Rapture in death, p.12
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       Rapture in Death, p.12
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         Part #4 of In Death series by J. D. Robb
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  “I’m sure you didn’t.” Mira’s lips curved, and her eyes warmed with understanding. “I often find myself doing the same. And you’re right, Eve is a very fascinating woman. Quite self-made, which, I’m afraid, might unbalance your genetic printing theory.”

  “Really?” Obviously intrigued, Reeanna leaned forward. “You know her well?”

  “As well as possible. Eve is a . . . contained individual.”

  “You’re very fond of her,” Reeanna commented with a nod. “I hope you won’t take it the wrong way if I say she wasn’t at all what I expected when I learned Roarke was to marry. That he was to marry at all was a surprise, but I imagined his spouse as a woman of polish and sophistication. A homicide detective who wears her shoulder harness as another woman might an heirloom necklace wasn’t my conception of Roarke’s choice. Yet they look right together, suited. One might even say,” she added with a smile, “destined.”

  “That I can agree with.”

  “Now, tell me, Dr. Mira, what is your opinion of DNA harvesting?”

  “Oh, well now . . .” Happily, Mira settled down for a lively busman’s holiday.

  At her desk unit, Eve juggled the data she’d compiled on Fitzhugh, Mathias, and Pearly. She could find no link, no common ground. The only real correlation between the three was the fact that none of them had exhibited any suicidal tendencies before the fact.

  “Probability the subject cases are related?” Eve demanded.

  Working. Probability five point two percent.

  “In other words, zip.” Eve blew out a breath, scowling automatically when an airbus rumbled by, rattling her stingy window. “Probability of homicide in the matter of Fitzhugh using currently known data.”

  With currently known data, probability of homicide is eight point three percent.

  “Give it up, Dallas,” she told herself in a mutter. “Let it go.”

  Deliberately, she swiveled in her chair, watching the air traffic clog the sky outside her window. Predestination. Fate. Genetic imprint. If she were to believe in any of that, what was the point of her job—or her life, for that matter? If there was no choice, no changing, why struggle to save lives or stand for the dead when the struggle failed?

  If it was all physiologically coded, had she simply followed the pattern by coming to New York, fighting her way out of the dark to make something decent out of herself? And had it been a smear on that code that had blocked out those early years of her life, that continued to shadow bits and pieces of it even now?

  And could that code kick in, at any given moment, and make her a reflection of the monster who had been her father?

  She knew nothing of her other blood kin. Her mother was a blank. If she had siblings, aunts, uncles, or grandparents, they were all lost in that dark void in her memory. She had no one to base her genetic code on but the man who had beaten and raped her throughout childhood until in terror and pain she had struck back.

  And killed.

  Blood on her hands at eight years of age. Is that why she’d become a cop? Was she constantly trying to wash away that blood with rules and law and what some still called justice?

  “Sir? Dallas?” Peabody laid a hand on Eve’s shoulder and jumped when Eve jolted. “Sorry. Are you all right?”

  “No.” Eve pressed her fingers to her eyes. The discussion over dessert had troubled her more than she’d realized. “Just a headache.”

  “I’ve got some departmental-issue painkillers.”

  “No.” Eve was afraid of drugs, even officially sanctioned doses. “It’ll back off. I’m running out of ideas on the Fitzhugh case. Feeney fed me all known data on the kid on Olympus. I can’t find any correlation between him and Fitzhugh or the senator. I’ve got nothing but piddly shit to hang on Leanore and Arthur. I can request truth detection, but I won’t get it. I’m not going to be able to keep it open more than another twenty-four hours.”

  “You still think they’re connected?”

  “I want them to be connected, and that’s a different thing. I haven’t exactly given you an impressive lift on with your first assignment as my permanent aide.”

  “Being your permanent aide is the best thing that ever happened to me.” Peabody flushed a little. “I’d be grateful if we got stuck shoveling through inactives for the next six months. You’d still be training me.”

  Eve leaned back in her chair. “You’re easily satisfied, Peabody.”

