book. With a satisfied grin, she laid the book open on the table. Taped to the inside spine was a tiny silver key. Turning the book on end, she firmly tapped the spine. The key fell out, landing with a small clink on the table.
Catherine Willows stepped forward, carefully picking up the key with a set of tweezers. She held it beneath the lamp, turning it this way and that. "There's something engraved on here." Squinting, she attempted to read the faded inscription. "B17."
"Sounds like the number to a locker. Maybe a bus station locker?" suggested Sabrina.
"Or a gym or an airport?" added Kelly.
"How about a lockbox?" asked Mrs. Fletcher. "The hotel has boasted about having its own on-site bank since it opened in 1883."
Ryatt-Ritz Hotel - Hotel Bank
"Here you are, Mrs. Fletcher," the bank manager said, opening the door of the vault.
He stepped aside, allowing Mrs. Fletcher and her entourage of detectives to enter first. As they entered, they moved around the vast interior of the vault, spreading out. As the last sleuth made her way in, he calmly stepped in, joining Mrs. Fletcher in the center of the room.
"You'll find the oldest safety deposit boxes towards the back of the vault." He led the way to a wooden door discreetly located along the far wall of the vault. "This door leads to the original vault that was built when the hotel first opened," he explained. "As the hotel grew, so did the need for security. The titanium-alloy vault that we have now was actually built around the original, primarily wood and steel vault of the 1800s."
As Mrs. Fletcher followed the bank manager into the inner vault, she immediately realized they weren't alone. A blonde haired woman with a rat's-nest hairstyle was standing next to a distinguished looking gentleman. They both wore suit pants and white shirts. He wore a matching jacket and tie. She wore her shirt sleeves rolled up to her elbows.
"Mr. Ryatt! I didn't know you were in here with a client, sir," stammered the bank manager.
Mrs. Fletcher realized immediately that this distinguished looking gentleman was the owner of the Ryatt-Ritz Hotel. She immediately stepped forward, shaking his hand. "I'm sorry to intrude, Mr. Ryatt. I'm afraid it's my fault Mr. Gordon's intruding upon your privacy."
"That's perfectly alright, ma'am." He gave Mrs. Fletcher's hand a reassuring squeeze. "Actually, Detective Rush has been awaiting your arrival."
"Did you bring the key?" asked the blonde woman, speaking for the first time.
"Wait a minute!" Detective Benson pushed her way forward, coming to stand between Mrs. Fletcher and the newcomer. "I think we need to back up and regroup here." She gazed at the blonde, eyes narrowing. "What do you have to do with the Santa Claus Killing?"
"What?" puzzlement shone on Detective Rush's face. Baffled, she turned to the hotel owner for support. Too late, she discovered him slipping out the door with the bank manager. At a loss, she stared blankly at the other women in the vault.
"Yes, dear, I'm afraid Santa is dead." Mrs. Fletcher stepped forward, wrapped an arm about the distraught woman. "Detective Benson has been investigating the murder."
" - At a crime scene investigation started by me," chimed in Catherine Willows. "So, what we want to know is, Where do you fit into the crime?"
"Quite frankly, I don't," The blonde shrugged, "Detective Lilly Rush, Philadelphia PD." She flashed her badge. "Cold Case Division."
"Huh?" Sabrina smacked her gum. "I don't get it. What's an unsolved cases Philly cop doing in New York?"
"I've been working on a cold case about a little girl with red hair that was abducted from her neighborhood at a very young age. Her mother is dying in a hospital in Philly, accidentally shot by one of our officers during a shoot-out. Her dying wish is to see her little girl before she dies." Reaching into her pocket, Lilly withdrew a packet of handkerchiefs, passed them around to each of the weepy-eyed sleuths. "I followed the clues; the trail ended here, at a safety deposit box in a hotel in New York. Box B17."
Mrs. Fletcher turned the key over in her hand, staring at it. "You should be the one to open the box, then." She pressed the key into Detective Rush's hand.
Without a word, Lilly took the key, walked determinedly to the wall of safety deposit boxes. She ran her finger along each box as she checked the numbers. B14 - B15 - B16. Her finger stopped on a faded out, barely legible set of numbers engraved into the steel box. B17.
As she inserted the key into the lock, eerie music began to play over the loudspeaker system installed in the vault. Please, Mister, Please. Don't play B17. It was his song - it was our song, but it's over.
George grabbed Nancy's arm, clutching it tight. "What the HELL is that?" She asked, frantically glancing around the vault.
"Oh, don't worry." Lilly opened the safety deposit box, pulling it out of the wall. "That always happens when I'm close to solving a case. A piece from the era the cold case took place in plays repeatedly in my head." She carefully placed the box on a nearby table, blew off a thick layer of dust. "Then, I see the spirit of the dead person I've helped. Sort of a symbolic thing to let me process that they can rest in peace now that I've solved their case."
Detective Rush pried open the lid of the box. Gingerly, she reached inside, pulling out the contents of the box one by one. She laid each item out on the table for everyone's perusal. The first item was a black and white photograph of a little girl in a dress holding a puppy. The photo was wrinkled and torn in half, having been taped together at one point. The tape had turned yellow and crumbled to dust beneath Detective Rush's hands. The next item was a faded hair band. Looking at it, she would have had to guess it might have been a rich purple color at one time. Now, it was faded to a dull grey. At the bottom of the box was a yellowed birth certificate. The writing was faded. The date was indecipherable; only the name Blake was legible.
Somewhere towards the back of the vault, a shrill beeping sound went off. Reaching down, Tracey Kibre turned off the alarm on her watch. "I hate to interrupt," she said in her distinctive monotone voice, "But, the intermission's over. If we don't hurry, we'll miss the next speaker."
National Women In Law Enforcement Conference
Alexandra Cabot stood impatiently outside the conference room doors, alternately tapping her foot and checking her watch. "There you guys are! You're late; the next speaker's already started." She pulled a yellow legal pad out of her satchel, reading from it. "And, somebody named Jordan called from the lab for you. You're not going to believe this, but Santa wasn't a Mr. Claus at all."
No one said a word. All eyes stared at the blonde with the bangs and black rimmed glasses. "Wait a minute!" shouted Willows. "I thought the other one was your ADA!"
"Alex! You're back!" shouted Detective Benson, her whole face lighting up.
"Well, who else is going to keep you out of trouble, detective?"
"Wait a minute!" protested Kibre. "You were killed by a drug lord."
"No, actually, I've been in the witness protection program." Alex struggled to respond. It was hard to think when Detective Benson was hugging the life out of her. "It's kind of like being dead, though."
"Then, Vasquez is dead and it's safe for you to come home?" asked Olivia, planting light kisses along Alex's jawline.
"Not exactly. But, I've always been more popular than that little red-headed twit, so they decided to let me come back, anyway."
"Oh, Alex! That is so great!"
"Yes, it is," she agreed. "But, you didn't let me deliver the rest of the message. Turns out Santa isn't a Mr. Claus at all. He's a Mrs. Claus. When they stripped the red suit off, they discovered Santa had a twelve-inch purple strap-on hidden beneath the pillows that made his belly shake like a bowl full of jelly."
"Wait a minute!" Detective Benson exclaimed. "This hotel caters to women-only conferences. And, twelve inches is an awfully big thing to hide beneath your suit. Maybe someone didn't like getting poked by Santa's candy cane." She pointedly looked at Catherine Willows. "Looks like it's a SVU case after all," she smirked.
"It's a CSI case."
"We'll discuss that later, ladies," interrupted Alex. "Right now, we have a conference to attend."
One by one, the errant sleuths filed into the back of the conference room, taking up positions on the last two rows so as not to be distracting to the speaker and other attendees. Olivia slid into the very last chair on the last row, saving a seat for Alex beside her. To her consternation, Catherine Willows ended up sitting one chair in front of her.
"It's a CSI case," Catherine said as she sat down.
"It's a SVU case," rejoined Detective Benson.
That's all it took to start off the comments.
"It's a Cold Case," chimed in Detective Rush.
"It's a plot to get us to bring Charlie out into the open so an assassin can kill him!"
"I just know Lucy Diamond had something to do with this."
"I still think we need to investigate that pastry shop, Cagney."
"I'm sure my sister's cousin's brother - "
"Stop it! Stop it, all of you!" shouted a short woman, stepping onto the stage, adjusting the microphone to her diminutive height. She adjusted her thick-rimmed glasses, staring out at the sea of law enforcement women before her. She wiped her suddenly sweaty palms on her skirt. "This has nothing to do with a kidnapping! Or journals and hidden treasure! Or stolen books and assassination attempts!" She took a deep breath before continuing. "What should have been a very simple, enjoyable mystery about who killed Santa has been turned into some complicated every-little-twist-and-turn-you-can-think-of plot! Whatever happened to the good old days when the villain was just someone in a scary mask?"
"Who is that?" asked Catherine Willows, leaning over, whispering in Amy Bradshaw's ear.
"I'm not sure. But, I vaguely recall seeing her sitting on the back row for most of the day." A pause. "I think."
"You call yourselves detectives. Women of law enforcement, meeting at a special conference to pat yourselves on the back for what a fine job you've done." The short brunette with the short haircut paused, pushing up the sleeves of her orange sweater. "You should be ashamed of yourselves! All of you!"
"Excuse me!" Serena Southerlyn stood, holding up her hand. "Is this because I'm a lesbian?"
"No!" At the sudden outburst, the slicing look, Serena Southerlyn sullenly sat back down in her chair. Instantly, several women from The Division flocked around her, asking Serena for her phone number.
"It's because I was the first!" She pushed her glasses up farther on the bridge of her nose, leaned against the podium. "The very first independent female detective who used my deductive powers and skills of reasoning to solve crimes. Every one of you - every single one - " She paused, watching Nancy, sitting in the very first row, wearing her fashionable clothes, her hair fixed just so, twirling a magnifying glass from her fingertips. " - Well, maybe everyone except you, Drew. Anyway, every single one of you was created based on me, Velma Dinkley!"
She hesitated, surveying the faces in the crowd. She had their attention, but several of them looked unconvinced. Truthfully, she was surprised they hadn't rushed the stage.
"Didn't the glasses - the hairstyle - the sweater with skirts and knee-high socks scream out lesbian detective to anybody? Yet, you - all of you, you got the prime-time TV shows. The cool forensic science kits. Handcuffs and guns and fast cars. Spin-offs and sequels. And girlfriends! Jinkies, all I ever got was a danger-prone straight girl and a big, talking dog named Scooby-Doo!" She paused, taking a deep breath, waiting for someone to interrupt her. When they didn't, she continued. "So, I did it! I knew Daphne Blake was taking a job as a part-time Santa in the Ryatt-Regency Hotel between modeling gigs. I was up for the part of Santa. But, she got the job over me. Do you believe it? Just one more thing the pretty girl got over me! So, I did it! I admit it - I killed Santa!"
An eerie hush fell over the crowd. Velma didn't say anything, merely stood up there at the podium, waiting for the inevitable reaction. She figured at any moment, a hundred cops would rush the stage in an attempt to arrest her.
"Excuse me!" A Goth girl wearing black mascara and black lipstick stood up, raising her hand. "Abby, NCIS." Velma was fascinated by the little pigtails she wore in her jet black hair. "Technically, Santa Claus is a fictional character. You can't be arrested for killing someone who doesn't exist."
"And," added Catherine Willows, "All the evidence CSI collected has been contaminated, anyway. None of it's admissible in court."
"You know, it is a cold case," piped in Lilly Rush, "That little girl in that photograph probably died a long time ago. It's physically impossible to kill someone twice."
"Now that I think about it," said Mrs. Fletcher, "I can't recall a single redhead in my family anywhere."
All eyes turned to Max and the D.E.B.S. Max shrugged, getting up from her chair. "Lucy Diamond is our objective. If it's not her, we don't care." She signaled to her squad. "We're out of here."
Everyone turned around, waiting for Detective Benson's response. She was turned around in her chair, leaning across Alexandra Cabot, her tongue lodged in the blonde's mouth as they hungrily exchanged kisses.
"I can't believe this!" Velma shouted. "I'm on stage in a room full of cops, confessing to killing Santa and I can't get arrested! What's wrong with you people?"
"Well, if that's what you want," shrugged Agent Scully, climbing the stairs to the stage. "I'm sure the F.B.I. can find a nice, little research lab in some far off corner of the world to seclude you in." She approached Velma, pulling a set of handcuffs from the pocket of her lab coat. Velma held her wrists out in front of her, waiting for Dana Scully to snap them in place.
Just then, the door to the conference room burst open. Sara Sidle rushed in, holding a test tube vial in one hand and several papers in the other. "Lab tests are back!" she shouted, rushing up to the front of the room. She gave a dismissive glance at Velma and Scully before leaning over, speaking into the microphone. "Seems that white foam around Santa's mouth was the cream from a double-frosty-foamy chocolate yuletide latte. Sold exclusively at a little 24-hour donut shop on the corner down the street from the hotel." She held up the test tube vial. "Seems the owner of the shop puts authentic chestnuts into the lattes for the Christmas season. Looks like while our gender-bending Santa was sucking down the whipped cream, a chestnut got lodged in the back of her throat, causing her to choke to death." She looked out at the crowd of detectives, flashing a big smile. "Score one for the smart girls. Santa's death was an accident."
A round of applause shook the room as Agent Scully took the handcuffs off Velma Dinkley. Several women rushed the stage, shaking Sara Sidle's hand. Others introduced themselves to Velma, patting her on the back and congratulating her for giving the most inspiring speech of the conference. And, in the very last chair, in the very last row, Alexandra Cabot and Olivia Benson continued with their very own private celebration.
National Women In Law Enforcement Conference
The moral of our Christmas Story:
Always steer clear of anything resembling chestnuts and double-frosty-foamy cream! JINKIES!
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