Conspiracy in death, p.17
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.17
 

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

  By the time she got to the head, she was packing and shaping with abandon. "I'm nearly done here, pal, and my guy is built like an arena ball tackle. Your pitiful attempt is doomed."

  "We'll see about that." He stepped back, studied his snow sculpture with narrowed eyes, then smiled. "Yes, this works for me."

  She tossed a look over her shoulder and snorted. "Better bulk him up before my guy chews him up and spits him out."

  "No, I think this is the right shape." He waited while Eve patted her snowman's bulging pecs, then trudged through the snow toward him.

  Her eyes went to slits. "Yours has tits."

  "Yes, rather gorgeous ones."

  Stunned, Eve clamped her hands on her hips and stared. The figure was sleek and curvy, with enormous snow breasts that had been shaped into wicked points.

  Roarke stroked one snowy breast lightly. "She'll lead your pumped-up slab of beef there around by the nose."

  Eve could only shake her head. "Pervert. Those boobs are way out of proportion."

  "A boy needs his dreams, darling." He took the snowball in the center of the shoulder blades and turned with a wolfish smile. "I was hoping you'd do that. Now that you've shed first blood…" He kept his eyes on her as he scooped up snow, balled it.

  She dodged left, quickly made another ball, and let it fly with the grace and speed of a major-league infielder. He caught that one on the heart, nodded an acknowledgment of her aim and speed, and went for her.

  Snow flew, hard bullets, heavy cannonballs, a barrage of fire. She watched a missile explode in his face and, grinning fiercely, followed up with a trio of body blows.

  He gave as good as he got, even causing her to yelp once when she took a hard hit to the side of the head, but she thought she could have taken him, would have taken him, if she hadn't started to laugh.

  She couldn't stop, and it made her slow and clumsy. As she fought for breath, her arms shook, throwing off her aim. Wheezing, she held up a hand. "Truce! Cease fire."

  Snow splatted high on her chest and into her face. "I can't hear you," Roarke said, moving steadily forward. "Did you say, 'I surrender'?"

  "No, damn it." She fought to snort in air, grabbed weakly for ammo, then let out a laughing scream when he jumped her.

  She went down, spilling into the thick cushion of snow with Roarke on top of her. "Maniac," she managed and concentrated on getting her breath back.

  "You lose."

  "Did not."

  "I seem to be on top of things, Lieutenant." Aware just how tricky she could be, he clamped his hands over hers. "You're now at my mercy."

  "Oh yeah? You don't scare me, tough guy." She grinned up at him. The black ski cap he'd pulled on was crusted white with snow, the glorious hair that spilled out of it wet and gleaming. "I mortally wounded you a half dozen times. You're a dead man."

  "I think I have just enough life left to make you suffer." He lowered his head, nipped lightly at her jaw. "And to make you beg."

  His tongue traced her lips and blurred the edges of her mind. "If you're getting ideas about starting anything out here…"

  "What?"

  "Good," she said and arched up to find his mouth with hers.

  Hot and hungry from the first. With a little sound of greed, she took more. It burst through her, that wild, climbing need she'd only felt with him, for him. Trapped in the swirl of white, she gave herself to it.

  "Inside." He was lost in her. No one else had taken him as deep as she could. "We need to go inside."

  "Put your hands on me." Her voice was rough, her breath already ragged. "I want your hands on me."

  He was tempted to rip away at the tough, thin suit, to find the flesh beneath. To sink his teeth into it. He yanked her up until they were sitting in the depression of snow, tangled and breathless.

  They stared at each other a moment, both stunned at how quickly the mood had changed from playful to desperate. Then her lips curved. "Roarke?"

  "Eve?"

  "I think we should go in and give these snow people some privacy."

  "Good idea."

  "Just one thing." She moved into him, slid her arms around him, brought her mouth teasingly close. Then, snake-quick, tugged the collar of his suit out and dumped snow under it.

  He was still hissing when she scrambled to her feet.

  "Cheat."

  "You can make me pay for it when I've got you naked."

  As cold shivered down his back, he pushed himself up. "I'd be delighted."

