Midnight in death, p.1
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       Midnight in Death, p.1
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         Part #7.50 of In Death series by J. D. Robb  
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Midnight in Death


  Praise for the #1 New York Times bestselling In Death series

  “Sexy, gritty, richly imagined suspense.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Groundbreaking.”

  —The Romance Reader

  “Another taut, gut-wrenching, compelling thriller from the incomparable J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts). Each new installment in this series adds more layers to already complex, fascinating characters. And the storylines are always first-rate. Need I say more—another masterpiece!”

  —ParaNormal Romance Reviews

  “Tough-talking thriller with a matchless pace.”

  —Kirkus Reviews

  “A well-written, action-packed book that has surprises in it that keep you enthralled till the last sentence of the last page…Watching the characters and their rapport develop has been delightful to behold. Ms. Robb has yet again shown what a great suspense author she is. Well done!”

  —The Romance Readers Connection

  “Fast-paced romantic suspense.”

  —The Best Reviews

  “A unique blend of hard-core police drama, science fiction and passionate romance.”

  —Gothic Journal

  “Fantastic.”

  —The Paperback Forum

  Nora Roberts & J. D. Robb

  REMEMBER WHEN

  J. D. Robb

  NAKED IN DEATH

  GLORY IN DEATH

  IMMORTAL IN DEATH

  RAPTURE IN DEATH

  CEREMONY IN DEATH

  VENGEANCE IN DEATH

  HOLIDAY IN DEATH

  CONSPIRACY IN DEATH

  LOYALTY IN DEATH

  WITNESS IN DEATH

  JUDGMENT IN DEATH

  BETRAYAL IN DEATH

  SEDUCTION IN DEATH

  REUNION IN DEATH

  PURITY IN DEATH

  PORTRAIT IN DEATH

  IMITATION IN DEATH

  DIVIDED IN DEATH

  VISIONS IN DEATH

  Anthologies

  SILENT NIGHT

  (with Susan Plunkett, Dee Holmes, and Claire Cross)

  OUT OF THIS WORLD

  (with Laurell K. Hamilton, Susan Krinard, and Maggie Shayne)

  Also available…

  THE OFFICIAL NORA ROBERTS COMPANION

  (edited by Denise Little and Laura Hayden)

  MIDNIGHT IN DEATH

  J. D. Robb

  THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

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  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  MIDNIGHT IN DEATH

  A Berkley Book/published by arrangement with the author

  Copyright © 1998 by Nora Roberts.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ISBN: 0-7865-9938-3

  BERKLEY®

  Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  BERKLEY is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  The “B” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  The year is dying in the night.

  —TENNYSON

  The welfare of the people is the chief law.

  —CICERO

  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  ONE

  Murder respects no traditions. It ignores sentiment. It takes no holidays.

  Because murder was her business, Lieutenant Eve Dallas stood in the predawn freeze of Christmas morning coating the deerskin gloves her husband had given her only hours before with Seal-It.

  The call had come in less than an hour before and less than six hours since she’d closed a case that had left her shaky and exhausted. Her first Christmas with Roarke wasn’t getting off to a rousing start.

  Then again, it had taken a much nastier turn for Judge Harold Wainger.

  His body had been dumped dead center in the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. Face up, so his glazed eyes could stare at the huge celebrational tree that was New York’s symbol of goodwill toward men.

  His body was naked and already a deep shade of blue. The thick mane of silver hair that had been his trademark had been roughly chopped off. And though his face was severely battered, she had no trouble recognizing him.

  She’d sat in his courtroom dozens of times in her ten years on the force. He had been, she thought, a solid and steady man, with as much understanding of the slippery channels of the law as respect for the heart of it.

  She crouched down to get a closer look at the words that had been burned deeply into his chest.

  JUDGE NOT, LEST YOU BE JUDGED

  She hoped the burns had been inflicted postmortem, but she doubted it.

  He had been mercilessly beaten, the fingers of both hands broken. Deep wounds around his wrists and ankles indicated that he’d been bound. But it hadn’t been the beating or the burns that killed him.

  The rope used to hang him was still around his neck, digging deep into flesh. Even that wouldn’t have been quick, she decided. It didn’t appear that his neck had been broken, and the burst vessels in his eyes and face signaled slow strangulation.

  “He wanted you alive as long as possible,” she murmured. “He wanted you to feel it all.”

  Kneeling now, she studied the handwritten note that was flapping gaily in the wind. It had been fixed over the judge’s groin like an obscene loincloth. The list of names had been printed in careful square block letters.

