Conspiracy in death, p.12
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.12
 

         Part #8 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  Until Roarke, he mused.

  "Hard to picture you as a married woman. It was always business for you. It was always the job."

  "My personal life doesn't change that. It's still the job."

  "Yeah, I figured." He shifted, straightening. "I didn't take this complaint just for old times' sake, Dallas."

  "We didn't have enough old times to generate a sake."

  He smiled again. "Maybe you didn't." He sipped more coffee. His eyes stayed on hers and sobered. "You're a good cop, Dallas."

  He said it so simply it dulled the leading edge of her temper. She turned, stared out the window. "She smudged my record."

  "Only on paper. I like you, Dallas, always did, so I'm stepping out of procedure here to tell you—to warn you—she wants your blood."

  "What the hell for? Because I slapped her down over sloppy work?"

  "It goes deeper. You don't even remember her, do you? From the academy."

  "No."

  "You can bet your excellent ass she remembers you. She graduated with me, we were on our way out when you were coming in. And you shone, Dallas, right from the start. Classes, simulations, endurance tests, combat training. Instructors were saying you were the best to ever come through the doors. People talked about you."

  He smiled again when she glanced over her shoulder, her brows knit. "No, you wouldn't have heard," he said. "Because you wouldn't have been listening. You concentrated on one thing: getting your badge."

  He leaned a hip on her desk, savoring the coffee as he spoke. "Bowers used to bitch about you to the couple of friends she'd managed to make. Muttered that you were probably sleeping with half the instructors to get preferential treatment. I had my ear to the ground even then," he added.

  "I don't remember her." Eve shrugged, but the idea of being gossiped about burned a hole in her gut.

  "You wouldn't, but I can guarantee she remembered you. I'm going to stay outside of procedure and tell you that Bowers is a problem. She files complaints faster than a traffic droid writes citations. Most are dismissed, but every now and again, she finds a thread to tug and a cop's career unravels. Don't give her a thread, Dallas."

  "What the hell am I supposed to do?" Eve demanded. "She fucked up, I pinned her for it. That's the whole deal here. I can't sit around worrying she's going to make life tough for me. I'm after somebody who's cutting people open and helping himself to their parts. He's going to keep doing it unless I find him, and I can't find him unless I can do my goddamn job."

  "Then let's get this over with." He took a microrecorder out of his pocket, set it on her desk. "We do the interview—keep it clean and formal—it gets filed, and we forget this ever happened. Believe me, nobody in IAB wants to see you take heat for this. We all know Bowers."

  "Then why the hell aren't you investigating her?" Eve muttered, then pursed her lips when Webster smiled, thin and sharp. "Well, maybe the rat squad has some uses, after all."

  • • • •

  The experience left her feeling raw and irritated, but she told herself the matter was now closed. She put a call in to Paris first, and wound her way through red tape until she reached Detective Marie DuBois, primary on the like-crime case.

  Since her French counterpart had little English and Eve had no French, they worked through the translation program on their computers. Frustration began to build as twice her computer sent her questions to DuBois in Dutch.

  "Hold on a minute, let me send for my aide," Eve requested.

  DuBois blinked, frowned, shook her head. "Why," the computer animated voice demanded, "do you say I eat dirt for breakfast?"

  Eve threw up her hands in disgust. Despite the barrier, her frustration and apology must have shown clearly enough. Marie laughed. "It is your equipment, yes?"

  "Yes. Yes. Please, wait." Eve contacted Peabody, then cautiously tried again. "My equipment is a problem. Sorry."

  "No need. Such problems are, for cops, universal. You are interested in the Leclerk case?"

  "Very. I have two like crimes. Your data and your input on Leclerk would be very helpful."

  Marie pursed her lips and humor danced in her eyes. "It says you would like to have sex with me. I don't think that is correct."

  "Oh, for Christ's sake." Eve slammed a fist against the machine just as Peabody walked in.

  "I take it that wasn't a love tap."

  "This piece of shit just propositioned the French detective. What's wrong with my translation program?"

