Conspiracy in death, p.15
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.15

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

  "It's both. Colin is an old friend." Her gaze lifted, met Eve's. "We were once more than friends."

  "Oh." Ridiculously embarrassed, Eve opened her bag, then realized she hadn't put anything in it but her badge and gun. She closed it again and picked up the complimentary brush.

  "It was a very long time ago, before I met my husband. We remained friends, not particularly close, as years passed. People do tend to drift," Mira said wistfully. "But we have a history, Eve. I didn't believe it was relevant to bring it up when you asked me to consult on the case. I still don't, professionally. But this is difficult for me on a personal level."

  "Look, if you want to back out—"

  "No, I don't. And that's what I told Colin earlier. He's understandably upset by your investigation, at knowing that he and many of the surgeons he knows will be suspects until you close the case. He hoped that I would keep him informed of my findings and yours, or failing that, resign from this case."

  "He asked you to pass him confidential data?"

  "Not in so many words," Mira said hastily and shifted to face Eve directly. "You have to understand, he feels responsible for the people who work for him, with him. He's in a position of authority, and that carries a weight."

  "A friend wouldn't have asked you to compromise your ethics."

  "Perhaps not, but he's under a great deal of stress. This matter will put a strain on our friendship, if not a hole through it. I'm sorry for that, I'll grieve for that. But I carry a weight as well." Then she drew a deep breath. "As primary, you have—with the information I've just given you—the right to ask me to assign another profiler on this case. I'll understand if that's what you want to do."

  Eve set the brush down, met Mira's troubled eyes levelly. "I'm going to have more data for you tomorrow. I'm hoping you can give me a profile by early next week."

  "Thank you."

  "You don't have to thank me. I want the best, and that's you." She rose quickly, unnerved when she saw tears swim into Mira's quiet eyes. "Ah, what do you know about the niece? Louise Dimatto?"

  "Not a great deal." Struggling for composure, Mira recapped her lip tube. "She's always gone her own way. She's very bright, very dedicated, and very independent."

  "Can I trust her?"

  Mira nearly said yes out of pure reflex, then pushed her personal feelings aside. "I would believe so, but as I said, I don't know her very well."

  "Okay. Ah, do you want me to…do anything here?"

  The sound Mira made was between a chuckle and a sigh. Eve sounded nearly terrified the answer would be yes. "No. I think I'll just sit here for a little while, in the quiet."

  "Then I better get back." Eve started out, then turned. "Mira, if it starts to turn toward him, will you be able to handle it?"

  "If it turns toward him, he wouldn't be the man I thought I knew. The man I once loved. Yes, I will handle it, Eve."

  But when Eve nodded and left her alone, Mira closed her eyes and let herself weep a little.

  *** CHAPTER TEN ***

  Instincts, Eve decided the next morning, were one thing. Facts another. A family connection between Colin Cagney and her upcoming consultant was just a little too close for comfort. So, with her hands in her pockets and her back to the window where the thick fall of snow obscured the view, she ordered her computer to run data on Louise Dimatto.

  Dimatto, Louise Anne, ID# 3452-100-34FW. Born March 1, 2030, Westchester, New York, Marital status, single. No children. Parents Alicia Cagney Dimatto and Mark Robert Dimatto. No siblings. Current residence, 28 Houston, unit C, New York City. Current position, general practitioner of medicine, Canal Street Clinic. Held position for two years.

  Graduate of Harvard Medical School, all honors. Residency completed at Roosevelt Hospital…

  "Financial data," Eve ordered, and glanced over absently as Roarke walked in.

  Working…Salary from Canal Street Clinic, thirty thousand annual…

  Eve snorted. "She didn't buy those rocks she was wearing on her ears with a pitiful thirty thousand a year. That's less than I make, for Christ's sake."

  Income from trust fund, stock dividends, and interest, approximately $268,000 annual…

  "That's more like it. So, with that kind of income, why isn't she living in some fancy digs uptown?"

  "A quarter million doesn't buy what it used to," Roarke said easily and moved over to glance at her monitor. "Who are you running, the young doctor?"