  JUDGE HAROLD WAINGER

  PROSECUTING ATTORNEY STEPHANIE RING

  PUBLIC DEFENDER CARL NEISSAN

  JUSTINE POLINSKY

  DOCTOR CHARLOTTE MIRA

  LIEUTENANT EVE DALLAS

  “Saving me for last, Dave?”

  She recognized the style: gleefu
l infliction of pain followed by a slow, torturous death. David Palmer enjoyed his work. His experiments, as he’d called them when Eve had finally hunted him down three years before.

  By the time she’d gotten him into a cage, he had eight victims to his credit, and with them an extensive file of discs recording his work. Since then he’d been serving the eight life-term sentences that Wainger had given him in a maximum-security ward for mental defectives.

  “But you got out, didn’t you, Dave? This is your handiwork. The torture, the humiliations, the burns. Public dumping spot for the body. No copycat here. Bag him,” she ordered and got wearily to her feet.

  It didn’t look as though the last days of December 2058 were going to be much of a party.

  The minute she was back in her vehicle, Eve ordered the heat on full blast. She stripped off her gloves and rubbed her hands over her face. She would have to go in and file her report, but the first order of business couldn’t wait for her to drive to her home office. Damn if she was going to spend Christmas Day at Cop Central.

  She used the in-dash ’link to contact Dispatch and arrange to have each name on the list notified of possible jeopardy. Christmas or not, she was ordering uniformed guards on each one.

  As she drove, she engaged her computer. “Computer, status on David Palmer, mental-defective inmate on Rexal penal facility.”

  Working…. David Palmer, sentenced to eight consecutive life terms in off-planet facility Rexal reported escaped during transport to prison infirmary, December nineteen. Man-hunt ongoing.

  “I guess Dave decided to come home for the holidays.” She glanced up, scowling, as a blimp cruised over, blasting Christmas tunes as dawn broke over the city. Screw the herald angels, she thought, and called her commander.

  “Sir,” she said when Whitney’s face filled her screen. “I’m sorry to disturb your Christmas.”

  “I’ve already been notified about Judge Wainger. He was a good man.”

  “Yes, sir, he was.” She noted that Whitney was wearing a robe—a thick, rich burgundy that she imagined had been a gift from his wife. Roarke was always giving her fancy presents. She wondered if Whitney was as baffled by them as she usually was. “His body’s being transferred to the morgue. I have the evidence sealed and am en route to my home office now.”

  “I would have preferred another primary on this, Lieutenant.” He saw her tired eyes flash, the golden brown darkening. Still, her face, with its sharp angles, the firm chin with its shallow dent, the full, unsmiling mouth, stayed cool and controlled.

  “Do you intend to remove me from the case?”

  “You’ve just come off a difficult and demanding investigation. Your aide was attacked.”

  “I’m not calling Peabody in,” Eve said quickly. “She’s had enough.”

  “And you haven’t?”

  She opened her mouth, closed it again. Tricky ground, she acknowledged. “Commander, my name’s on the list.”

  “Exactly. One more reason for you to take a pass here.”

  Part of her wanted to—the part that wanted, badly, to put it all aside for the day, to go home and have the kind of normal Christmas she’d never experienced. But she thought of Wainger, stripped of all life and all dignity.

  “I tracked David Palmer, and I broke him. He was my collar, and no one knows the inside of his mind the way I do.”

  “Palmer?” Whitney’s wide brow furrowed. “Palmer’s in prison.”

  “Not anymore. He escaped on the nineteenth. And he’s back, Commander. You could say I recognized his signature. The names on the list,” she continued, pressing her point. “They’re all connected to him. Wainger was the judge during his trial. Stephanie Ring was APA. Cicely Towers prosecuted the case, but she’s dead. Ring assisted. Carl Neissan was his court-appointed attorney when Palmer refused to hire his own counsel, Justine Polinksy served as jury foreman. Dr. Mira tested him and testified against him at trial. I brought him in.”

  “The names on the list need to be notified.”

  “Already done, sir, and bodyguards assigned. I can pull the data from the files into my home unit to refresh my memory, but it’s fairly fresh as it is. You don’t forget someone like David Palmer. Another primary will have to start at the beginning, taking time that we don’t have. I know this man, how he works, how he thinks. What he wants.”

  “What he wants, Lieutenant?”

  “What he always wanted. Acknowledgment for his genius.”

  “It’s your case, Dallas,” Whitney said after a long silence. “Close it.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  She broke transmission as she drove through the gates of the staggering estate that Roarke had made his home.

  Ice from the previous night’s storm glinted like silver silk on naked branches. Ornamental shrubs and evergreens glistened with it. Beyond them, the house rose and spread, an elegant fortress, a testament to an earlier century with its beautiful stone, its acres of glass.

  In the gloomy half-light of morning, gorgeously decorated trees shimmered in several windows. Roarke, she thought with a little smile, had gotten heavily into the Christmas spirit.

  Neither of them had had much in the way of pretty holiday trees with gaily wrapped gifts stacked under them in their lives. Their childhoods had been miseries, and they had compensated for it in different ways. His had been to acquire, to become one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. By whatever means available. Hers had been to take control, to become part of the system that had failed her when she was a child.

  Hers was law. His was—or had been—circumventing law.

  Now, not quite a year since another murder had put them on the same ground, they were a unit. She wondered if she would ever understand how they’d managed it.

  She left her car out front, walked up the steps and through the door into the kind of wealth that fantasies were made of. Old polished wood, sparkling crystal, ancient rugs lovingly preserved, art that museums would have wept for.

  She shrugged off her jacket, started to toss it over the newel post. Then, gritting her teeth, she backtracked and hung it up. She and Summerset, Roarke’s aide-de-camp, had declared a tacit truce in their sniping war. There would be no potshots on Christmas, she decided.

  She could stand it if he could.

  Only marginally pleased that he didn’t slither into the foyer and hiss at her as he normally did, Eve headed into the main parlor.

  Roarke was there, sitting by the fire, reading the first-edition copy of Yeats that she’d given him. It had been the only gift she’d been able to come up with for the man who not only had everything but owned most of the plants where it was manufactured.

  He glanced up, smiled at her. Her stomach fluttered, as it so often did. Just a look, just a smile, and her system went jittery. He looked so…perfect, she thought. He was dressed casually for the day, in black, his long, lean body relaxing in a chair probably made two hundred years before.

  He had the face of a god with slightly wicked intentions, eyes of blazing Irish blue and a mouth created to destroy a woman’s control. Power sat attractively on him, as sleek and sexy, Eve thought, as the rich fall of black hair that skimmed nearly to his shoulders.

  He closed the book, set it aside, then held out a hand to her.

  “I’m sorry I had to leave.” She crossed to him, linked her fingers with his. “I’m sorrier that I’m going to have to go up and work, at least for a few hours.”

  “Got a minute first?”

  “Yeah, maybe. Just.” And she let him pull her down into his lap. Let herself close her eyes and simply wallow there, in the scent and the feel of him. “Not exactly the kind of day you’d planned.”

  “That’s what I get for marrying a cop.” Ireland sang quietly in his voice, the lilt of a sexy poet. “For loving one,” he added, and tipped her face up to kiss her.

  “It’s a pretty lousy deal right now.”

  “Not from where I’m sitting.” He combed his fingers through her s
hort brown hair. “You’re what I want, Eve, the woman who leaves her home to stand over the dead. And the one who knew what a copy of Yeats would mean to me.”

  “I’m better with the dead than with buying presents. Otherwise I’d have come up with more than one.”

  She looked over at the small mountain of gifts under the tree—gifts it had taken her more than an hour to open. And her wince made him laugh.

  “You know, one of the greatest rewards in giving you presents, Lieutenant, is the baffled embarrassment they cause you.”

  “I hope you got it out of your system for a while.”

  “Mmm,” was his only response. She wasn’t used to gifts, he thought, hadn’t been given anything as a child but pain. “Have you decided what to do with the last one?”

  The final box he’d given her had been empty, and he’d enjoyed seeing her frown in puzzlement. Just as he’d enjoyed seeing her grin at him when he told her it was a day. A day she could fill with whatever she liked. He would take her wherever she wanted to go, and they would do whatever she wanted to do. Off-planet or on. In reality or through the holo-room.

  Any time, any place, any world was hers for the asking.

  “No, I haven’t had much time to think it through. It’s a pretty great gift. I don’t want to screw it up.”

  She let herself relax against him another moment with the fire crackling, the tree shimmering, then she pulled back. “I’ve got to get started. There’s a lot of drone work on this one, and I don’t want to tag Peabody today.”

  “Why don’t I give you a hand?” He smiled again at the automatic refusal he read in her eyes. “Step into Peabody’s sturdy shoes for the day.”

  “This one’s not connected to you in any way. I want to keep it that way.”

  “All the better.” He nudged her up, got to his feet. “I can help you do the runs or whatever, and that way you won’t have to spend your entire Christmas chained to your desk.”

 
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