“Do I really have to be here?” Sonny asked as they walked inside. “I’m not a fan of fashion shows you know…” Amanda put a hand on his shoulder and smiled.
“Maybe you’ll meet someone while we’re here, Carisi. You should keep an open mind.” She teased.
“Remember, we’re here to get information, that’s it.” Olivia ordered, a little irritated. “Fin, go ask around out by the stage, see if anyone knows anything. Rollins, you’re with me and Carisi, hair and makeup.”
Sonny sighed and walked off backstage, glancing back at Amanda who waved and winked, prompting him to roll his eyes as he went on, looking around. He didn’t know exactly who to ask about anything, not knowing what the MO was yet.
“Excuse me, do you know who I can talk to about… Uh…” He froze as he looked up from his notes, finding himself standing close to a hair and makeup station, one of the models seated while they got their hair braided up intricately. Sonny found himself face to face with one of the most beautiful people in the world, possibly even an angel. They didn’t have any makeup on, their skin radiant. He could see their eyes in the mirror from where he stood, the amber color complimented by the color of their hair. The stylist turned the chair so they could look at Sonny while he talked. “The… The uh girl who was…”
“Assaulted? Kelly. I know her.” the model said. “I’m Ari, the headliner for tonight.”
“Ari… I’m detective Carisi. How did you know Kelly?” he managed without tripping over his tongue. “Also, I’m not sure what that is, a headliner. Sorry…”
“That’s alright.” They smiled, almost glowing even more now than when Sonny had first laid eyes on them. “The headliner is someone who is basically the main attraction at a fashion show. They walk first and last, sometimes doing multiple walks but they wear the main outfit that the designer wants to show off. We headlined at a show a week ago, talked about a party. She never showed up.” Their smile faded and they folded their hands in their lap, a more serious, less pleasant expression on their face. “Did you catch whoever did this?”
“We’re working on it. Did any of the other models say anything or see anything maybe?” Sonny asked. Ari shook their head after the stylist moved away for a moment.
“You’re free to ask around as long as you don’t disrupt the show. I’m sure nobody will have any issues speaking with you though. You’re very cute, Detective.” They smiled sweetly, looking him over.
Sonny’s knees felt weak and he had butterflies in his stomach as he met their gaze. He couldn’t tell if they were teasing or being serious, his mind moving way too fast.
“H-here, my card… If you uh… If you see anything…” he stammered, fishing a card from his pocket and offering it to them. They giggled as they took it, watching him rush off and read it over, putting it in their wallet before letting the stylist start on their makeup.
“Nice going, Carisi.” Amanda said as she watched him get a bottle of water and drink down half of it. “I can’t believe you managed not to throw up on yourself talking to Ari.”
“That’s not funny, Rollins.” Sonny frowned.
“No? You’re still blushing though. Ari is cute.” Amanda taunted him as they went to meet up with Olivia and Fin outside.
“Any leads?” she asked them.
“One of the headliners said that Kelly, the victim, didn’t show up at the party after the last show they headlined in together. Maybe we should check out and see who headlined in previous shows, see if there’s anyone else who was assaulted.” Sonny explained. Olivia nodded.
“Headliner?” Amanda asked.
“Yeah, the star of the show or something like that.” Sonny shrugged.
“Alright. The show’s about to start so we’ll start with Kelly since she’s not here tonight. Amanda, you’ll go with Fin for that. Carisi, do some research online.” Olivia said as she got in the car. Amanda went with Fin while Sonny drove himself and Olivia back to the precinct.
Once back to the precinct, Sonny got himself some water and sat at his desk, unbuttoning and rolling up his sleeves, getting to writing everything in the file he had and opening his laptop to research. He started with looking at any shows Kelly had headlined in. He saw the show that both Kelly and Ari were both in, their names at the top of the list of models and their headshots beside their names.
“Oh yeah…” he murmured, remembering that Ari had told him that the two of them had been the headliners for that show. He opened up Ari’s list of shows they headlined in but went back to focusing on Kelly, at least for now.