  • • • •

  They started in the pool, in the fluid curve where with a mere touch of the controls, the water churned and went steamy. There in the pulsing heat, he put his hands on her however he liked, driving them both from edge to edge, yanking them back, time after time just short of full release.

  She was dizzy, weak, her body teetering on the brink, when he dragged her to her feet. Water cascaded from them and steamed up in clouds.

  "In bed," was all he said, and he swept her up to carry her from the pool to the elevator.

  "Hurry." She pressed her face against his neck, nipped her teeth into it.

  Her heart was raging. She wondered that it didn't simply burst out of the cage of her ribs and fall into his hands. He already owned it. And her.

  Delirious, battered with so much more than the easy lust they could spark off each other with a look, she curled into him. "I love you, Roarke."

  It shot into him. Those words from her were precious and rare. They could weaken his knees, make his heart ache. He strode off the elevator, climbed up to where their bed stood centered under a sky window curtained white with snow. And fell onto the bed with her.

  "Tell me again." His mouth fastened to hers, devoured, swallowed her moan. "Tell me again, while I'm touching you."

  His hands streaked over her, down her, causing her flesh to tremble. She arched under him, wanting him to cover her where the heat throbbed, to pierce her there. To fill her there.

  She was slick and hot where his fingers slid, and she cried out when he shoved her blissfully over the edge. But the trembling wouldn't stop, the need wouldn't fade. It built again, layer over layer, while the taste of him pulsed through her system like a drug.

  "Tell me again." He drove himself into her in one violent stroke. "Damn it, tell me again. Now."

  She fisted her hands in his hair, needing to anchor herself, fighting to hold on, just to hold on for one moment more. And looked into those wild blue eyes. "I love you. Always. Only. You."

  Then she wrapped herself around him, and gave him the rest of her.

  • • • •

  A weekend with Roarke, Eve thought, could smooth out the rough edges of broken glass.

  The man was amazingly…inventive.

  She'd intended to work on Sunday, but before she could roll out of bed, she was being plucked out and carried off to the holo room. The next thing she knew, she was buck naked on a simulation of Crete. It was a little difficult to complain about warm blue water, dusky hills, and baking sun, and when he implemented multifuctions and conjured up a lush, eye-popping picnic, she gave up and enjoyed herself.

  New York was buried under two feet of snow. Jet ski patrols were handling any threat of looting, and medi-vac teams were scouting out the snow wrecked. All but emergency and necessary city personnel were ordered to stay home.

  So why not spend the day at the beach eating fat purple grapes?

  When she woke Monday morning, she was limber, clear-headed, and refueled. She kept one ear tuned to the news on the bedroom screen as she dressed. Reports were that all major streets had been cleared. Although she didn't believe that for a minute, she thought she could risk taking her own vehicle to Central.

  When the 'link beeped, she finished buttoning her shirt, scooped up her coffee, and answered.

  "Dallas."

  Dispatch, Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. Report to Sleeper Village, Bowery. Reported homicide, Priority One. Uniforms on scene.

  "Notify Peabody, Officer De
lia. I'll pick her up en route. I'm on my way. Dallas out." She broke transmission, exchanged her coffee for her weapon harness. "Goddamn it. He got another one." Her eyes were flat and cold as she looked at Roarke. "He wanted it on my watch. He's made it personal."

  "Watch your back, Lieutenant," Roarke ordered as she strode out. Then he shook his head. "It's always personal," he murmured.

  • • • •

  It didn't lift her mood to see the uniforms on scene were Bowers and Trueheart. She fought her way to the curb on the streets that were lumpy and slick with snow. Then gave herself time for one long breath.

  "If I look like I'm going to deck her…"

  "Yes sir?"

  "Let me," Eve snapped and pushed out of the car. Her boots sank into the snow, and she kept her eyes on Bowers as she plowed through it. The sky overhead was as hard and cold as her heart.

  "Officer Bowers. Your report?"

  "Subject female, undetermined age and identity." Out of the corner of her eye, Eve saw Trueheart open his mouth, then shut it again.

