Naked in death, p.13
Naked in Death,
Part #1 of In Death series by J. D. Robb
There was no desk, no computer in sight. One of the tricks, Eve knew, to make the subjects relax and forget they were under intense observation.
“Doctor.” Eve sat in the chair Mira indicated.
“I was just about to have some tea. You’ll join me?”
Mira moved gracefully to the server, ordered two teas, then brought the cups to the sitting area. “It’s unfortunate that your testing was postponed, lieutenant.” With a smile, she sat, sipped. “The process is more conclusive and certainly more beneficial when run within twenty-four hours of an incident.”
“It couldn’t be helped.”
“So I’m told. Your preliminary results are satisfactory.”
“You still refuse autohypnosis?”
“It’s optional.” Hating the defensive sound of her voice.
“Yes, it is.” Mira crossed her legs. “You’ve been through a difficult experience, lieutenant. There are signs of physical and emotional fatigue.”
“I’m on another case, a demanding one. It’s taking a lot of my time.”
“Yes, I have that information. Are you taking the standard sleep inducers?”
Eve tested the tea. It was, as she’d suspected, floral in scent and flavor. “No. We’ve been through that before. Night pills are optional, and I opt no.”
“Because they limit your control.”
Eve met her eyes. “That’s right. I don’t like being put to sleep, and I don’t like being here. I don’t like brain rape.”
“You consider Testing a kind of rape?”
There wasn’t a cop with a brain who didn’t. “It’s not a choice, is it?”
Mira kept her sigh to herself. “The termination of a subject, no matter the circumstances, is a traumatic experience for a police officer. If the trauma effects the emotions, the reactions, the attitude, the officer’s performance will suffer. If the use of full force was caused by a physical defect, that defect must be located and repaired.”
“I know the company line, doctor. I’m cooperating fully. But I don’t have to like it.”
“No, you don’t.” Mira neatly balanced the cup on her knee. “Lieutenant, this is your second termination. Though that is not an unusual amount for an officer with your length of duty, there are many who never need to make that decision. I’d like to know how you feel about the choice you made, and the results.”
I wish I’d been quicker, Eve thought. I wish that child was playing with her toys right now instead of being cremated.
“As my only choice was to let him carve me into pieces, or stop him, I feel just fine about the decision. My warning was issued and ignored. Stunning was ineffective. The evidence that he would, indeed, kill was lying on the floor between us in a puddle of blood. Therefore, I have no problem with the results.”
“You were disturbed by the death of the child?”
“I believe anyone would be disturbed by the death of a child. Certainly that kind of vicious murder of the defenseless.”
“And do you see the parallel between the child and yourself?” Mira asked quietly. She could see Eve draw in and close off. “Lieutenant, we both know I’m fully aware of your background. You were abused, physically, sexually, and emotionally. You were abandoned when you were eight.”
“That has nothing to do with—”
“I think it may have a great deal to do with your mental and emotional state,” Mira interrupted. “For two years between the ages of eight and ten, you lived in a communal home while your parents were searched for. You have no memory of the first eight years of your life, your name, your circumstances, your birthplace.”
However mild they were, Mira’s eyes were sharp and searching. “You were given the name Eve Dallas and eventually placed in foster care. You had no control over any of this. You were a battered child, dependent on the system, which in many ways failed you.”
It took every ounce of will for Eve to keep her eyes and her voice level. “As I, part of the system, failed to protect the child. You want to know how I feel about that, Dr. Mira?”
Wretched. Sick. Sorry.
“I feel that I did everything I could do. I went through your VR and did it again. Because there was no changing it. If I could have saved the child, I would have saved her. If I could have arrested the subject, I would have.”
“But these matters were not in your control.”
Sneaky bitch, Eve thought. “It was in my control to terminate. After employing all standard options, I exercised my control. You’ve reviewed the report. It was a clean, justifiable termination.”
Mira said nothing for a moment. Her skills, she knew, had never been able to more than scrape at Eve’s outer wall of defense. “Very well, lieutenant. You’re cleared to resume duty without restriction.” Mira held up a hand before Eve could rise. “Off the record.”
Mira only smiled. “It’s true that very often the mind protects itself. Yours refuses to acknowledge the first eight years of your life. But those years are a part of you. I can get them back for you when you’re ready. And Eve,” she added in that quiet voice, “I can help you deal with them.”
“I’ve made myself what I am, and I can live with it. Maybe I don’t want to risk living with the rest.” She got up and walked to the door. When she turned back, Mira was sitting just as she had been, legs crossed, one hand holding the pretty little cup. The scent of brewed flowers lingered in the air.
“A hypothetical case,” Eve began and waited for Mira’s nod.
“A woman, with considerable social and financial advantages, chooses to become a whore.” At Mira’s lifted brow, Eve swore impatiently. “We don’t have to pretty up the terminology here, doctor. She chose to make her living from sex. Flaunted it in front of her well-positioned family, including her arch-conservative grandfather. Why?”
“It’s difficult to come up with one specific motive from such general and sketchy information. The most obvious would be the subject could find her self-worth only in sexual skill. She either enjoyed or detested the act.”