  "Yeah. She'll be here in a few minutes. I have to decide whether to kick her or bring her in." Eve frowned. "A trust fund baby with high connections at Drake, but she puts in miserable time at a free clinic where she treats street people for peanuts. Why?"

  Cocking his head, Roarke sat on the edge of her desk. "I know a certain cop who now has what some would call a substantial personal income and high connections at nearly every level of business in any area on or off planet, yet she continues to work the streets, often putting herself at personal risk. For peanuts." He paused a moment. "Why?"

  "The money stuff, that's your deal," Eve muttered.

  "No, darling, it's yours. And maybe this is hers. Maybe, like you, this is who she is."

  She considered a moment, shuffling his money and her part of it aside—where she preferred it. "You liked her."

  "On brief first impression, yes. More to the point, you do."

  "Maybe I do." She paused a moment. "Yeah, I do, but I don't know what she'll do if the arrow points at her uncle." She rolled her shoulders once. "I guess we'll just have to find out. Computer, file and save all data and disengage."

  "I have the information you asked me for yesterday." Roarke slipped a disc out of his pocket, slid it into hers. "I don't know how helpful it's going to be. I didn't see any connection between your case and NewLife. And as for Westley Friend, he didn't appear to have much of an underbelly. He comes off as a man dedicated to his family and his work."

  "The more you know, the more you can cross off. I appreciate it."

  "Any time. Lieutenant." Roarke took her hands, slid his up to her wrists, and tugged her closer. It gratified him to feel her pulse trip just a little faster at the contact. "Do I assume you'll be at this most of the day?"

  "That's the plan. Aren't you going in to your office?"

  "No, I'll be working here today. It's Saturday."

  "Oh, right." The little trickle of guilt had her struggling not to squirm. "We didn't have, like plans for the weekend, did we?"

  "No." His lips curved, and taking advantage of her momentary distraction, he shifted his hands to her hips. "But I could make some, for after hours."

  "Yeah?" Her body bumped his, and her muscles loosened and throbbed. "What kind of plans?"

  "Intimate plans." He lowered his head to catch and tease her lower lip with his teeth. "Darling Eve, where would you like to go? Or should I surprise you?"

  "Your surprises are usually pretty good." Her eyes wanted to close, her bones wanted to melt. "Roarke, you're clouding my mind here."

  "Why, thank you." With a low laugh, he changed angles to rub his lips over hers. "Why don't I just finish the job," he suggested and turned up the power and heat of the kiss.

  When Louise stepped through the doorway with Summerset just behind her, she stopped abruptly. She supposed she could have—should have—cleared her throat or made some sound. But it was so interesting to watch that shimmer of passion, that ease of joining. And to see the edgy, somewhat abrupt Lieutenant Dallas in a private moment that proved her to be a woman with a heart and needs.

  It was really lovely, she decided, the way they were framed in the window with the steady fall of snow behind them, the woman in an almost ruthlessly plain shirt and trousers with a weapon harness strapped to her side, and the man elegantly casual in black. Really lovely, she thought, that they could be so completely lost in each other. Which meant, she supposed, that marriage didn't always kill passions.

  So it was Summerset who cleared his throat. "I beg your pardon. Dr. Dimatto has

  Eve started to jerk back, then subsided when Roarke merely locked her against him. Whenever she tried to wiggle out of a public embrace, he made an issue of it. She fought with embarrassment, tried to seem casual. All the while, her blood was running as sweet and thick as heated syrup.

  "You're prompt, doctor," she managed.

  "Always, Lieutenant. Good morning, Roarke."

  "Good morning." Amused at all of them, Roarke loosened his hold on Eve. "Can we offer you something? Coffee?"

  "I never turn down coffee. You have an exceptional home," she added as she continued into the room.

  "This place?" Eve's voice was desert dry. "It'll do until we find something bigger."

  Louise laughed, set her briefcase aside. The thin light through the window caught the little gold pin on her lapel. Eve lifted a brow. "Dr. Wo had one of those on her dress last night. So did Vanderhaven."