  "We found her in her crib, as with victim Snooks. However, there is considerable blood in this case. As I am not a medical technician, I cannot verify which piece of her was removed, if any."

  Eve scanned the area. Saw that this time there were more than a dozen faces, pale, thin, with dead eyes staring over the line of police sensors.

  "Have you questioned any of these people?"

  "No."

  "Do so," she ordered, then turned to start toward the crib that had been marked with blipping police sensors.

  Bowers jerked her head at Trueheart, sending him on his way, but fell into step beside Eve. "I've already filed another complaint."

  "Officer Bowers, this is not the time or place to discuss interdepartmental business."

  "You're not going to get away with calling me at home, threatening me. You stepped way over, Dallas."

  Both baffled and irritated, Eve stopped long enough to study Bowers's face. There was anger, yes, and resentment, but there was also a sticky kind of smugness in her eyes. "Bowers, I didn't contact you at home or anywhere else. And I don't make threats."

  "I've got my 'link log as evidence."

  "Fine." But when Eve started forward again, Bowers grabbed her arm. Eve's hand curled into a fist, but she managed to keep it from ramming into Bowers's face. "Officer, we are on record, and you are interfering with my investigation of a reported homicide. Step back."

  "I want it on record." Bowers shot a glance at the lapel recorder on Peabody's uniform. Excitement was pumping through her, and the control was slipping greasily out of her hands. "I want it on record that I've gone through proper official channels to report your conduct. And that if appropriate action isn't taken by the department against you, I'll exercise my right to file suit against both you and the department."

  "So noted, Officer. Now, step back before I start exercising my rights."

  "You want to take a swing at me, don't you?" Her eyes glittered, her breath began to heave. "That's how your type handles things."

  "Oh, yeah, I'd love to kick your arrogant ass, Bowers. But I have something a little more pressing to do at the moment. And since you refuse to follow orders, you are relieved of duty as of this moment. I want you off my crime scene."

  "It's my crime scene. I was first on scene."

  "You've been relieved, Officer." Eve jerked her arm free, took two steps, then swung around, teeth bared, as Bowers made another grab. "You lay hands on me again, and I'll kick your face in, then I'll have my aide place you under arrest for interfering with an investigation. We've got a personal problem here, fine and dandy. We can handle it later. You can pick the time and place. But it won't be here; it won't be now. Get the fuck off-scene, Bowers."

  She waited a beat, straining to hold her own snapping temper in check. "Peabody, notify Bowers's lieutenant that she has been relieved and ordered from the scene. Request another uniform to be sent to our location to assist Officer Trueheart in crowd control."

  "I go, he goes."

  "Bowers, if you are not behind the sensors in thirty seconds, you will be put in restraints and charged." Not trusting herself, Eve turned away. "Peabody, escort Officer Bowers back to her vehicle."

  "My pleasure, sir. Horizontal or vertical, Bowers?" she said pleasantly.

  "I'm going to take her down." Bowers's voice shook with rage. "And you're going with her." Already composing her follow-up complaint, Bowers stomped through the snow.

  "You all right, Dallas?"

  "I'd be better if I could've pounded on her a while." Eve hissed a breath out through her teeth. "But she wasted enough of our time. Let's do our job."

  She approached the crib, crouched, pulled back the tattered plastic that served as a doorway.

  Blood, rivers of it, had spilled, pooled, congealed. Reaching into her field kit, Eve took out Seal-It. "Victim is female, black, age between ninety and one ten. Visible wound in abdomen appears to be cause of death. Victim has bled out. There are no apparent signs of struggle or sexual abuse."

  Eve inched into the crib, ignoring the blood that stained the tips of her boots. "Notify the ME, Peabody. I need Morris. At a guess, I'd say her liver's gone. Jesus, but he wasn't worried about being neat this time. The edges of the wound are straight and clean," she added after she fixed on microgoggles, bent closer. "But there is no clamping as evidenced on other victims. No sealing to prevent bleeding."

  She was still wearing her shoes, Eve noted, the hard, black slip-ons many of the city's shelters handed out to the homeless. There was a miniplayer beside the thin mattress and a full bottle of street brew.