By the end of the day, he found a few shows with double headlines, marking them down on the file and telling himself he would come back to it tomorrow.
Over the next few days, he went back months, listing all double headliners and the models that headlined. Monday rolled around and he decided he went back far enough, working on checking to see about calls for sexual assault on the days of each show. For that, he asked Amanda to help him.
He took a break after a while, deciding to look at Ari’s portfolio online, checking their profile and learning that they were nonbinary and had been modeling for years, mainly for clothes lines of foreign fashion designers as well as some local. He was amazed at their talent and the range of photo shoots they did, some a lot more safe than others. He kept himself in more tame territory, checking out their photos from the fashion show last night as well as a photo shoot from a week before for a Swedish fashion magazine he hadn’t even seen or heard of before.
Sonny had never found himself remotely interested in models, not even swimsuit models. They were all gorgeous in one way or another, but from what he had seen or heard, they were not his type: Too stuck up or not very kind. He didn’t need people like that in his life, not romantically. He dealt with rude, terrible people all the time at work.
“Wow you really do have a thing for them, Carisi.” Amanda said, pulling him from his thoughts. He blushed and stammered as he tried to hurriedly close out the window, causing her to chuckle as she went to sit down.
“It’s not like that, it’s for research.” He lied once he got the page at least minimized out of sight. Amanda gave him a look and smirked.
“Research, right. Like miss 34B. It’s okay, Carisi. You’ve got good taste.” Fin teased from behind him.
“Is it take a jab at me day or something?” He asked, getting up and going to get himself something from the vending machine. He sighed once he was in the break room, shaking his head. Maybe Amanda was right, maybe he did have a thing for Ari. Maybe this was a crush. It sure felt like that , but he knew he couldn’t act on it right now. He sighed again as he back to his desk. Eating some chips, he looked over the list of calls and dates of the shows, highlighting the ones that matched up and frowning.
“I think I got something.” He announced, getting up. Olivia was just heading out of her office and walked over. “Okay , so these are the calls of any report of sexual assault. I matched it up with any of the fashion shows that had double headliners, most occurring after the show and before the after-party.”
“Good job, Carisi. Now we just need to see if there’s a pattern. Who were the victims and if there were any suspects. Find something.” Olivia ordered. Sonny smiled and sat down, smoothing down his tie. He was about to look into it when his phone rang and he didn’t recognize the caller ID but answered anyways.
“Detective Carisi.” He answered, leaning back in his chair.
“Hi, Detective, this is Ari.”
“Oh h-hey. What uh… What’s up?” He asked.
“You said to call if I saw anything?” That was more of a question than a statement.
“Yeah, I did. You wanna come down to the station to talk about it? I’ve got time.”
“Sure. I’ll be there soon, I’m not too far.” They accepted readily.
“Cool. See you soon.” He said, waiting for the line to disconnect before he put his phone down and could barely keep from smiling.
“They coming down?” Amanda asked, with a knowing smile and a glint in her eyes.
“Said they saw something.” He replied, standing up and saving the number in his phone. He straightened up his desk, cleaning off the crumbs from his chips and throwing away any other trash that was there then checking to make sure he didn’t have any stains or crumbs on his tie or shirt.
Ari showed up 5 minutes later and Sonny led them over to his desk, sitting and forcing himself to focus.
“So you said you saw something?” He asked. Ari nodded.
“Yes. After the show and the party, I noticed someone sort of… Lurking. He seemed out of place. When I got home, there was a rose on my doorstep.” They said. Sonny wrote that down and hummed.
“A single rose? Has anyone ever left something like that before?” He asked, even though it felt sort of stupid of him to do so.
“No. Normally people bring flowers to the show for me or have bouquets sent to me with names on the tag.” They shook their head. “Nobody has ever just left a single red rose for me. I didn’t think anything of it until today before I called.”
“Did something happen today?” He asked.
