Naked in death, p.11
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       Naked in Death, p.11
 

         Part #1 of In Death series by J. D. Robb  
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  The screen held steady on the ending caption: Two of Six. Then it went blank. Without a word, Eve cued up the first murder, and they watched Sharon DeBlass die again.

  “What can you tell me?” Eve asked when it was finished.

  “Discs were made on a Trident MicroCam, the five thousand model. It’s only been available about six months, very pricey. Big seller last Christmas, though. More than ten thousand moved in Manhattan alone during the traditional shopping season, not to mention how many went through the gray market. Not as much of a flood like less expensive models, but still too many to trace.”

  He looked over at Eve with his drooping camel eyes. “Guess who owns Trident?”

  “Roarke Industries.”

  “Give the lady a bouquet. I’d say the odds were pretty good the boss man owns one himself.”

  “He’d certainly have access.” She made a note of it and resisted the memory of how his lips had felt brushing over her knuckles. “The killer uses a fairly exclusive piece of equipment he manufactures himself. Arrogance or stupidity?”

  “Stupidity doesn’t fly with this boy.”

  “No, it doesn’t. The weapon?”

  “We’ve got a couple thousand out there in private collections,” Feeney began, nibbling on a cashew. “Three in the boroughs. Those are the ones that’ve been registered,” he added with a thin smile. “The silencer doesn’t have to be registered, as it doesn’t qualify as deadly on its own. No way of tracing it.”

  He leaned back, tapped the monitor. “As far as the first disc, I’ve been running it. I came up with a couple of shadows. Makes me certain he recorded more than the murder. But I haven’t been able to enhance anything. Whoever edited that disc knew all the tricks or had access to equipment that knew them for him.”

  “What about the sweepers?”

  “Commander ordered them for this morning, per your request.” Feeney glanced at his watch. “Should be there now. I picked up the security discs on my way in, ran them. We’ve got a twenty-minute time lapse starting at three-ten, night before last.”

  “Bastard waltzed right in,” she muttered. “It’s a shitty neighborhood, Feeney, but an upscale building. Nobody noticed him either time, which means he blends.”

  “Or they’re used to seeing him.”

  “Because he was one of Sharon’s regulars. Tell me why a man who was a regular client or an expensive, sophisticated, experienced prostitute, chose a green, low-scale what do you call it, ingenue like Lola Starr for his second hit?”

  Feeney pursed his lips. “He likes variety?”

  Eve shook her head. “Maybe he liked it so much the first time, he’s not going to be choosy now. Four more to go, Feeney. He told us right off the bat we had a serial killer. He announced it, letting us know Sharon wasn’t particularly important. Just one of six.”

  She blew out a breath, unsatisfied. “So why’d he go back?” she said to herself. “What was he looking for?”

  “Maybe the sweepers’ll tell us.”

  “Maybe.” She picked up a list from her desk. “I’m going to check out Sharon’s client list again, then hit Lola’s.”

  Feeney cleared his throat, chose another cashew from his little bag. “I hate to be the one to tell you, Dallas. The senator’s demanding an update.”

  “I have nothing to tell him.”

  “You’re going to have to tell him this afternoon. In East Washington.”

  She stopped a pace in front of the door. “Bullshit.”

  “Commander gave me the news. We’re on the two o’clock shuttle.” Feeney thought resignedly of how his stomach reacted to air travel. “I hate politics.”

  Eve was still gritting her teeth over her briefing with Whitney when she ran headlong into DeBlass’s security outside his office in the New Senate Office Building, East Washington.

  Their identification aside, both she and Feeney were scanned, and according to the revised Federal Property Act of 2022, were obliged to hand over their weapons.

  “Like we’re going to zap the guy while he’s sitting at his desk,” Feeney muttered as they were escorted over red, white, and blue carpet.

  “I wouldn’t mind giving several of these guys a quick buzz.” Flanked by suits and shined shoes, Eve slouched in front of the glossy door of the senator’s office, waiting for the internal camera to clear them.

  “If you ask me, East Washington’s been paranoid since the terrorist hit.” Feeney sneered into the camera. “Couple dozen legislators get whacked, and they never forget it.”