  "Let me have a shot." Peabody came around the desk, began to fiddle as she studied the monitor. "She's very attractive. Let's not blame the computer for trying."

  "Ha ha, Peabody. Fix the fucker."

  "Sir. Run systems check, update and clean translation program. Reload."

  Working…

  "It should only take a minute. I've got a little French; I think I can explain what's going on."

  With some fumbling, Peabody called out her schoolgirl French and made Marie smile.

  "Oui, pas de quoi."

  "She says, cool."

  System fault repaired. Current program cleaned and reloaded.

  "Give it another shot," Peabody suggested. "No telling how long the repair will hold."

  "Okay. I have two like crimes," Eve began again, and as quickly as possible outlined her situation and requests.

  "I'll send you copies of my files, once I have clearance," Marie agreed. "I believe you'll see that, given the condition of the body at the time of discovery, the missing organ was not considered unusual. The cats," she added with a curl of her lip, "had dined well on him."

  Eve thought of Galahad and his ravenous appetite, then quickly decided not to go there. "I think we'll find your victim fits into the profile. Have his medical records been checked?"

  "There was no call. The Leclerk case is not a priority, I'm afraid. The evidence was compromised. But now I would like to see also your data on the like crimes."

  "I can do that. Can you give me a list of the top medical care and research centers in Paris, particularly any center that has an extensive organ replacement facility?"

  Marie's brow winged up. "Yes. This is where your investigation is leading?"

  "It's an avenue. And you'll want to find out where Leclerk got his health checks. I'd like to know the condition of his liver before he lost it."

  "I'll start on the paperwork, Lieutenant Dallas, and try to push it through so we both have what we need as soon as possible. It was determined that Leclerk was an isolated incident. If this is incorrect, the priority on the case will be changed."

  "Compare the stills of the bodies. I think you'll want to bump up the priority. Thanks. I'll be in touch."

  "You think this guy's cruising the world for samples?" Peabody asked when Eve disengaged.

  "Specific parts of the world, specific victims, specific samples. I think he's very organized. Chicago's next."

  Despite the fact that she could dispense with the translator, she had a great deal more trouble with Chicago than she'd had with Paris.

  The investigating officer had retired less than a month after the onset of the case. When she asked to speak with the detective who'd taken over, she was put on hold and treated to a moronic advertisement for a CPDS fundraiser.

  Just about the time she decided her brain would explode from the tedium, a Detective Kimiki came on. "Yeah, what can I do for you. New York."

  She explained the situation and her requests while Kimiki looked faintly bored. "Yeah, yeah, I know that case. Dead end. McRae got nowhere. Nowhere to go. We got it open and it's on his percentage record but it's been shifted down to unsolved."

  "I've just told you I've got like crimes here, Kimiki, and a link. Your data is important to my case."

  "Data's pretty thin, and I can tell you I'm not bouncing this to the top of my list. But you want it, I'll ask the boss if it can be transferred."

  "Hate to see you work up such a sweat, Kimiki."

  He merely smiled at the sarcasm. "Lo
ok, when McRae took early retirement, most of his opens got dumped on me. I pick and choose where I sweat. I'll get you the data when I can. Chicago out."

  "Putz," Eve muttered, then rubbed at the tension building at the base of her neck. "Early retirement?" She glanced at Peabody. "Find out how early."

  • • • •

  An hour later, Eve was pacing the corridors of the morgue, waiting to be cleared in to Morris. The minute the locks snicked open, she was through the doors and into the autopsy room.

  The smell hit her first, hard, making her suck air between her teeth. The sweet, ripe stink of decomposing flesh blurred the air. She glanced briefly at the swollen mass on the table and grabbed an air mask.

  "Jesus, Morris, how do you stand it?"

  He continued to make his standard Y cut, his breath coming slow and even through his own mask. "Just another day in paradise, Dallas." The air filter gave his voice a mechanical edge, and behind the goggles, his eyes were big as a frog's. "This little lady was discovered last night after her neighbors finally decided to follow their noses. Been dead nearly a week. Looks like manual strangulation."