Intrigued, Eve stepped away from the door. “If she detested it, why would she become a pro?”
“Certainly, and those close to her.”
To punish, Eve mused. The diary. Blackmail.
“A man kills,” she continued. “Viciously, brutally. The killing is tied to sex, and is executed in a unique and distinctive fashion. He records it, has bypassed a sophisticated security system. A recording of the murder is delivered to the investigating officer. A message is left at the scene, a boastful message. What is he?”
“You don’t give me much,” Mira complained, but Eve could see her attention was caught. “Inventive,” she began. “A planner, and a voyeur. Confident, perhaps smug. You said distinctive, so he wishes to leave his mark, and he wants to show off his skill, his brain. Using your observation and deductive talents, lieutenant, did he enjoy the act of murder?”
“Yes. I think he reveled in it.”
Mira nodded. “Then he will certainly enjoy it again.”
“He already has. Two murders, barely a week apart. He won’t wait long before the next, will he?”
“It’s doubtful.” Mira sipped her tea as if they were discussing the latest spring fashions. “Are the two murders connected in any way other than the perpetrator and the method?”
“Sex,” Eve said shortly.
“Ah.” Mira tilted her head. “With all our technology, with the amazing advances that have been made in genetics, we are still unable to control human virtues and flaws. Perhaps we are too human to permit the tampering. Passions are necessary to the human spirit. We learned that early this century when genetic engineering nearly slipped out of control. It’s unfortunate that some passions twist. Sex and violence. For some it’s still a natural marriage.”
She stood then to take the cups and place them
“It’s Code Five.”
Mira glanced back. “I see.”
“If we don’t tie this up before he hits again, I may be able to swing it.”
“I’ll make myself available.”
“Eve, even strong, self-made women have weak spots. Don’t be afraid of them.”
Eve held Mira’s gaze for another moment. “I’ve got work to do.”
Testing left her shaky. Eve compensated by being surly and antagonistic with her snitch and nearly losing a lead on a case involving bootlegged chemicals. Her mood was far from cheerful when she checked back in to Cop Central. There was no message from Feeney.
Others in her department knew just where she’d spent the day and did their best to stay out of her way. As a result, she worked in solitude and annoyance for an hour.
Her last effort was to put through a call to Roarke. She was neither surprised nor particularly disappointed when he wasn’t available. She left a message on his E-mail requesting an appointment, then logged out for the day.
She intended to drown her mood in cheap liquor and mediocre music at Mavis’s latest gig at the Blue Squirrel.
It was a joint, which put it one slippery step up from a dive. The light was dim, the clientele edgy, and the service pitiful. It was exactly what Eve was looking for.
The music struck her in one clashing wave when she walked in. Mavis was managing to lift her appealing screech of a voice over the band, which consisted of one multitattooed kid on a melody master.
Eve snarled off the offer from a guy in a hooded jacket to buy her a drink in one of the private smoking booths. She jockeyed her way to a table, pressed in an order for a screamer, and settled back to watch Mavis perform.
She wasn’t half bad, Eve decided. Not half good either, but the customers weren’t choosy. Mavis was wearing paint tonight, her busty little body a canvas for splatters and streaks of orange and violet, with strategically brushed splotches of emerald. Bracelets and chains jangled as she jittered around the small, raised stage. One step below, a mass of humanity gyrated in sympathy.
Eve watched a small, sealed package pass from hand to hand on the edge of the dance floor. Drugs, of course. They’d tried a war on them, legalizing them, ignoring them, and regulating them. Nothing seemed to work.
She couldn’t raise the interest to make a bust and lifted a hand in a wave to Mavis instead.
The vocal part of the song ended—such as it was. Mavis leaped offstage, wiggled through the crowd, and plopped a painted hip on the edge of Eve’s table.
“Looking good, Mavis. Who’s the artist?”
“Oh, this guy I know.” She shifted, tapped an inch-long fingernail on the left cheek of her butt. “Caruso. See, he signed me. Got the job free for passing his name around.” Her eyes rounded when the waitress set the long, slim glass filled with frothy blue liquid in front of Eve. “A screamer? Wouldn’t you rather I find a hammer and just knock you unconscious?”
“It’s been a shitty day,” Eve muttered and took the first shocking sip. “Jesus. These never get any better.”
Worried, Mavis leaned closer. “I can cut out for a little while.”
“No, I’m okay.” Eve risked her life with another sip. “I just wanted to check out your gig, let off some steam. Mavis, you’re not using, are you?”
“Hey, come on.” More concerned than insulted, Mavis shook Eve’s shoulder. “I’m clean, you know that. Some shit gets passed around in here, but it’s all minor league. Some happy pills, some calmers, a few mood patches.” She pokered up. “If you’re looking to make a bust, you could at least do it on my night off.”
“Sorry.” Annoyed with herself, Eve rubbed her hands over her face. “I’m not fit for human consumption at the moment. Go back and sing. I like hearing you.”
“Sure. But if you want company when you split, just give me a sign. I can fix it.”