  The door opened, and Rockman, pristine in needle-thin pin stripes, nodded. “Long memories are an advantage in politics, Captain Feeney. Lieutenant Dallas,” he added with another nod. “We appreciate your promptness.”

  “I had no idea the senator and my chief were so close,” Eve said as she stepped inside. “Or that both of them would be so anxious to waste the taxpayers’ money.”

  “Perhaps they both consider justice priceless.” Rockman gestured them toward the gleaming desk of cherrywood—certainly priceless—where DeBlass waited.

  He had, as far as Eve could see, benefited from the change of temperature in the country—too lukewarm in her opinion—and the repeal of the Two Term Bill. Under current law, a politician could now retain his seat for life. All he had to do was buffalo his constituents into electing him.

  DeBlass certainly looked at home. His paneled office was as hushed as a cathedral and every bit as reverent with its altarlike desk, the visitor chairs as subservient as pews.

  “Sit,” DeBlass barked, and folded his large-knuckled hands on the desk. “My latest information is that you are no closer to finding the monster who murdered my granddaughter than you were a week ago.” His dark brows beetled over his eyes. “I find this difficult to understand, considering the resources of the New York Police Department.”

  “Senator.” Eve let Commander Whitney’s terse instructions play in her head: Be tactful, respectful, and tell him nothing he doesn’t already know. “We’re using those resources to investigate and gather evidence. While the department is not now prepared to make an arrest, every possible effort is being made to bring your granddaughter’s murderer to justice. Her case is my first priority, and you have my word it will continue to be until it can be satisfactorily closed.”

  The senator listened to the little speech with all apparent interest. Then he leaned forward. “I’ve been in the business of bullshit for more than twice your life, lieutenant. So don’t pull out your tap dance with me. You have nothing.”

  Fuck tact, Eve decided instantly. “What we have, Senator DeBlass, is a complicated and delicate investigation. Complicated, given the nature of the crime; delicate, due to the victim’s family tree. It’s my commander’s opinion that I’m the best choice to conduct the investigation. It’s your right to disagree. But pulling me off my job to come here to defend my work is a waste of time. My time.” She rose. “I have nothing new to tell you.”

  With the vision of both their butts hanging in a sling, Feeney rose as well, all respect. “I’m sure you understand, senator, that the delicacy of an investigation of this nature often means progress is slow. It’s difficult to ask you to be objective when we’re talking of your granddaughter, but Lieutenant Dallas and I have no choice but to be objective.”

  With an impatient gesture, DeBlass waved them to sit again. “Obviously my emotions are involved. Sharon was an important part of my life. Whatever she became, and however I was disappointed in her choices, she was blood.” He drew a deep breath, let it loose. “I cannot and will not be placated with bits and pieces of information.”

  “There’s nothing else I can tell you,” Eve repeated.

  “You can tell me about the prostitute who was murdered two nights ago.” His eyes flicked up to Rockman.

  “Lola Starr,” he supplied.

  “I imagine your sources of information on Lola Starr are as thorough as ours.” Eve chose to speak directly to Rockman. “Yes, we believe that
there is a connection between the two murders.”

  “My granddaughter might have been misguided,” DeBlass broke in, “but she did not socialize with people like Lola Starr.”

  So, prostitutes had class systems, Eve thought wearily. What else was new? “We haven’t determined whether they knew each other. But there’s little doubt that they both knew the same man. And that man killed them. Each murder followed a specific pattern. We’ll use that pattern to find him. Before, we hope, he kills again.”

  “You believe he will,” Rockman put in.

  “I’m sure he will.”

  “The murder weapon,” DeBlass demanded. “Was it the same type?”

  “It’s part of the pattern,” Eve told him. She’d commit no more than that. “There are basic and undeniable similarities between the two homicides. There’s no doubt the same man is responsible.”

  Calmer now, Eve stood again. “Senator, I never knew your granddaughter and have no personal tie to her, but I’m personally offended by murder. I’m going after him. That’s all I can tell you.”

