Vengeance in death, p.1
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         Part #6 of In Death series by J. D. Robb
Vengeance in Death

  Vengeance in Death

  J. D. Robb

  Book 6 of the Eve Dallas Mysteries

  *** CHAPTER ONE ***

  The business of murder took time, patience, skill, and a tolerance for the monotonous. Lieutenant Eve Dallas had them all.

  She knew the act of murder required none of these. All too often a life was taken on impulse, in rage, for amusement, or simply out of stupidity. It was the last of these, in Eve's mind, that had led one John Henry Bonning to throw one Charles Michael Renekee out a twelfth-story window on Avenue D.

  She had Bonning in Interview and calculated that it would take another twenty minutes tops to shake a confession out of him, another fifteen to book him and file her report. She might just make it home on time.

  "Come on, Boner." It was her veteran cop talking to veteran bad guy. Level ground, her turf. "Do yourself a favor. A confession, and you can go for self-defense and diminished capacity. We can tie this up by dinnertime. I hear they're serving pasta surprise in lockup tonight."

  "Never touched him." Bonning folded his oversized lips, tapped his long, fat fingers. "Fucker jumped."

  With a sigh, Eve sat down at the little metal table in Interview A. She didn't want Bonning to lawyer himself and gum up the works. All she had to do was keep him from saying those words, steer him in the direction she was already heading, and she had a wrap.

  Second-rate chemi-dealers like Bonning were invariably slow-witted, but sooner or later he'd whine for a representative. It was an old shuffle-and-dodge, as timeless as murder itself. As the year 2058 stumbled to an end, the business of murder remained basically unchanged.

  "He jumped—a quick gainer out the window. Now why'd he do that, Boner?"

  Bonning furrowed his ape-sized forehead into deep thought. "Because he was a crazy bastard?"

  "That's a good guess, Boner, but it's not going to qualify you for round two of our stump-the-cops sweepstakes."

  It took him about thirty pondering seconds, then his lips stretched out into a grin. "Funny. Pretty funny, Dallas."

  "Yeah, I'm thinking of moonlighting as a stand-up. But, going back to my day job, the two of you were cooking up some Erotica in your porta-lab on Avenue D, and Renekee—being a crazy bastard—just got some hair up his ass and jumped out a window—right through the glass—and dived twelve stories, bounced off the roof of a Rapid Cab, scared the living shit out of a couple of tourists from Topeka in the backseat, then rolled off to leak his brains onto the street."

  "Sure did bounce," Bonning said with what passed for a wondering smile. "Who'da thought?"

  She didn't intend to go for murder one, and figured if she went for murder two the court-appointed rep would bargain Bonning down to manslaughter. Chemi-dealers greasing chemi-dealers didn't make Justice flip up her blindfold and grin in anticipation. He'd do more time for the illegals paraphernalia than he would for the homicide. And even combining the two, it was doubtful he'd do more than a three-year stretch in lockup.

  She folded her arms on the table, leaned forward. "Boner, do I look stupid?"

  Taking the question at face value, Bonning narrowed his eyes to take a careful study. She had big brown eyes, but they weren't soft. She had a pretty, wide mouth, but it didn't smile. "Look like a cop," he decided.

  "Good answer. Don't try to hose me here, Boner. You and your business partner had a falling out, you got pissed off, and you terminated your professional and personal relationship by heaving his dumb ass out the window." She held up a hand before Bonning could deny again. "This is the way I see it. You got into, maybe dissing each other over the profits, the methods, a woman. You both got hot. So maybe he comes at you. You've got to defend yourself, right?"

  "Man's got a right," Bonning agreed, nodding rapidly as the story sang to him. "But we didn't get into nothing. He just tried to fly."

  "Where'd you get the bloody lip, the black eye? How come your knuckles are ripped up?''

  Bonning stretched his lips into a toothy grin. "Bar fight."

  "When? Where?"

  "Who remembers?"

  "You'd better. And you know you'd better, Boner, after we run the tests on the blood we scraped from your knuckles, and we find his blood mixed with yours. We get his DNA off your fat fingers, I'm going for premeditated—maximum lockup, life, no parole."