“Thanks.” Eve sat back, closed her eyes. It was a surprise when the music slowed, even mellowed. If you didn’t look around, it wasn’t so bad.
For twenty credits she could have hooked on mood enhancer goggles, treated herself to lights and shapes that fit the music. At the moment, she preferred the dark behind her eyes.
“This doesn’t seem quite your den of iniquity, lieutenant.”
Eve opened her eyes and stared up at Roarke. “Every time I turn around.”
He sat across from her. The table was small enough that their knees bumped. His way of adjusting was to slide his thighs against hers. “You called me, remember, and you’d left this address when you logged out.”
“I wanted an appointment, not a drinking buddy.”
He glanced at the drink on the table, leaned over to take a sniff. “You’re not going to get one with that poison.”
“This joint doesn’t run to fine wine and aged scotch.”
He laid a hand over hers for the simple purpose of watching her scowl and jerk away. “Why don’t we go somewhere that does?”
“I’m in a pisser of a mood. Roarke. Give me an appointment, at your convenience, then take off.”
“An appointment for what?” The singer caught his attention. He cocked a brow, watching her roll her eyes and gesture. “Unless she’s having some sort of seizure, I believe the vocalist is signaling you.”
Resigned, Eve glanced over, shook her head. “She’s a friend of mine.” She shook her head more emphatically when Mavis grinned and turned both thumbs up. “She thinks I got lucky.”
“You did.” Roarke picked the drink up and set it on an adjoining table where greedy hands fought over it. “I just saved your life.”
“If you want to get drunk, Eve, at least do it with something that will leave you most of your stomach lining.” He scanned the menu, winced. “Which means nothing that can be purchased here.” He took her hand as he rose. “Come on.”
“I’m fine right here.”
All patience, he bent down until his face was close to hers. “What you are is hoping to get drunk enough so that you can take a few punches at someone without worrying about the consequences. With me, you don’t have to get drunk, you don’t have to worry. You can take all the punches you want.”
“Because you have something sad in your eyes. And it gets to me.” While she was dealing with the surprise of that statement, he hauled her to her feet and toward the door.
“I’m going home,” she decided.
“No, you’re not.”
That was as far as she got before her back was shoved against the wall and his mouth crushed hard on hers. She didn’t fight. The wind had been knocked out of her by the suddenness, and the rage under it, and the shock of need that slammed into her like a fist.
It was quick, seconds only, before her mouth was free. “Stop it,” she demanded, and hated that her voice was only a shaky whisper.
“Whatever you think,” he began, struggling for his own composure, “there are times when you need someone. Right now, it’s me.” Impatience shimmering around him, he pulled her outside. “Where’s your car?”
She gestured down the block and let him propel her down the sidewalk. “I don’t know what your problem is.”
“It seems to be you. Do you know how you looked?” he demanded as he yanked open the car door. “Sitting in that place with your eyes closed, shadows under them?” Picturing it again only fired his anger. He shoved her into the passenger seat and rounded the car to take the driver’s position himself. “What’s your fucking code?”
Fascinated with the whiplash temper, she shifted to key it in herself. With the lock released, he pressed the starter and pulled away from the curb.
“I was trying to relax,” Eve said carefully.
“That’s what I’m trained to do.”
“You don’t know what you’re up against this time.”
Her fingers curled into a fist at her side. “And you do.”
He was silent for a moment, banking his own emotions. “We’ll talk about it later.”
“I like now better. I went to see Elizabeth Barrister yesterday.”
“I know.” Calmer, he adjusted to the jerky rhythm of her car. “You’re cold. Turn up the heater.”
“It’s busted. Why didn’t you tell me that she’d asked you to meet Sharon, to talk to her?”
“Because Beth asked me in confidence.”
“What’s your relationship with Elizabeth Barrister?”
“We’re friends.” Roarke slanted her a look. “I have a few. She and Richard are among them.”
“And the senator?”
“I hate his fucking, pompous, hypocritical guts,” Roarke said calmly. “If he gets his party’s nomination for president, I’ll put everything I’ve got into his opponent’s campaign. If it’s the devil himself.”
“You should learn to speak your mind, Roarke,” she said with a ghost of a smile. “Did you know that Sharon kept a diary?”
“It’s a natural assumption. She was a businesswoman.”
“I’m not talking about a log, business records. A diary, a personal diary. Secrets, Roarke. Blackmail.”
He said nothing as he turned the idea over. “Well, well. You found your motive.”
“That remains to be seen. You have a lot of secrets, Roarke.”
He let out a half laugh as he stopped at the gates of his estate. “Do you really think I’d be a victim of blackmail, Eve? That some lost, pitiful woman like Sharon could unearth information you can’t and use it against me?”
“No.” That was simple. She put a hand on his arm. “I’m not going inside with you.” That was not.
“If I were bringing you here for sex, we’d have sex. We both know it. You wanted to see me. You want to shoot the kind of weapon that was used to kill Sharon and the other, don’t you?”
Naked in Death by J. D. Robb / Mystery & Detective / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes