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CSI: Case Story Infodumping

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Kate only let her eyes linger on the Chevy for a moment as it sped away. Plate memorized, and Castle's terrified look put out of her mind, she returned her attention to what really mattered: the case.

"Bring me back up to speed," she told Ryan and Esposito, who were hovering over Lanie along with a few crime scene techs, waiting for the all-clear to start processing the body. The pair of them jumped and turned in unison to gape; clearly, they hadn't been expecting her.

"Seriously? The Feds backed off?"

Kate smirked. "In exchange for a little time with our resident consultant."

Ryan frowned. "They wanted Castle?"

"They claimed he could have some insight into an ongoing investigation." Ryan didn't look convinced, and it wasn't like Kate wasn't skeptical too, but their identities had checked out. There wasn't anything more she could do at this point. "Now: the case?"

"Well, for starters, the victim has nothing on his person."

"No ID, no wallet?"

"Nothing."

Kate grimaced; that wasn't a great start. "What about the killer?"

Esposito pulled out his notes. "Like I told Castle, we've got three witnesses. One's a college student who was wandering around town last night, two are homeless drunks who sleep in warehouses like these to escape the elements." He gestured to distant corners of the room, where a couple of uniforms were taking down contact information from disheveled, unshaven men. "Honestly, the homeless guys are still pretty drunk. If their story didn't corroborate with the college kid's, I'd swear up and down they were lying."

Ryan sighed. "Their story involving a sword fight, an explosion of light, and a disappearing killer, I can't say I'd blame you."

"Disappearing how?"

"Disappearing like teleportation, like magic, like an invisibility cloak - one second there, the next gone."

Kate resisted the urge to groan, or sigh. Castle would have a field day with this case. Good thing he wasn't here; she could avoid all the absurd suggestions and get straight down to the facts. "Have we got surveillance on the building? Cameras outside or in?"

"Not exactly - the warehouse has been abandoned for years, and the streets nearby aren't the kind that people put security cameras up on. But," Ryan added with a grin, "our college kid? Owns a camcorder. (Film student.) Once he realized he was seeing something inspirational happen - his words, not mine - he pulled it out and started filming." Kate glanced over at the youngest witness, and sure enough the uniform had an evidence bag in hand with a bulky black video camera inside. "Uniform's going to take the film down to be inspected after we clear the scene."

"Have him do it now," Kate ordered. "That's the only reliable lead we have on our killer, and we've got enough uniforms covering the scene that one leaving won't make a difference."

"Got it," Ryan said, running off to relay the order.

That done, Kate's attention returned to their other person of interest: the victim. A white male, late thirties or early forties, dark hair, simple black suit, no noticeable adornments. In other words, altogether average. "Have anything for me yet, Lanie?"

Lanie sat up and grinned. "I was wondering when you were going to get to me, Detective. And the answer to your question is: nothing besides the obvious."

The obvious being the gaping stab wound in his chest. "I'm guessing that's the cause of death?"

"You got it, Beckett." Lanie traced the edges of the wound with a gloved hand, saying, "The shape of the wound is unusual, almost circular. I'll know more when I get him back to the lab, but I can tell you this much now: it goes deep."

"So maybe there really was a sword fight," Esposito said thoughtfully.

Kate shook her head, frowning. "I don't know of any kind of sword that would make a circular wound. Did our witnesses actually see swords?"

Esposito checked his notes and shrugged. "The kid heard metal on metal, assumed it meant swords. Neither drunk specified."

"Ask them to specify," Kate said, and Esposito walked off. She watched him go, thinking carefully. Metal on metal could mean any number of things. If Castle were here, he probably would have come up with a dozen different examples by now. Most of them ridiculous, but one or two would have been realistic enough for Kate to work off of... but Castle wasn't here, and Kate wasn't coming up with anything. Hopefully the video they pulled from the camcorder would tell them more about that, as well as their killer.

"Beckett?"

Kate turned her attention back to Lanie, who had stepped back to let the crime scene techs start taking prints and swabbing for trace. "I'll see you back at the station, Lanie. If you find anything that can help us identify him - unusual surgical marks, tattoos, anything - let me know. Right now we've got nothing on this guy, and I need to know everything about him."

"If I find out anything, you're the first one I'll call," Lanie promised.

"Thank you," Kate said, stepping back so the body could be sealed up and loaded into the morgue transport. It left behind a bare spot in the concrete, one Kate almost hadn't noticed with all the grime and char around. The crime scene techs made to leave as well, but a outstretched hand and a "Hold it!" from Kate had them staying where they were. The char...

"Something up?" Ryan asked, appearing at Beckett's shoulder.

"Look at these burn marks," she said, disbelief coloring her tone.

"What about them?"

"At first I thought they were unrelated, but look at how they center on where the body was."

Ryan looked at them wide-eyed and whistled a low, impressed note. "How about that," he said, and pulled one of the techs over. "You take samples of those burn marks yet?" The tech nodded, almost affronted, and Ryan added, "Better take some samples from where the body was, too." This the tech admitted she hadn't done yet, and got down to it. Ryan leaned back towards Kate and muttered, "The burns stop right at his shoulders, but I didn't see any burn marks on him - did you?"

"No," she agreed. "Do you think the killer did it?"

"I don't know when he would've had time - unless that's what caused the burst of light the witnesses mentioned." Ryan paced the span of the char. "And even if he did do it, why? What's the point?"

"I don't know," Kate said with a frown. "Maybe the shape - ?"

"So, get this," Esposito said, approaching, "both homeless witnesses agree that it was sword fighting - but not with normal swords. Apparently they were rounded, like the tip of a jousting lance." He stopped midway between Kate and Ryan, looked down at the char, and frowned. "Who burned a giant pair of wings into the ground?"

As crime scene techs photographed, swabbed, and scraped at what were undoubtedly wing-shaped burns, Kate could only wonder the same thing.