  "Did she have a lover?"

  "I believe the primary is currently trying to locate him. I can say, with relative certainty, she'll never have another."

  "A laugh riot as always, Morris. Did you compare the Spindler data to Snooks?"

  "I did. My report's not quite finished, but since you're here, I assume you want answers now. My opinion is the same hands were used on both."

  "I've got that. Tell me why the Spindler case was closed."

  "Sloppy work," he muttered, slipping his clear-sealed hands into the bloated body. "I didn't do the PM on her, or I'd have clicked to it right away when I saw your body. Of course, if I'd done the PM, I would have had different findings. The examiner who did the work has been reprimanded." He looked up from his own work and met Eve's eyes. "I don't believe she'll make a similar mistake again. Not to excuse her, but she claims the primary pushed her through, insisted he knew how it went down."

  "However it happened, I need the full records."

  Now Morris stopped and looked up. "Problem there. We can't seem to locate them."

  "What do you mean?"

  "I mean they're gone. All her records are gone. I wouldn't have known she came through here if you hadn't been able to access the primary's files. We've got nothing."

  "What does your examiner have to say about that?"

  "She swears everything was filed properly."

  "Then she's either lying or stupid or they were wiped."

  "I don't see her as a liar. And she's a bit green at the edges, but not stupid. The records could have been inadvertently wiped, but the search and retrieve found nothing. Zip. We don't even have Spindler on the initial sign in."

  "Purposely wiped then? Why?" She hissed through her breathing tube, jammed her hands in her pockets. "Who has access to the records?"

  "All the first-level staff." For the first time, his concern began to show. "I've scheduled a meeting, and I'll have to implement an internal investigation. I trust my people, Dallas. I know who works for me."

  "How tight's the security on your equipment?"

  "Obviously, not tight enough."

  "Somebody didn't want the connection made. Well, it's been made," she said half to herself as she paced. "That idiot from the one sixty-second is going to have a lot to answer for. I've got like cases, Morris, so far in Chicago and Paris. I'm afraid I'm going to find more."

  She paused, turned. "I've got a possibility, a strong one, of a connection with a couple of high-class health centers. I'm trying to slog through a bunch of medical articles and jargon. I need a consultant who knows that stuff."

  "If you're looking at me, I'd be happy to help you. But my field is a different channel. You want a straight—and smart—medical doctor."

  "Mira?"

  "She's a medical doctor," Morris agreed, "but her field's also in a different channel. Still, between the two of us—"

  "Wait. I think I might have someone." She turned back to him. "I'll try her first. Somebody's screwing with us, Morris. I want you to make disc copies for me of all the data you have on Snooks. Make one for yourself and put it someplace you consider safe."

  A smile ghosted around his mouth. "I already have. Yours is on its way to your home via private courier. Call me paranoid."

  "No, I don't think so." She pulled off the mask and headed for the door. But some instinct had her looking back one more time. "Morris, watch your ass."

  Peabody got up from her seat in the corridor. "I finally accessed some data on McRae from Chicago. It's easier to get the scoop on a psycho than a cop."

  "Protect your own," Eve mumbled as she strode to the exit door. That was worrying her.

  "Yeah, well, our colleague's barely thirty—only had eight years in. He retires on less than ten percent of his full pension. Another two years, he could've doubled that."

  "No disability, no mental fatigue, no admin request to resign?"

  "None on record. What I can get." The wind slapped Peabody in the face with glee as she stepped outside. "What I can get," she said again once she had her breath back, "is he was a pretty solid cop, worked his way up the ranks, was in line for a standard promotion in less than a year. He had a good percentage rate on closing cases, no shadows on his record, and worked Homicide the last three years."

  "Got any personal data—spousal pressure might've pushed him out of the job, money problems, threat of divorce. Maybe he boozed or drugged or gambled."

  "It's tougher to get personal data. I have to do the standard request and have cause."

  "I'll get it," Eve said, slipping behind the wheel. She thought of Roarke and his skills. And his private office with the unregistered and illegal equipment. "When I have it, you'd be better off not asking how I came by it."

  "Came by what?" Peabody asked with an easy smile.

  "Exactly. We're taking a little personal time now, Peabody. Call it in. I don't want our next stop on the log."

  "Great. Does that mean we're going to hunt up some men and have disgusting, impersonal sex?"

  "Aren't you getting enough with Charles?"

  Peabody hummed in her throat. "Well, I can say I'm feeling a little looser in certain areas these days. Dispatch," she said into her communicator. "Peabody, Officer Delia, requesting personal time on behalf of Dallas, Lieutenant Eve."

  "Received and acknowledged. You are off log."

  "Now, about those men," Peabody said comfortably. "Let's make them buy us lunch first."

  "I'll buy you lunch, Peabody, but I'm not having sex with you. Now, get your mind off your stomach and your glands, and I'll update you."

  By the time Eve pulled up in front of the Canal Street Clinic, Peabody's eyes were sober. "You think this goes deep, a lot deeper than a handful of dead street sleepers and LCs."

  "I think we start making a safe copy of all reports and data, and we keep certain areas of investigation quiet."

  She caught sight of a sleepy-eyed brewhead loitering in the doorway and jabbed a finger at him. "You have enough brain cells left to earn a twenty?"

  "Yeah." His bloodshot eyes brightened. "For what?"

  "My car's in the same shape it is now when I come out, you get twenty."

  "Good deal." He hunkered down with his bottle and stared at her car like a cat at a mousehole.

  "You could've just threatened to kick his balls into his throat like you did with the guy the other day," Peabody pointed out.

  "No point in threatening the harmless." She breezed through the doors of the clinic, noted that the waiting area looked very much as it had on her previous visit, and walked straight to the check-in window.

  "I need to speak with Dr. Dimatto."

  Jan the nurse gave Eve a sulky look. "She's with a patient."

  "I'll wait, same place as before. Tell her I won't take much of her time."

  "Dr. Dimatto is very busy today."

&n
bsp; "That's funny. So am I." Leaving it at that, Eve stood at the security door, lifted a brow and stared down the nurse.

  She let loose the same gusty sigh as she had on Eve's first visit, shoved out of her chair with the same irritable shrug of motion. What, Eve wondered, made so many people resent doing their jobs?

  When the locks opened, she stepped in, met Jan's eyes on level. "Gee, thanks. I can see by your cheerful attitude how much you love working with people." She could see by Jan's confused expression it would take a while for the sarcasm to sink in.

  Eve went through and settled into the cramped little office to wait for Louise.

  It took twenty minutes, and the doctor didn't look particularly pleased to see Eve again. "Let's make this fast. I've got a broken arm waiting to be set."

  "Fine, I need you as an expert consultant on my case for the medical end of things. The hours suck, the pay's lousy. There may be some possibility of risk, and I'm very demanding of the people who work with me."

  "When do I start?"

  Eve smiled with such unexpected warmth and humor, Louise nearly goggled. "When's your next day off?"

  "I don't get whole days, but I don't start my rotation tomorrow until two."

  "That'll work. Be at my home office tomorrow, eight sharp. Peabody, give her the address."

  "Oh, I know where you live, Lieutenant." It was Louise's turn to smile. "Everyone knows where Roarke lives."

  "Then I'll see you at eight."

  Satisfied, Eve headed back out. "I'm going to like working with her."

  "Do you want me to put in the request and papers to add her as consult?"

  "Not yet." Thinking of wiped records, of cops that didn't seem particularly interested in closing cases, she shook her head as she climbed back into her vehicle. "Let's keep this unofficial for awhile yet. Put us back on log."

  Using her best pitiful look, Peabody said only, "Lunch?"

  "Hell. All right, but I'm not buying anything in this neighborhood for internal consumption." A woman of her word, she headed uptown and stopped when she saw a fairly clean glide-cart.

  She made do with a scoop of oil fries while Peabody feasted on a soy pocket and vegetable kabob.

 
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