  His eyes blinked rapidly, as if his brain was processing new and baffling data. "Come on, Dallas, that's just bullshit. You ain't gonna convince nobody I walked in there thinking to kill old Chuckaroo. We were buds."

  Her eyes steady on his, Eve pulled out her communicator. "Last chance to help yourself. I call my aide, have her get the test results, I'm booking you on murder one."

  "Wasn't no murder." He wanted to believe she was bluffing. You couldn't read those eyes, he thought, wetting his lips. Couldn't read those cop's eyes. "It was an accident," he claimed, inspired. Eve only shook her head. "Yeah, we were busting a little and he…tripped and went headlong out the window."

  "Now you're insulting me. A grown man doesn't trip out a window that's three feet off the floor." Eve flicked on her communicator. "Officer Peabody."

  Within seconds Peabody's round and sober faced filled the communicator screen. "Yes, sir."

  "I need the blood test results on Bonning. Have them sent directly to Interview A—and alert the PA that I have a murder in the first."

  "Now hold on, back up, don't be going there." Bonning ran the back of his hand over his mouth. He struggled a moment, telling himself she'd never get him on the big one. But Dallas had a rep for pinning fatter moths than he to the wall.

  "You had your chance, Boner. Peabody—"

  "He came at me, like you said. He came at me. He went crazy. I'll tell you how it went down, straight shit. I want to make a statement."

  "Peabody, delay those orders. Inform the PA that Mr. Bonning is making a statement of straight shit."

  Peabody's lips never twitched. "Yes, sir."

  Eve slipped the communicator back in her pocket, then folded her hands on the edge of the table and smiled pleasantly. "Okay, Boner, tell me how it went down."

  • • •

  Fifty minutes later, Eve strolled into her tiny office in New York's Cop Central. She did look like a cop—not just the weapon harness slung over her shoulder, the worn boots and faded jeans. Cop was in her eyes—eyes that missed little. They were a dark whiskey color, and rarely flinched. Her face was angular, sharp at the cheekbones, and set off by a surprisingly generous mouth and a shallow dent in the chin.

  She walked in a long-limbed, loose-gaited style—she was in no hurry. Pleased with herself, she raked her fingers through her short, casually cropped brown hair as she sat behind her desk.

  She would file her report, zing off copies to all necessary parties, then log out for the day. Outside the streaked and narrow window behind her, the commuter air traffic was already in a snarl. The blat of airbus horns and the endless snicking of traffic copter blades didn't bother her. It was, after all, one of the theme songs of New York.

  "Engage," she ordered, then hissed when her computer remained stubbornly blank. "Damn it, don't start this. Engage. Turn on, you bastard."

  "You've got to feed it your personal pass number," Peabody said as she stepped inside.

  "I thought these were back on voice ID."

  "Were. Snaffued. Supposed to be back up to speed by the end of the week."

  "Pain in the butt," Eve complained. "How many numbers are we supposed to remember? Two, five, zero, nine." She blew out a breath as her unit coughed to life. "They'd better come up with the new system they promised the department." She slipped a disc into the unit. "Save to Bonning, John Henry, case number 4572077-H. Copy report to Whitney, Commander."

  "Nice, quick work on
Bonning, Dallas."

  "The man's got a brain the size of a pistachio. Tossed his partner out the window because they got into a fight over who owed who a stinking twenty credits. And he's trying to tell me he was defending himself, in fear for his life. The guy he tossed was a hundred pounds lighter and six inches shorter. Asshole," she said with a resigned sigh. "You'd have thought Boner would have cooked up the guy had a knife or swung a bat at him."

  She sat back, circled her neck, surprised and pleased that there was barely any tension to be willed away. "They should all be this easy."

  She listened with half an ear to the hum and rumble of the early air traffic outside her window. One of the commuter trams was blasting out its spiel on economical rates and convenience.

  "Weekly, monthly, yearly terms available! Sign on to EZ TRAM, your friendly and reliable air transport service. Begin and end your work day in style."

  If you like the packed-in-like-sweaty-sardines style, Eve thought. With the chilly November rain that had been falling all day, she imagined both air and street snarls would be hideous. The perfect end to the day.