  "This." Absently, Louise lifted a hand to the pin. "Tradition. Right after the turn of the century, most medical facilities began to give a caduceus pin to doctors who'd completed their internship. I imagine a lot of them end up in a dusty drawer somewhere, but I like it."

  "I'll let you get down to work." Roarke handed Louise her coffee, then glanced over at his wife. The gleam in his eye said it all. "I'll see you later, Lieutenant, and we can firm up those plans."

  "Sure." Damn it, her lips were still vibrating from his. "We'll do that."

  Louise waited until he'd gone through a connecting door, shut it. "I hope you won't take offense if I say that is the most beautiful man I've ever seen."

  "I rarely take offense at the truth. So let's try for another. Your uncle is one of my suspects. At this time, he is on my short, and can't be eliminated. Is that going to be a problem for you?"

  A line formed instantly and deeply between Louise's brows. Straight irritation, Eve decided.

  "It won't be a problem because I have every confidence I'll help you eliminate him very quickly. Uncle Colin and I disagree in many areas, but he is, above all else, dedicated to insuring the quality of human life."

  "That's an interesting phrase." Eve came around the desk, sat on the edge. They would have to test each other, she knew, before they could work together. "Not saving lives, maintaining them, prolonging them?"

  "There are some who believe that without a level of quality, life is only pain."

  "Is that your belief?"

  "For me, life itself is enough, as long as suffering can be relieved."

  Eve nodded, picked up her own coffee, though it had gone cold. "Most wouldn't say that Snooks, for example, was enjoying any quality of life. He was sick, he was dying, he was indigent. Ending all that for him might have been considered a mercy by some."

  Louise went pale, but her eyes remained steady. "No doctor with ethics, with morals, with a belief in his oaths and his duty, would terminate a patient without consent. First do no harm. This, without question, is a promise my uncle lives by."

  Eve nodded. "We'll see. I want you to take a look at the data I've accessed, then translate it for me in terms someone who didn't graduate from Harvard Medical can understand."

  Louise's brows winged up. "You checked up on me."

  "Did you think I wouldn't?"

  "No." Once again, Louise's face relaxed into a smile. "I was certain you would. It's nice to be right."

  "Then let's get started." Eve called up the data, gestured to the chair behind the monitor, then looked over as Peabody came huffing through the door. "You're late."

  "Subway—" Peabody held up a hand as she struggled to catch her breath. "Running behind. Weather sucks. Sorry." She took off her snow-covered coat. "Coffee. Please. Sir."

  Eve merely jerked a thumb in the direction of the AutoChef, then answered the beep of her 'link. "Dallas."

  "Don't you ever check your messages?" Nadine demanded. "I've been trying to reach you since last night."

  "I was out, now I'm in. What?"

  "I'm officially requesting a one-on-one regarding the murders of Samuel Petrinsky and Erin Spindler. My information has you as primary on the first and replacement primary on the second."

  It was a game they both knew. Tele-link logs could be checked. "The department has not yet issued a statement on either of those cases. Both are ongoing investigations."

  "Which, according to my research and sources, appear to be linked. You can say nothing and I'll go on air with what I've got, or you can do some damage control by agreeing to an interview before I break the story. Up to you, Dallas."

  She could have wiggled more, often would have. But she thought that was enough for the record. "I'm working at home today."

  "Fine, I'll be there in twenty minutes."

  "No, no cameras in my house." On that she was firm. "I'll meet you in my office at Central in an hour."

  "Make it half that. I have a deadline."

  "An hour, Nadine. Take it or leave it." And with that, she cut transmission. "Peabody, you work with Dr. Dimatto. I'll be back as soon as I can."

  "Traffic's ugly, Lieutenant," Peabody told her, pitifully grateful she wasn't being dragged out in it again. "The road crews haven't started clearing yet."

  "Just one more adventure," Eve muttered and strode out.

  She thought she'd get out clean, but the foyer monitor blinked on as she reached for her jacket. "Going somewhere, Lieutenant?"

  "Jesus, Roarke, why not just knock me over the head with a blunt instrument. Keeping tabs on me?"