  Peabody shifted her gaze until her eyes met Eve’s. “No, sir, I’m not. When I don’t get the best, I get real cranky.”

  Eve laughed, dragged a hand through her hair. “You sucking up, Officer?”

  “No, sir. If I was sucking up, I’d make some personal observation, such as marriage obviously agrees with you, Lieutenant. You’ve never looked lovelier.” Peabody smiled a little when Eve snorted. “That’s how you’d know I was sucking up.”

  “So noted.” Eve considered a moment, then cocked her head. “Didn’t you tell me your family are Free-Agers?”

  Peabody didn’t roll her eyes, but she wanted to. “Yes, sir.”

  “Cops don’t usually spring from Free-Agers. Artists, farmers, the occasional scientist, lots of craft workers.”

  “I didn’t like weaving mats.”

  “Can you?”

  “If held at laser point.”

  “So, what? Your family pissed you off and you decided to break the mold, go into a field dramatically removed from pacifism?”

  “No, sir.” Puzzled at the line of questioning, Peabody shrugged. “My family’s great. We’re still pretty tight. They’re not going to understand what I do or want to do, but they never tried to block me. I just wanted to be a cop, the same way my brother wanted to be a carpenter and my sister a farmer. One of the strongest tenets of Free-Ageism is self-expression.”

  “But you don’t fit the genetic code,” Eve muttered and drummed her fingers on her desk. “You don’t fit. Heredity and environment, gene patterns—they all should have influenced you differently.”

  “The bad guys wished I had been,” Peabody said soberly. “But I’m here, keeping our city safe.”

  “If you get an urge to weave a mat—”

  “You’ll be the first to know.”

  Eve’s unit beeped twice, signaling incoming data. “Additional autopsy report on the kid.” Eve gestured for Peabody to come closer. “List any abnormal brain pattern,” she ordered.

  Microscopic abnormality, right cerebral hemisphere, frontal lobe, left quadrant. Unexplained. Further research and testing under way.

  “Well, well, I think we just caught a break. Display visual of frontal lobe and abnormality.” The cross section of the brain popped on screen. “There.” A quick surge of excitement churned in her belly as Eve tapped the screen. “That shadow—pinprick. See it?”

  “Barely.” Peabody leaned closer until she was all but cheek to cheek with Eve. “Looks like a flaw on the display.”

  “No, a flaw in the brain. Increase quadrant six, twenty percent.”

  The picture shifted, and the section with the shadow filled the screen. “More of a burn than a hole, isn’t it?” Eve said half to herself. “Hardly there, but what kind of damage, what kind of influence would it have on behavior, personality, decision making?”

  “I pretty well dumped my required Abnormal Physiology at the Academy.” Peabody moved her sturdy shoulders. “I did better in Psych, better yet in Tactics. This is over my head.”

  “Mine, too,” Eve admitted. “But it’s a link, our first one. Computer, cross section of brain abnormality, Fitzhugh, file one two eight seven one. Split screen with current display.”

  The screen jittered, went to fuzzy gray. Eve swore, smacked it with the heel of her hand, and bumped out a shaky image blurred across the center.

  “Son of a bitch. Son of a bitch. This cheap shit we have to use around here. It’s a wonder we can close a case on jaywalking. Download all data, you bastard, on disc.”

  “Maybe if you sent this
unit into Maintenance,” Peabody suggested and received a snarl.

  “It was supposed to be overhauled while I was away. The fuckers in Maintenance have their fingers up their butts. I’m going to run this through one of Roarke’s units.” She caught Peabody’s lifted brow and tapped her foot as she waited for the wheezy machine to download. “You got a problem with that, Officer?”

  “No, sir.” Peabody tucked her tongue in her cheek and decided against mentioning the series of codes Eve was about to break. “No problem here.”

  “Fine. Get to work on the red tape and get me the brain scan of the senator for comparison.”

  Peabody’s smug little smile fell away. “You want me to bump heads with East Washington?”

  “Your head’s hard enough to handle it.” Eve ejected the disc and pocketed it. “Call me when you get it. The minute you get it.”

  “Yes, sir. If we get a link there, we’re going to need an expert analyst.”

  “Yeah.” Eve thought of Reeanna. “I might just have one. Get moving, Peabody.”

  “Moving, Lieutenant.”

  chapter nine

  Eve wasn’t one for breaking rules, yet she found herself standing outside the locked door of Roarke’s private room. It was disconcerting to realize that after a decade of going by the book, she could find it so easy to circumvent procedure.

  Do the ends justify the means? she wondered. And are the means really so out of line? Maybe the equipment in the room beyond was unregistered and undetectable to Compuguard and therefore illegal, but it was also top of the line. The pathetic electronics budgeted to the Police and Security Department had been antiquated nearly before it was installed, and Homicide’s slice of the budget pie was stingy and stale.

  She tapped her fingers on her pocket where the disc rested and shifted her feet. The hell with it, she decided. She could be a law-abiding cop and walk away or she could be a smart one.

  She placed her hand on the security screen. “Dallas, Lieutenant Eve.”

  The locks disengaged with a quiet snick and opened into Roarke’s huge data center. The long curve of windows, which were shielded against sun and flybys, kept the room in shadows. She ordered lights, secured the door, and walked over to face the wide, U-shaped console.

  Roarke had programmed her palm and voice print into the system months before, but she’d never used the equipment alone. Even now that they were married, she felt like an intruder.

  She made herself sit, snugged the chair into the console. “Unit one, engage.” She heard the silky hum of high-level equipment responding and nearly sighed. Her disc slid in smoothly, and within seconds had been decoded and read by the civilian unit. “And so much for our elaborate security at NYPSD,” she muttered. “Wall screen on full. Display data, Fitzhugh File H-one two eight seven one. Split screen with Mathias File S-three oh nine one two.”

  Data flowed like water onto the huge wall screen facing the console. In her admiration, Eve forgot to feel guilty. She leaned forward, scanning birth dates, credit ratings, purchasing habits, political affiliations.

  “Strangers,” she said to herself. “You couldn’t have had less in common.” Then her lips pursed as she noted correlations on a section of purchasing habits. “Well, you both liked games. Lots of on-line time, lots of entertainment and interactive programs.” Then she sighed. “Along with about seventy percent of the population. Computer, split screen display, brain scan both loaded files.”

  With an almost seamless segue, Eve was studying the images. “Increase and highlight unexplained abnormalities.”

  The same, she mused, eyes narrowed. Here the two men were the same, like brothers, twins in the womb. The burn shadow was precisely the same size and shape, in precisely the same location.

  “Computer, analyze abnormality and identify.”

  Working . . . Incomplete data . . . Searching medical files. Please wait for analysis.

  “That’s what they all say.” She pushed away from the console to pace while the computer juggled its brain. When the door opened, she spun around on her heel and very nearly flushed when Roarke walked in.

  “Hello, Lieutenant.”

  “Hi.” She dipped her hands in her pockets. “I—ah—had some trouble with my unit at Cop Central. I needed this analysis, so I . . . I can put a hold on it if you need the room.”

  “No need for that.” Her obvious discomfort amused him. He strolled to her, leaned down, and kissed her lightly. “And no need for you to fumble through an explanation as to why you’re using the equipment. Digging for secrets?”

  “No. Not the way you mean.” The fact that he was grinning at her increased the embarrassment level. “I needed something a little more competent than the tin cans we have at Cop Central, and I figured you’d be gone for a couple more hours.”

  “I got an early transport back. Need some help with this?”

  “No. I don’t know. Maybe. Stop grinning at me.”

  “Was I?” His grin only widened as he slid his arms around her and tucked his hands in the back pockets of her jeans. “How was your lunch with Dr. Mira?”

  She scowled. “Do you know everything?”

  “I try. Actually, I had a quick meeting with William, and he mentioned that Reeanna had run into you and the doctor. Business or pleasure?”