  He studied her for a moment, saw more than he’d expected to see. “Very well, lieutenant. Thank you for coming.”

  Dismissed, Eve walked with Feeney to the door. In the mirror she saw DeBlass signal to Rockman, Rockman acknowledged. She waited until she was outside before she spoke.

  “The son of a bitch is going to tail us.”

  “Huh?”

  “DeBlass’s guard dog. He’s going to shadow us.”

  “What the hell for?”

  “To see what we do, where we go. Why do you tail anyone? We’re going to lose him at the transport center,” she told Feeney as she flagged down a cab. “Keep your eyes out and see if he follows you to New York.”

  “Follows me? Where are you going?”

  “I’m going to follow my nose.”

  It wasn’t a difficult maneuver. The west wing boarding terminal at National Transport was always bedlam. It was even worse at rush hour when all northbound passengers were jammed into the security line and herded along by computerized voices. Shuttles and runabouts were going to be jammed.

  Eve simply lost herself in the crowd, crammed herself into a cross terminal transport to the south wing, and caught an underground to Virginia.

  After settling in her tube, ignoring the four o’clocks who were heading to the suburban havens, she took out her pocket directory. She requested Elizabeth Barrister’s address, then asked for directions.

  So far her nose was just fine. She was on the right tube and would have to make only one change in Richmond. If her luck held, she could finish the trip and be back in her apartment in time for dinner.

  With her chin on her fist, she toyed with the controls of her video screen. She would have bypassed the news—something she made a habit of doing—but when an all-too-familiar face flashed on-screen, she stopped scanning.

  Roarke, she thought, narrowing her eyes. The guy sure kept popping up. Lips pursed, she tuned in the audio, plugged in her ear receiver.

  “ . . . in this international, multibillion dollar project, Roarke Industries, Tokayamo, and Europa will join hands,” the announcer stated. “It’s taken three years, but it appears that the much debated, much anticipated Olympus Resort will begin construction.”

  Olympus Resort, Eve mused, flipping through her mental files. Some high-class, high-dollar vacation paradise, she recalled. A proposed space station built for pleasure and entertainment.

  She snorted. Wasn’t it just like him to spend his time and money on fripperies?

  If he didn’t lose his tailored silk shirt, she imagined he’d make another fortune.

  “Roarke—one question, sir.”

  She watched Roarke pause on his way down a long flight of marble steps and lift a brow—exactly as she remembered he did—at the reporter’s interruption.

  “Could you tell me why you’ve spent so much time and effort, and a considerable amount of your own capitol, on this project—one detractors say will never fly?”

  “Fly is precisely what it will do,” Roarke replied. “In a manner of speaking. As to why, the Olympus Resort will be a haven for pleasure. I can’t think of anything more worthwhile on which to spend time, effort, and capital.”

  You wouldn’t, Eve decided, and glanced up just in time to realize she was about to miss her stop. She dashed to the doors of the tube, cursed the computer voice for scolding her for running, and made the change to Fort Royal.

  When she came above ground again, it was snowing. Soft, lazy flakes drifted over her hair and shoulders. Pedestrians were stomping it to mush on the sidewalks, but when she found a cab and gave her destination, she found the swirl of white more picturesque.

  There was still countryside to be had, if you possessed the money or the prestige. Elizabeth Barrister and Richard DeBlass possessed both, and their home was a striking two stories of rosy brick set on a sloping hill and flanked by trees.

  Snow was pristine on the expansive lawn, ermine draped on the bare branches of what Eve thought might be cherry trees. The security gate was an artful symphony of curling iron. However decorative it might have been, Eve was certain it was as practical as a vault.

  She leaned out the cab window, flashed her badge at the scanner. “Lieutenant Dallas, NYPSD.”

  “You are not listed in the appointment directory, Lieutenant Dallas.”

  “I’m the officer in charge of the DeBlass case. I have some questions for Ms. Barrister or Richard DeBlass.”

  There was a pause, during which time Eve began to shiver in the cold.

  “Please step out of the cab, Lieutenant Dallas, and up to the scanner for further identification.”

  “Tough joint,” the cabbie muttered, but Eve merely shrugged and complied.

