NOTES: Many thanks to Danae and Fiona, both of whom took time out to offer suggestions and inspiration. Both of you are treasures, ladies.
Jim opened the Loft door and grinned. "Well, well.... you clean up nice.”
"Very funny," Masterson laughed as he walked in. "Sandy ready?"
"Almost." Jim grinned larger. "Tell me again how a lowly ATF agent swings two tickets to the formal opening of the LeGraff embassy?"
Masterson's reply was a cocky crooked grin. “The LeGraff are a people with very long memories. I saved the ambassador's daughter Lilly from a car bomb about five years ago."
“You never told me you knew Lilly Vivideaux," Sandy said as she came out of the bedroom.
"It never came up," Masterson said, turning. His teasing smile froze as he got his first good look at the gendermorph. "Whoa....SANDY?!"
She looked down at the off-the-shoulder floor-length green dress. "Too much?"
Masterson shook his head. "No... y-you... you look fabulous!” He reached out and touched her upswept hair. "Wonderful..."
Jim came to his blushing roommate's rescue. "Just make sure Cinderella gets home by midnight."
"Or else that dress turns into scullery rags?" Masterson grinned.
"No," Sandy said seriously. "Or else you'll be dating Blair in drag. Midnight's the time I've got to change."
Masterson nodded solemnly. "Understood."
Sandy nodded, picked up her backpack, and called, "Bye, Jim," as she walked out.
Masterson pointed after her. "She even takes that backpack to a formal party?"
Jim nodded. "It's got sweats and male underthings in it -- just in case."
With an understanding grin and nod, Masterson left the Loft.
Two hours later, Jim's cell phone rang. Coming out of the shower, Jim wrapped a towel around his hips and snapped it open on the fourth ring. "Ellison!"
“Sandburg!" His hand tightened on the phone as he took in both the voice -- and thus the gender -- and the tone. "Sandy, what's wrong?"
"At the embassy....J-Jim, there's been a murder...."
Near midnight, Blair reemerged and changed into the sweats he'd brought for this purpose. He then rejoined Masterson and Jim as they watched Serena finish her examination of the body.
"Well?" Jim asked as Serena stood up.
"Well," she said, then smiled at Blair. "When did you get here?"
Blair returned the smile. "A few minutes ago. What've we got?"
"Woman, age approximately thirty. Killed by asphyxiation on first scan. I'll have to let the autopsy tell its tale. We do, however, have eight full prints."
That startled them. "Full prints?" Masterson gasped.
Jim nodded. "Our murderer doesn't seem to be overly concerned with getting caught."
"Which means he's either very confident or very stupid," Blair muttered.
"Or both," Masterson put in.
The LeGraffian ambassador walked up. "Ah, gentlemen. And lady. May I interest you in a drink?"
Jim frowned, his head tilting. "At a time like this?"
He smiled and held up his glass. "Detective, this is water. Rest easy. Have you found anything?"
Jim's frown deepened, and Blair stepped in. "It's still too early to tell, sir." His eyes trailed behind the ambassador.
The ambassador turned and smiled at the young woman who stood behind him. "Ah, Lilly." He brought her forward. "Gentlemen, may I introduce my daughter, Lilly."
“He's not my father," the young woman with the tortured eyes said.
"What?" Masterson asked.
Lilly walked over to him. "You know me -- please, look at him ! He killed my father and took his place!"
Masterson's eyes met the ambassador's. The ambassador smiled sadly and shook his head. "She was extraordinarily close to my brother Michel. Upon his death, she became convinced I was Michel, not Jacques. That I killed Jacques and took his identity." He shook his head again. "But she is my daughter and I love her."
Lilly snorted at this.
"If I may," Jim asked warily, "How did Michel die?"
At that moment, the ambassador's attention was drawn to something inside. He went in, taking Lilly with him.
Blair then turned to Jim. "What was that about?"
"I'm not sure," Jim said. "Something is way off here."
"Like what?" Masterson asked.
Slowly, he shook his head. "I can't really put my finger on it yet. But something about him disturbs me."
Masterson frowned as well. "Jim... that's not the Lilly I knew. Her behavior’s all off. Jacques's is as well."
Blair's eyes narrowed. "I'm starting not to like any of this."
The autopsy proved the victim died from strangulation. The prints were being run when Jim and Blair arrived at work after a restless night.
Masterson arrived several minutes later, looking as tired as they felt. "Couldn't sleep either?" he asked Blair.
Blair shook his head. "Couldn't get the victim out of my head. You?"
"Lilly," Masterson sighed. "Worried sick about her. She's never been that detached from reality before."
"Before?" Jim asked. "She's had bouts of mental illness before?"
"Depression. Never....this.” Masterson seemed genuinely distressed.
Jim squeezed his shoulder in silent support.
At that moment, the phone rang. Jim picked it up. "Ellison." Then he reached for his notebook and a pen. "Yeah, what've you got?....uh-huh.... and you're sure about this?....okay, thanks." He hung up and let out a deep sigh.
"Well?" Blair asked.
Simon came out of his office at that moment. "Ellison! Sandburg! My office!"
Masterson tagged along. Seeing this, Simon said," Masterson, I didn't ---"
"He's working with us on the LeGraff Embassy murder, sir," Jim said.
"Yes, well, about that...." he sighed. "I've just gotten a call from the LeGraff ambassador himself. The murder was on embassy grounds..."
"We're aware of that," Jim began, but a soft curse from Blair silenced him. He turned to his partner. "Chief?"
Blair sank onto the chair in Simon's office. "Foreign soil....damn, we don't have jurisdiction...."
Simon nodded. "And the ambassador wants any and all information gathered turned over to him."
"With all due respect, sir," Jim interrupted. "I believe the ambassador might be attempting to protect someone."
Simon sighed. "Jim, that's not the poi---"
"The fingerprints lifted from the victim were a perfect match for Michel Vivideaux."
Masterson blinked. "But....that's impossible! Michel Vivideaux has been dead for four months!"
"I remember you saying that," Jim nodded.
"What?" Blair asked.
Masterson nodded. "He had a heart attack. There was some flap over the autopsy, but --"
"Gentlemen," Simon interrupted. "As interesting as this is, you still have no jurisdiction over the case and the ambassador insists on that evidence!"
With a sigh, Jim stood. "We'll get it together right away."
"Jim," Simon called. When he turned, he saw a sheepish look on the captain's face. "This is one time my hands are truly tied."
Jim smiled slightly. "I understand, Simon. I wouldn't be in your shoes for the world right now."
Simon nodded and closed the door behind them.
Once back at Jim's desk, gathering the evidence together, Jim said softly, "Tell me about the flap over the autopsy."
Speaking just as softly, Masterson said, "People were saying it wasn't Michel Vivideaux. The autopsy reportedly showed a healthy heart."
"And yet he died of a heart attack."
Masterson nodded. "Not to mention he had MVP, which the autopsy reportedly didn't show as well."
"MVP?" Blair asked, frowning.
"Mitral valve prolapse," Jim responded. "A heart murmur." He looked at Masterson. "Two brothers who have the exact same heart trouble...."
Now it was Masterson who frowned. "Two? Jacques doesn't have MVP."
"Yes, he does." Jim tapped an ear. Since Masterson had figured out about him, it made life a lot easier. "I could hear it. There is no mistaking that 'click'."
Masterson shook his head. "No, Jim. I know these people! Jacques Vivideaux does not have a heart murmur, Michel Vivideaux...." Masterson froze, his eyes going huge and his mouth hanging open.
Blair's expression mimicked his. "You... don't think..."
"I think we'd better get to the LeGraff embassy," Jim said. "Jurisdiction or not, this case just took a turn for the strange, and I'm not sure I like how the pieces are fitting together."
Vivideaux looked up and smiled as the trio walked in. "Ah, detectives! I trust you've brought the information I requested?"
Jim held up the folder. "You mean the evidence linking you to two murders and one count of forged documentation?"
Vivideaux stood, came around the desk, and sat on the edge. "What are you going on about?"
"You tell me --- Michel."
A beat. Two. Then Vivideaux leaned back slightly, folding his arms. "My congratulations, detectives. I have you removed from the case, and you still solve it."
Masterson gasped. "You admit it?"
"Of course!" he laughed. "I have succeeded in my aim, why would I not admit it?" He stood and crossed the room, uncorking a snifter. "Brandy, gentlemen?"
"I don't understand," Blair said, ignoring the flippant offer. "What aim? And why did you kill that woman and your own brother?"
Vivideaux turned, smiling at them. "For the exact same reason I assumed my brother's identity -- to commit the perfect American crime." He spread his hands. "As a diplomat, I cannot be touched, thanks to the wonderful diplomatic immunity! And as the brother of a real diplomat---" he laughed. "I still cannot be touched!"
"You can be extradited to LeGraff, to stand trial there," Masterson growled.
"True -- but I am still untouchable in America!" Chuckling, he raised the glass. "To Jacques Vivideaux and Maureen Cole! Means to an end -- pawns in the hands of a master!" Laughing at the expressions of helpless rage on the three faces before him, Vivideaux took a drink.
With the glass still touching his lips, Vivideaux's body jerked violently. The glass fell from nerveless fingers and the brandy dribbled down his chin as he looked down at the red stain spreading on his shirt. He turned slightly, then made a strangled sound and collapsed on top of the broken glass.
Slowly, Lilly Vivideaux lowered the smoking gun she held in both her trembling hands. She raised wide eyes to the trio and whispered shakily:
"He.... he killed my father...."
Masterson stepped forward and took the gun from her unresisting fingers. "We know, Lilly." He passed the gun to Jim, and enfolded the shaking young woman in his arms. "We know...."
Blair pulled out his cell phone and called Simon. Jim crouched by the fake ambassador's body and gently closed the dead man's eyes before standing up and sighing.
"So much for the perfect crime."
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