  "As often as possible. Wear your coat if you're going out. That jacket isn't warm enough for this weather."

  "I'm just going into Central for a couple of hours."

  "Wear the coat," he repeated, "and the gloves in the pocket. I'm sending one of the four-wheels around."

  She opened her mouth, but he'd already vanished. "Nag, nag, nag," she muttered, then nearly jolted when he swam back on-screen.

  "I love you, too," he said easily, and she heard his chuckle as the image faded again.

  Eyes narrowed, she fingered the jacket, considered taking a stand. But she remembered just how warm and soft the coat was. It wasn't like she was going to a murder scene, so it seemed petty not to give in, just this once. She wrapped cashmere over her ancient trousers and stepped outside into the blowing snow just as a gleaming silver vehicle rolled smoothly to the base of the steps.

  It was, she thought, a honey of a ride. Powerful and sturdy as a jet-tank. She climbed up and in, amused and touched to find the heat already blowing. Roarke never missed a trick. To entertain herself, she programmed it for manual, gripped the gearshift, and shot down the drive.

  It rolled over several inches of snow as if she were driving on freshly scrubbed asphalt.

  Traffic was snarled and nasty. More than one vehicle was tipped sideways on the street and abandoned. She counted three fender benders in the first four blocks. She steered around them easily, automatically calling the locations of the wrecks in to Dispatch on her communicator.

  Even the glide-cart vendors, who would brave almost any weather to make a buck, were taking the day off. Street corners were deserted, the sky overhead too curtained with snow for her to see or hear any air traffic.

  It was, she thought, like driving through one of those old glass globes where nothing moved but the snow when it was shaken free.

  Clean, she thought. It wouldn't last, but just now, the city was clean, pristine, surreal. And quiet enough to make her shudder.

  She felt something very close to relief after she'd parked in the garage and walked into the noise and confusion of Cop Central.

  With more than a half hour to spare before the interview, she locked the door to her office —in case Nadine rushed the mark—and contacted her commander at home.

  "I apologize for interrupting your free day, Commander."

  "It's yours as well, if I'm not mistaken." He glanced over his shoulder. "Get your boots on, I'll be out in just a few minutes. Grandkids," he told Eve with a quick and rare smile. "W
e're about to have a snow war."

  "I won't keep you from it, but I thought I should inform you I've agreed to a one-on-one with Nadine Furst. She contacted me this morning at home. She's dug up some data on the Petrinsky and the Spindler cases. I thought it best to draft an official statement, answer some basic questions, than to let her go on air with speculation."

  "Cooperate, but keep it as short as possible." The smile that had softened his face when he'd spoken of his grandchildren was gone, leaving it hard and blank. "We can expect other media to demand statements after she goes on air with it. What's the current status?"

  "I'm working with a medical consultant on some data now. I have potential links to two other homicides, one in Chicago, one in Paris. I've contacted the primaries in each, and am waiting for data transfer. McNab is still running like crimes. My investigation points to a possible connection with several large medical facilities and at least two, if not more, medical personnel attached to them."

  "Give her as little as possible. Send me a fully updated report today, at home. We'll discuss this on Monday morning."

  "Yes, sir."

  Well, Eve thought as she leaned back from the 'link, one base covered. Now she would dance the dance with Nadine and see what reaction it caused.

  She got up to unlock the door, then sat and killed the waiting time by starting the report for Whitney. When she heard the click of heels coming briskly down the hall, Eve saved the document, filed it, and blanked her screen.

  "God! Could it get any worse out there?" Nadine smoothed a hand over her camera-ready hair. "Only the insane go out in this, which makes us lunatics, Dallas."

  "Cops laugh at blizzards. Nothing stops the law."

  "Well, that explains why we passed two wrecked black and whites on the way from the station. I got an update from our meteorologist before I left. He says it's the storm of the century."

  "How many of those have we had this century now?"

  Nadine laughed and began to unbutton her coat. "True enough, but he says we can expect this storm to continue right through tomorrow, with accumulations even in the city of more than two feet. This one's going to stop New York cold."

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