  “Both, I guess.” Her brows lifted as his hands got busy on her butt. “I’m on duty, Roarke. Your hands are currently rubbing the ass of a working cop.”

  “That only makes it more exciting.” He shifted to nibble her neck. “Want to break a few laws?”

  “I already am.” But she turned her head instinctively to give him better access.

  “Then what are a few more?” he murmured and slid his hand out of her pocket and around her body to cup her breast. “I love the feel of you.” His mouth was trailing along her jawline toward her mouth when the computer beeped.

  Analysis complete. Display or audio?

  “Display,” Eve ordered and wiggled free.

  “Damn,” Roarke sighed. “I was so close.”

  “What the hell is this?” Hands fisted on her hips, Eve scanned the display on the view screen. “It’s gibberish. Fucking gibberish.”

  Resigned, Roarke sat on the edge of the console and studied the display himself. “It’s technical; medical terms, primarily. A bit out of my realm. A burn, electronic in origin. Does that make sense?”

  “I don’t know.” Thoughtfully, she tugged on her ear. “Does it make sense for a couple of dead guys to have an electric burn hole in the frontal lobe of their brains?”

  “Some fumbling with the equipment during autopsy?” Roarke suggested.

  “No.” Slowly, she shook her head. “Not on two of them, examined by different MEs in different morgues. And they’re not surface flaws. They’re inside the brain. Microscopic pinpricks.”

  “What’s the relationship between the two men?”

  “None. Absolutely none.” She hesitated, then shrugged. He was already involved in a peripheral manner; why not drag him into the center? “One of the men is yours,” she told him. “The autotronics engineer from the Olympus Resort.”

  “Mathias?” Roarke pushed off the console, his half-amused, half-intrigued expression going dark. “Why are you investigating a suicide on Olympus?”

  “I’m not, officially. It’s a hunch, that’s all. The other brain your fancy equipment’s analyzing is Fitzhugh’s. And if Peabody can untangle the red tape, I’ll plug in Senator Pearly’s.”

  “And you expect to find this microscopic burn in the senator’s brain?”

  “You’re a quick study, Roarke. I’ve always admired that about you.”


  “Because it’s annoying to have to explain everything step by step.”

  His eyes narrowed. “Eve.”

  “All right.” She held up her hands, let them fall. “Fitzhugh just didn’t strike me as the type to do himself. I couldn’t close the case until I’d explored all the options. I’ve
been running out of options. I might have put it to bed anyway, but I kept thinking about that kid hanging himself.”

  She began to pace restlessly. “No predisposition there, either. No obvious motive, no known enemies. He just has himself a snack and makes a noose. Then I heard about the senator. That makes three suicides without logical explanations. Now, for people like Fitzhugh and the senator, with their kind of financial base, there’s counseling at the snap of a finger. Or in cases of terminal illness—physical or emotional—voluntary self-termination facilities. But they took themselves out in bloody and painful ways. Doesn’t fit.”

  Roarke nodded. “Go on.”

  “And the ME on Fitzhugh came up with this unexplained abnormality. I wanted to see if, on the off chance, the kid had anything like it.” She gestured to the screen. “He does. Now I need to know what put it there.”

  Roarke shifted his eyes back to the screen. “Genetic flaw?”

  “Possibly, but the computer says unlikely. At least it’s never come across anything like it before—through heredity, mutation, or outside causes.” She moved behind the console, scrolled the screen. “See there, in the projection of possible mental affects? Behavioral alterations. Pattern unknown. A lot of help that is.”

  She rubbed her eyes, thought it through. “But that says to me that the subject could, and likely would, behave out of pattern. Suicide would be out of pattern for these two men.”

  “True enough,” Roarke agreed. Leaning back against the console, he crossed his legs at the ankles. “But so would dancing naked in church or kicking elderly matrons off a skywalk. Why did they both choose self-termination?”

  “That’s the question, isn’t it? But this gives me enough, once I figure out how to spin it to Whitney, to keep both cases open. Download data to disc, print hard copy,” she ordered, then turned to Roarke. “I’ve got a few minutes now.”

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