“Yes. I was at the gym on the treadmill and I had a feeling someone was watching me. I don’t normally get spooked by things but when I looked out the window, the guy, he was just… Staring, watching. It was weird. He wasn’t even smiling or… Anything.” They hugged themselves tightly, rubbing their arms.
“Did you see what he looked like, maybe what he was wearing? Did he get into or out of a car?”
“He was taller than me, maybe your height? Dark hair, pale. I couldn’t see his eyes very well, he wore glasses and his clothes were like…” they paused, thinking. “Jeans and a t-shirt. I didn’t see him by a car though.”
“Alright. That helps us a lot.” Sonny said after he finished writing down the description.
Ari sighed and tucked some hair behind their ear.
“You think maybe he did this to Kelly?” They asked. Sonny sighed and sat back in his chair.
“We don’t know yet, Ari. If he is, we’ll definitely get him before he can do it again. For now, if you see him again, call me or let a security guard or police officer close by know.” He looked at them, meeting their eyes and leaning towards them.
“Thank you, detective. I’ve got a photo shoot in an hour, I should get going.” They said, standing up and smiling. Sonny felt butterflies in his belly at the smile and his breath caught in his throat.
“Let me walk you out.” He said, standing up and walking with Ari to the elevator. “I’m glad you stopped in to talk to me.”
“Not just for the case, detective?” They teased, giggling. Sonny blushed.
Ari laughed and put a perfectly manicured hand on his shoulder.
“I’m teasing you.” They said as the doors opened and they stepped inside. “I hope to see you around and not just for this case, Detective Carisi.”
“Uh y-you can call me Sonny.” He said. Ari smiled and nodded.
“I can do that, Sonny.” They said as the door closed.
Sonny stood there for a moment, staring at the doors and smiling like an idiot. When he went back inside, he sat down and thought for a moment.
“What’s up?” Amanda asked, sitting in the chair by his desk.
“Did we ask for security footage from last week and yesterday?” He asked.
“Already got you covered.” Fin said.
“Alright. We should get footage of the photoshoot locations just to see and check for security cameras around where Kelly was assaulted.” Sonny said. Amanda nodded and crossed her arms. Sonny pulled up Kelly’s portfolio and profile and compared her information with Ari’s.
“More research?” She asked, watching.
“Yeah actually. Kelly’s from Denmark. I cross-checked all the double headliners from every show back 2 months and all of them are from outside of The States. Now, going back matching the calls about assaults…” he trailed off.
“You think he’s going after foreign models?” Amanda asked.
“Sure seems that way, but I wanna be sure before I jump to conclusions.” He said.
The next few hours, Sonny and Amanda went over the security footage, seeing if they saw the guy that Ari had seen. They were about to give up until Amanda saw the guy in one of the security videos and showed Sonny.
“This is from the show Kelly was in.” she said, pointing out Kelly walking backstage and then pointing to the guy standing out in the audience, watching her and then heading backstage. She switched to another camera near the front of the venue and sped things up until the guy was seen outside, talking to Kelly.
“So he talked to her before he assaulted her?” Sonny asked.
“More like he tried to hit on her and she rejected him.”
They looked back at all of the footage and spotted the guy, lurking and trying to talk to several models who all rejected him. Sonny took the time to match up the models to their profiles, going and putting everything up on the board before he looked it over, adding in dates as well.
“Everything is one to two weeks apart…” he said.
“Alright, we just need to get him put through facial recognition, see if he’s in the system.” Olivia said as she went to look at the board. “Fin, Rollins, go. Carisi, call Ari.”
“What do I tell them?” Sonny asked, already dialing the number.
“Try and get them here.” she said as she texted Rafael.
Sonny did as he was told, going to sit at his desk again as he called Ari. He frowned when it went to voicemail almost immediately and tried again. After the second time, he got a call from an unknown number.
“Hello?” he answered.
“Sonny, hi. Sorry, I’m having trouble with my phone.” Ari said and Sonny sighed with relief.
“Oh sorry to hear about that. Are you busy?” he asked.
“Just at the shop getting it checked out. Something with the battery.” they sighed.
“Alright. When you’re done, I’d actually like if you could come here again.”
“Sure. Let me see how long it’s gonna take and I’ll be there as soon as I can.” There was some silence before they sighed. “I’ll head there now. They said I have to wait an hour or so and then it’ll be ready.”
“Alright. Or I can come to you?” Sonny offered.
“You’d do that? Oh, thank you.”
Ari gave him the address and Sonny went to meet up with them. He was glad to see them, sitting outside of the store. They looked up and smiled seeing him, waving a little before they put their cigarette out under their shoe.
“You sounded worried over the phone, detective.” they said with a sweet smile that caused his breath to catch for a moment. He sat beside them and rubbed the back of his neck. “Everything alright?”
“We’re just working pretty damn hard to solve this. For Kelly and every other model out there.” he said with a sigh.
“The work you do is… Stressful, but I’m sure it comes with rewards at the end of the day.” They folded their hands in their lap, crossing their legs.
“Yeah, on a good day.”
“There are good and bad days, no matter what you do. Du har ikke en nem dag hele tiden.” They said, eliciting a confused expression from Sonny. “You don’t have an easy day all the time. My mother tells me when things get rough.” they added quickly
“She’s got a point.” Sonny chuckled, remembering his own mother’s words of wisdom.
“When she isn’t telling me I can do better, I guess so.” They murmured, glancing around. “Who’s that?” They asked, spotting someone who was leaning against a tree across the street, watching them.
“I dunno…” Sonny said, seeing him and frowning. “Wait… He kind of looks like that guy. The one you told me about.”
Ari watched him, a bit nervous now. They stood up and went inside of the shop and Sonny got up as well, following them inside. When he looked out the window, the guy was walking away. He sighed and crossed his arms, definitely not liking this at all. It was one thing for the guy to be cornering models after their shows, but it was definitely something else when he stalked them outside of their work.
“Are you okay, Ari?” he asked when Ari walked over to him. They shrugged and crossed their arms.
“As long as he keeps his distance, I should be fine.” they said softly. “My phone’s almost ready though so I’ll be able to go home.”
“You should probably get a new one just in case. Especially right now.” he suggested. Ari smiled sweetly at him.
“My roommate will let me use her phone if I really need to. I’ll be at home until the show.”
“I could have someone come by and check on things, make sure he’s not around there.”
Sonny wanted to do everything he could to keep Ari from getting hurt, that was his top priority at the moment. He would keep that to himself though, not wanting anyone to think he was letting his personal feelings get in the way. If anything, he let his feelings guide him, molding him into a better detective.
“Thank you, Sonny. I’d like that.” they said before going to get their phone, checking it in front of the clerk and thanking them before going back to him. “Would you walk me home?”
Just the simplicity of the question and task sent heat to Sonny’s cheeks as he nodded and went to hold the door open for Ari. As they left, he felt proud to walk them home.
The walk to Ari’s apartment was a good 5 minutes. The building was well kept, trees along the sidewalk closest to the street and flowers lining around the perimeter of the building in pinks, yellows and reds. The windows were sparkling as if they’d been cleaned recently and the paint looked fairly new. The doorman greeted them and held the door open and Ari sighed once they stepped in, going over to the elevators and pressing the button.
“Would you like to come up with me? I can get you some tea or coffee or even beer.” Ari offered as they waited for the elevator to come down.
“I can’t. I should be getting back, check on the progress.” he said. He felt a little bad about having to leave so quickly, but he didn’t want to give Amanda or Fin more ammunition for teasing. He knew it was playful and they didn’t really mean it, but he never let it get to him for too long.
“I understand. You’re good with your job. If anything happens, I’ll give you a call.” they said as the doors opened. Sonny nodded and watched them go, waiting until the doors closed before he left out, smiling a little and glad that Ari was safe for now.