2 - Manos

'I'm not sure you've thought this through, Woody,' Angie said, spoonful of Jello midway to her mouth. Woody stifled a chuckle at the sight of her.

'You said yourself you needed perspective,' he insisted, a smile lighting up his boyish features. Angie set the spoon down and took a breath.

'When I said "perspective," I wasn't exactly talking about going a thousand miles away.' Angie spoke carefully, like one would speak to an excited schoolchild whose dreams you didn't want to dash.

'Just stay with me for a few weeks. It'll be worth it, I promise.'

Angie walked into the lab and immediately tilted her head in amused bewilderment. A screen and projector were set up, and a film was playing.

'Are you watching Manos: The Hands of Fate?' she asked, completely forgetting about the file in her hands. Nigel's head poked up over various equipment, grinning. His hair was half pinned back, keeping it out of his angular features.

'Why, yes I am. Gearing up for midnight movie madness at the cineplex this weekend. Care to join?'

Angie chuckled. 'I would, but the sheer horribleness of Manos got me through late-night study sessions for years, and we have a bit of a love/hate relationship now. Maybe sometime when I'm not holding a folder full of entry wound closeups.'

'It's a date,' Nigel said, switching off the projector and coming over to look into the pale yellow folder Angie it into his own hands, quite a bit larger than Angie's, he opened it and whistled. 'Well, well. That's a nasty stab wound. That tearing around the entry...'

Angie looked up at Nigel expectantly, who had paused for effect. 'So? What did it?' she asked impatiently. Nigel slapped the file shut dramatically and handed it back. He leaned forward.

'Power drill,' he said finally. Angie gasped in both revulsion and utter fascination. She was starting to notice that the longer he worked at the morgue, the ratio of those two feelings tipped. Two weeks ago, it was probably seventy percent revulsion. Today, it was probably closer to forty percent. Angie tried not to let the rate of that change bother her.

'Oh, ouch. Power drill to the chest,' Angie said, admiring the photos with a new sense of awe. 'Who does that?'

'Based on the size, I'd say it was a wood bit, but I'd have to look at some body scans to be sure.'

Angie shook her head, smiling. 'How do you do it, Nige?'

Nigel's grin grew. 'Incomprehensible genius.'

Angie laughed and rolled her eyes, elbowing Nigel lightly in the ribs. Although, because of their difference in height, she hit a bit lower than her target. Behind them, the door swung open.

'Ange!' Jordan cried, making the duo turn to face her. 'Come on, we got a date with the Mystery Machine.'

Angie slammed the van door behind her and followed Jordan down an alley and under the police tape. Her eyes darted around, trying to take as much of the scene in as possible.

'What have we got, Woody?' Jordan asked, her long hair strapped up in a messy bun.

'Woman, early twenties. Her name is Rachel Markus. It looks like she was strangled, but we don't have a weapon. Perp might have just did it the old fashioned way, gone barehanded.' Woody tucked his small notebook into his suit jacket as Jordan kneeled down to inspect the body. Angie took pictures as she went, furrowing her eyebrows in concentration as she watched Jordan work.

The woman that was crumpled against the wall couldn't have been older than twenty-five. She had long, sandy brown hair with lighter highlights and was dressed in a sparkly magenta cocktail dress that looked too expensive for this part of town. She had been wearing four inch, dark pink stilettos when she died, but in the struggle, one of the designer shoes had been kicked off further down the alley.

'Did she live in the building?' Jordan asked, looking up at the brick building looming up in front of her. The alley they were all standing in was framed by an aging apartment building on one side and a kosher deli on the other.

'She didn't, but the people in the building knew her. Apparently her boyfriend lives here. Things had been rocky with them the past few months since the boyfriend's father moved in, but that's all I've got. She didn't have a license on her.'

Jordan looked up from the body and glanced around for a moment. 'Ange, you notice anything off?'

Angie dropped the camera gently and it hit her chest, swinging silently from the neckstrap. Looking around, she glanced over the girl's body and he expensive clothes.

'She looks like she was going on a date, or maybe a party. Nice dress, fancy shoes... but no purse?' Angie asked, tilting her head. Woody blinked at Angie.