  "That wraps it," she said and grabbed her battered leather jacket. "I'm clocking out—on time for a change. Any hot plans for the weekend, Peabody?"

  "My usual, flicking off men like flies, breaking hearts, crushing souls."

  Eve shot a quick grin at her aide's sober face. The sturdy Peabody, she thought—a cop from the crown of her dark bowl-cut hair to her shiny regulation shoes. "You're such a wild woman, Peabody. I don't know how you keep up the pace."

  "Yeah, that's me, queen of the party girls." With a dry smile, Peabody reached for the door just as Eve's tele-link beeped. Both of them scowled at the unit. "Thirty seconds and we'd have been on the skywalk down."

  "Probably just Roarke calling to remind me we've got this dinner party deal tonight." Eve flicked the unit on. "Homicide, Dallas."

  The screen swam with colors, dark, ugly, clashing colors. Music, low octave, slow paced, crept out of the speaker. Automatically, Eve tapped the command for trace, watched the Unable to Comply message scroll across the bottom of the screen.

  Peabody whipped out her porta-link, stepping aside to contact Central Control as the caller spoke.

  "You're supposed to be the best the city has to offer, Lieutenant Dallas. Just how good are you?"

  "Unidentified contact and/or jammed transmissions to police officers are illegal. I'm obliged to caution you that this transmission is being traced through CompuGuard, and it's being recorded."

  "I'm aware of that. Since I've just committed what worldly society would consider first-degree murder, I'm not overly concerned about minor nuisances like electronic violations. I've been blessed by the Lord."

  "Oh yeah?" Terrific, she thought, just what she needed.

  "I have been called on to do His work, and have washed myself in the blood of His enemy."

  "Does He have a lot of them? I mean, you'd think He'd just, what, smite them down Himself instead of enlisting you to do the dirty work."

  There was a pause, a long one, in which only the dirge played through. "I have to expect you to be flippant." The voice was harder now, and edgier. Temper barely suppressed. "As one of the godless, how could you understand divine retribution? I'll put this on your level. A riddle. Do you enjoy riddles, Lieutenant Dallas?''

  "No." She slid her gaze toward Peabody, got a quick, frustrated head shake. "But I bet you do."

  "They relax the mind and soothe the spirit. The name of this little riddle is Revenge. You'll find the first son of the old sod in the lap of luxury, atop his silver tower where the river runs dark below and water falls from a great height. He begged for his life, and then for his death. Never repenting his great sin, he is already damned."

  "Why did you kill him?"

  "Because this is the task I was born for,"

  "God told you that you were born to kill?" Eve pushed for trace again, fought with frustration. "How'd He let you know? Did He call you up on your 'link, send a fax? Maybe He met you in a bar?"

  "You won't doubt me." The sound of breathing grew louder, strained, shaky. "You think because you're a woman in a position of authority that I'm less? You won't doubt me for much longer. I contacted you, Lieutenant. Remember this is in my charge. Woman may guide and comfort man, but man was created to protect, defend, to avenge."

  "God tell you that too? I guess that proves He's a man after all. Mostly ego."

  "You'll tremble before Him, before me."

  "Yeah, right." Hoping his video was clear, Eve examined her nails. "I'm already shaking."

  "My work is holy. It is terrible and divine. From Proverbs, Lieutenant, twenty-eight seventeen: 'If a man is burdened with the blood of another, let him be a fugitive until death; let no one help him.' This one's days as a fugitive are done—and no one helped him."

  "If you killed him, what does that make you?"

  "The wrath of God. You have twenty-four hours to prove you're worthy. Don't disappoint me."

  "I won't disappoint you, asshole," Eve muttered as the transmission ended. "Anything, Peabody?"

  "Nothing. He jammed the tracers good and proper. They can't give us so much as on or off planet."

  "He's on planet," she muttered and sat. "He wants to be close enough to watch."

  "Could be a crank."

  "I don't think so. A fanatic, but not a crank. Computer, run buildings, residential and commercial with the word luxury, in New York City, with view of the East River or the Hudson." She tapped her fingers. "I hate puzzle games."

  "I kind of like them." Brows knit, Peabody leaned over Eve's shoulder as the computer went to work.