  "No robbery." she murmured and continued to work. "Time of death, calculating lowest ambient temperature is established on scene at oh two-thirty." She reached out, found an expired beggar's license.

  "Victim is identified as Jilessa Brown, age ninety-eight, of no fixed address."

  "Lieutenant, can you move your left shoulder? I need to give a full body shot for record."

  Eve shifted to the right, eased in another inch, and felt her boot scrape something under the pool of blood. Reaching down, she closed her sealed fingers over a small object. And drew out a gold pin.

  The coiled snakes of the caduceus ran with blood.

  "Look what we have here," she murmured. "Peabody, on record. A gold lapel pin, catch apparently broken, was found near the victim's right hip. Pin is identified as a caduceus, a symbol of the medical profession."

  She sealed it, slipped it into her bag. "He was very, very sloppy this time. Angry? Careless? Or just in a hurry?" She moved back, let the plastic fall back into place. "Let's see what Trueheart knows."

  • • • •

  Eve wiped the blood and sealant from her hands as Trueheart reported. "Mostly they called her Honey. She was well liked, kind of motherly. No one I've spoken with saw anything last night. It was rough out here, really cold. The snow finally stopped about midnight, but the winds were vicious; that's why we've got all these drifts."

  "And why we'll never get any casts worth a damn." She looked at the trampled ground. "We'll find out what we can about her. Trueheart, it's up to you, but if I were in your shoes, I'd request another trainer when I got back to your station. When the dust clears some, I'm going to recommend your transfer to Central, unless you have other ideas."

  "Sir. No. I'm very grateful."

  "Don't be. They work your butt off at Central." She turned away. "Peabody, let's go by Canal Street before we head in. I'd like to see if Jilessa Brown was a patient there."

  • • • •

  Louise was out in the medi-van doing on-site treatments for frostbite and exposure. Her replacement in the clinic looked young enough to have still been playing doctor in the backseat of a souped-up street buggy with the prom queen.

  But he told her that Jilessa Brown was not only a patient, but a favorite at the clinic. A regular, Eve mused as she fought traffic and clogged streets on her way to Central. One who'
d come in at least once a week just to sit and talk with others in the waiting room, to charm some of the lolly-tape the doctors kept in a jar for children.

  She'd been, according to the doctor, a sociable woman with a sweet tooth and a mental defect that had gone untreated during her prime. It had left her speech slurred and her mental capacity on level with an eight-year-old.

  She'd been harmless. And she'd been receiving treatments over the last six months for cancer of the liver, advanced stage.

  There had been some hope for remission, if not reversal.

  Now there would be neither.

  Her message light was glowing when she stepped into her office, but she ignored it and tagged Feeney.

  "I've got another one."

  "So I hear. Word travels."

  "There was a lapel pin at the scene—it's this medical symbol. I took it by the lab, sat on Dickhead until he verified it was gold. The real thing. Can you run it for me? See if you can find out who sells them?"

  "Will do. You talked to McNab?"

  "Not yet." Her stomach hitched. "Why?"

  He sighed, and paper rattled as he reached into his bag for his favored almonds. "London, six months ago. Funky-junkie found in his flop. He'd cooked for a few days before they found him. Kidneys were missing."

  "That's what we had with Spindler, but this scene was a mess. Blood everywhere. He was either in a hurry, or he doesn't care anymore. I'll tag McNab and get the details."

  "He's on his way over there. Send the pin back with him, and I'll run it."

  "Thanks." Her 'link beeped incoming the minute she ended transmission. "Dallas."

  "I need you in my office, Lieutenant. Now."

  Bowers was all Eve could think, but nodded briskly. "Yes, Commander. On my way."

  She hailed Peabody on her way out. "McNab's on his way over with details on a potential victim in London. Work with him on it. Use my office."

  "Yes, sir, but—" She broke off, and decided not to be undignified and complain to her lieutenant's back. "Hell." Prepared to spend an irritating hour or so, Peabody gathered her things and hurried toward Eve's office. She wanted to get there before McNab claimed the desk.

 
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