  “Identification verified. Dismiss your transport, Lieutenant Dallas. You will be met at the gate.”

  “Heard the daughter got whacked up in New York,” the cabbie said as Eve paid the fare. “Guess they’re not taking any chances. Want I should pull back a ways and wait for you?”

  “No, thanks. But I’ll ask for your number when I’m ready to go.”

  With a half salute, the cabbie backed up, swung away. Eve’s nose was beginning to numb when she saw the little electric cart slide through the gate. The curved iron opened.

  “Please go inside, step into the cart,” the computer invited. “You will be taken to the house. Ms. Barrister will see you.”

  “Terrific.” Eve climbed into the cart and let it take her noiselessly to the front steps of the brick house. Even as she started up them, the door opened.

  Either the servants were required to wear boring black suits, or the house was still in mourning. Eve was shown politely into a room off the entrance hall.

  Where Roarke’s home had simply whispered money, this one said old money. The carpets were thick, the walls papered in silk. The wide windows offered a stunning view of rolling hills and falling snow. And solitude, Eve thought. The architect must have understood that those who lived here preferred to consider themselves alone.

  “Lieutenant Dallas.” Elizabeth rose. There was nervousness in the deliberate movement, in the rigid stance and, Eve saw, in the shadowed eyes that held grief.

  “Thank you for seeing me, Ms. Barrister.”

  “My husband’s in a meeting. I can interrupt him if necessary.”

  “I don’t think it will be.”

  “You’ve come about Sharon.”

  “Yes.”

  “Please sit down.” Elizabeth gestured toward a chair upholstered in ivory. “Can I offer you anything?”

  “No, thanks. I’ll try not to keep you very long. I don’t know how much of my report you’ve seen—”

  “All of it,” Elizabeth interrupted. “I believe. It seems quite thorough. As an attorney, I have every confidence that when you find the person who killed my daughter, you’ll have built a strong case.”

  “That’s the plan.” Running on nerves, Eve decided,
watching the way Elizabeth’s long, graceful fingers clenched, unclenched. “This is a difficult time for you.”

  “She was my only child,” Elizabeth said simply. “My husband and I were—are—proponents of the population adjustment theory. Two parents,” she said with a thin smile. “One offspring. Do you have any further information to give me?”

  “Not at this time. Your daughter’s profession, Ms. Barrister. Did this cause friction in the family?”

  In another of her slow, deliberate gestures, Elizabeth smoothed down the ankle-skimming skirt of her suit. “It was not a profession I dreamed of my daughter embracing. Naturally, it was her choice.”

  “Your father-in-law would have been opposed. Certainly politically opposed.”

  “The senator’s views on sexual legislation are well known. As a leader of the Conservative Party, he is, of course, working to change many of the current laws regarding what is popularly called the Morality Issue.”

  “Do you share his views?”

  “No, I don’t, though I fail to see how that applies.”

  Eve cocked her head. Oh, there was friction there, all right. Eve wondered if the streamlined attorney agreed with her outspoken father-in-law on anything. “Your daughter was killed—possibly by a client, possibly by a personal friend. If you and your daughter were at odds over her lifestyle, it would be unlikely she would have confided in you about professional or personal acquaintances.”

  “I see.” Elizabeth folded her hands and forced herself to think like a lawyer. “You’re assuming that, as her mother, as a woman who might have shared some of the same viewpoints, Sharon would talk to me, perhaps share with me some of the more intimate details of her life.” Despite her efforts, Elizabeth’s eyes clouded. “I’m sorry, lieutenant, that’s not the case. Sharon rarely shared anything with me. Certainly not about her business. She was . . . aloof, from both her father and me. Really, from her entire family.”

  “You wouldn’t know if she had a particular lover—someone she was more personally involved with? One who might have been jealous?”

  “No. I can tell you I don’t believe she did. Sharon had . . .” Elizabeth took a steadying breath. “A disdain for men. An attraction to them, yes, but an underlying disdain. She knew she could attract them. From a very early age, she knew. And she found them foolish.”

 
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admin 22 September 2018 10:45
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