'Is that important?' he asked, clicking his pen. Angie and Jordan shared a smirk.

'No lipstick?'

'No money?'

'No protection?'

'No license?' Jordan finished.

'If you two break into song, I'm leaving,' Woody replied, shooting the two women a flat look.

'The point is, sounds like the makings of a pretty boring night,' Jordan concluded, going back to her ruminations over the young woman's remains.

'You think the killer took it with him?' Angie asked, kneeling beside Jordan. Jordan nodded in reply.

'Somebody did.'

Woody dug out his notebook again and jotted down a few brief notes, shaking his head, wondering what he had gotten himself into.

'Lividity's consistent with the placement of the body,' Jordan continued, 'and it looks like she's been dead for at least four hours. I'll get a more accurate time of death when I get her back to the morgue.'

Angie sighed. 'No time like the present.'

'She was definitely strangled with bare hands,' Jordan said, examining Rachel's neck. Angie leaned in, and she could clearly see the shadows of a person's hands in the bruises that wrapped around the girl's neck.

'Sounds impulsive,' Angie muttered, almost to herself. Jordan nodded in agreement.

'You thinking the boyfriend?' she asked. Angie shrugged.

'I'm thinking it's a pretty good bet. The neighbors said the relationship was slipping, maybe he wanted to break it off a little more... permanently.'

'Or maybe she wanted it over, and he couldn't take it,' Jordan countered. 'He was starting to lose control of his life. His father just moved in with him, his relationship was spiraling out of control, but this...' she gestured toward the body, 'he could control.'

'Sounds like we need to talk to the boyfriend,' Angie said finally. Jordan responded with a mischievous smirk.

'Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,' she replied.

'I'll have the club,' Woody told the server, watching as the teenage boy wrote the order down.

'The reuben for me,' Angie said. She watched the server as he scribbled her order and walked away. He was lanky with shaggy dark hair, and he reminded her of Woody at that age. She smiled as she thought back to Wisconsin and growing up with Woody. They had always been at odds as to their vision of the future: Woody idealized their upbringing, while Angie craved city life. How they both ended up in the same place after so many years was still a mystery to her.

'So, how's the morgue treating you?' Woody asked, bringing Angie back to reality. She let out a soft laugh.

'There's a question you don't hear every day.'

Woody narrowed his eyes. 'You're changing the subject.'

Angie shrugged her right shoulder. 'I'm liking it a lot more than I thought I would.' Her voice was tinged with curiosity at her own statement. Woody took note of Angie's lopsided shrug, and he held back a frustrated sigh. Even after devoting his life to upholding the law, he couldn't protect the ones he loved. He tried to sweep those thoughts away for a moment.

'Yeah, it'll do that to you,' he replied, trying not to seem distracted.

'It actually bothers me that it doesn't... bother me,' Angie rambled, peeling the paper napkin from around her silverware and twisting it absent-mindedly.

'It's easy not to focus on the morbid part when you're working with these people,' Woody replied, from experience. Angie let a small smile creep over her face, letting her napkin unravel.

'That's true enough.'

Woody watched as Angie slept in the hospital bed, her left shoulder was bandaged up and her arm was in a sling. The most he had gotten out of her was that she was treating a guy for a bullet wound and he attacked her. When she managed to wriggle free, he shot her in the shoulder. He looked down at his shoes and sighed.

Woody's entire body was tense; clenched in rage and helplessness. The happy tone that he kept when Angie was awake was wearing him down.

'You really need to relax, Woods,' Angie's voice came from the bed, low and weary. Woody plastered on a smile before looking up to meet his cousin's gaze.

'Morning, sunshine,' he said, upbeat. Angie scoffed.

'You're such an easy read.'

Woody shot her a sarcastic, unamused smirk. Angie smiled fondly at him and let out a soft sigh.

'Would you feel better if I came to stay with you in Boston for a while?'

Woody's shoulders visibly relaxed and a genuine smile lit up his youthful face.

'Oh, God, yes.'

A/N - Another chapter up! School just started for me so there was a lag in posting, but it'll be more regular from here on out. Please review! Let me know how I'm doing. ;)