  Luxury Arms

  Sterling Luxury

  Luxury Place

  Luxury Towers

  Eve pounced. "Access visual of Luxury Towers, on screen."


  The image popped, a towering spear of silver with a glint of sunlight off the steel and shimmering on the Hudson at its base. On the far west wide, a stylish waterfall tumbled down a complex arrangement of tubes and channels.


  "Can't be that easy," Peabody objected.

  "He wanted it easy." Because, Eve thought, someone was already dead. "He wants to play and he wants to preen. Can't do either until we're in it. Computer, access name of residents on the top floor of the Luxury Towers."

  Working…Penthouse is owned by The Brennen Group and is New York base for Thomas X. Brennen of Dublin, Ireland, age forty-two, married, three children, president and CEO of The Brennen Group, an entertainment and communications agency.

  "Let's check it out, Peabody. We'll notify Dispatch on the way."

  "Request backup?"

  "We'll get the lay of the land first." Eve adjusted the strap on her weapon harness and shrugged into her jacket.

  • • •

  The traffic was just as bad as she'd suspected, bumping and grinding over wet streets, buzzing overhead like disoriented bees. Glide-carts huddled under wide umbrellas and did no business she could see. Steam rolled up out of their grills, obscuring vision and stinking up the air.

  "Get the operator to access Brennen's home number, Peabody. If it's a hoax and he's alive, it'd be nice to keep it that way."

  "On it," Peabody said and pulled out her 'link.

  Annoyed with the traffic delays, Eve sounded her siren. She'd have had the same response if she'd leaned out the window and shouted. Cars remained packed together like lovers, giving not an inch.

  "No answer," Peabody told her. "Voice-mail announcement says he's away for two weeks beginning today."

  "Let's hope he's bellied up to a pub in Dublin." She scanned the traffic again, gauged her options. "I have to do it."

  "Ah, Lieutenant, not in this vehicle."

  Then Peabody, the stalwart cop, gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut in terror as Eve stabbed the vertical lift. The car shuddered, creaked, and lifted six inches off the ground. Hit it again with a bo
ne-shuddering thud.

  "Goddamn piece of dog shit." Eve used her fist this time, punching the control hard enough to bruise her knuckles. They did a shaky lift, wobbled, then streamed forward as Eve jabbed the accelerator. She nipped the edge of an umbrella, causing the glide-cart hawker to squeal in fury and hotfoot in pursuit for a half a block.

  "The damn hawker nearly caught the bumper." More amazed than angry now, Eve shook her head. "A guy in air boots nearly outran a cop ride. What's the world coming to, Peabody?"

  Eyes stubbornly shut, Peabody didn't move a muscle. "I'm sorry, sir, you're interrupting my praying."

  Eve kept the sirens on, delivering them to the front entrance of the Luxury Towers. The descent was rough enough to click her teeth together, but she missed the glossy fender of an XRII airstream convertible by at least an inch.

  The doorman was across the sidewalk like a silver bullet, his face a combination of insult and horror as he wrenched open the door of her industrial beige city clunker.

  "Madam, you cannot park this…thing here."

  Eve flicked off the siren, flipped out her badge. "Oh yeah, I can."

  His mouth only stiffened further as he scanned her ID. "If you would please pull into the garage."

  Maybe it was because he reminded her of Summerset, the butler who had Roarke's affection and loyalty and her disdain, but she pushed her face into his, eyes glittering. "It stays where I put it, pal. And unless you want me to tell my aide to write you up for obstructing an officer, you'll buzz me inside and up to Thomas Brennen's penthouse."

  He sucked air through his nose. "That is quite impossible. Mr. Brennen is away."

  "Peabody, get this…citizen's name and ID number and arrange to have him transported to Cop Central for booking."

  "Yes, sir."

  "You can't arrest me." His shiny black boots did a quick dance on the sidewalk. "I'm doing my job."

  "You're interfering with mine, and guess whose job the judge is going to think is more important?"

  Eve watched the way his mouth worked before it settled in a thin, disapproving line. Oh yeah, she thought, he was Summerset to a tee, even though he was twenty pounds heavier and three inches shorter than the bane of her existence.

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