Conspiracy in death, p.18
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.18

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

  Whitney didn't keep Eve waiting but cleared her straight through. He was at his desk, his hands folded, his eyes neutral. "Lieutenant, you had another altercation with Officer Bowers."

  "Yes, sir. On record at the scene this morning." Goddamn it, Eve thought, she hated this. It was like playing tattletale with the school principal. "She became difficult and insubordinate. She laid hands on me and was ordered off scene."

  He nodded. "You couldn't have handled it differently?"

  Biting back a retort, Eve reached into her bag and pulled out a disc. "Sir, this is a copy of the record from the crime scene. You look at it, then tell me if I could or should have handled it differently."

  "Sit down, Dallas."

  "Sir, if I'm to be reprimanded for doing my job, I prefer to be reprimanded while I'm on my feet."

  "I don't believe I have reprimanded you, Lieutenant." He spoke mildly, but he rose himself. "Bowers had already filed another complaint before this morning's little incident. She claims that you contacted her at home Saturday evening and threatened her with physical harm."

  "Commander, I have not contacted Bowers at home or anywhere else." It was difficult, but she kept her eyes flat and her voice cool. "If and when I have threatened her—after provocation—it's been face to face, and on record."

  "She's introduced a copy of a 'link log, on which the caller identifies herself as you."

  Eve's eyes chilled. "My voice print is on record. I request that it be compared with the print from the 'link log."

  "Good. Dallas, sit down. Please."

  He watched her struggle, then sit stiffly. "I have no doubt the prints won't match. Just as I have no doubt that Bowers will continue to make trouble for you. I want to assure you that the department will handle this, and her."

  "Permission to speak frankly?"

  "Of course."

  "She shouldn't be on the street, she shouldn't be in uniform. She's dangerous, Commander. That's not a personal jab, it's a professional opinion."

  "And one I tend to agree with, but it's not always as simple as it should be. Which brings me to another issue. The mayor contacted me over the weekend. It appears he was contacted by Senator Brian Waylan with a request that the investigations, over which you are primary, be reassigned."

  "Who the hell is Waylan?" Eve was on her feet again. "What's some overfed politician have to do with my case?"

  "Waylan is a staunch supporter of the American Medical Association. His son is a doctor and on staff at the Nordick Center in Chicago. It's his belief that your investigation, and the resultant media, has impinged the medical community. That it may start a panic. The AMA is concerned and willing to fund its own, private investigation into these matters."

  "I'm sure they would, as it's clear it's one of their own who's killing people. This is my case, Commander. I intend to close it."

  "It's likely that you'll get little cooperation from the medical community from this point on," Whitney continued. "It's also likely that there will be some political pressure brought to bear against the department to shift the nature of the investigation."

  He indulged himself briefly with the faintest of scowls, then his face slipped back into neutral. "I want you to close this case, Dallas, and quickly. I don't want you distracted by a personal…irritant," he decided. "And so I'm asking you to let the department handle the Bowers situation."

  "I know my priorities."

  "Good. Until further notice, this case, and all related data, are blocked from the media. I want nothing new to leak. Any and all data relating is to be on a need-to-know basis, with full copies encoded to my attention."

  "You believe we have a leak in the department?"

  "I think East Washington is much too interested in our business. Put together a team, keep it Code Five from this point," he ordered, blocking any unsealed interdepartmental reports and adding a media block. "Put this one to bed."


  "I can run a probability scan back in EDD in half the time it's going to take you to put it through this reject from the ark."

  "You're not in EDD, McNab."

  "You're telling me. And if you want a full run on the London victim done right, I should be doing it. I'm the E-detective."

  "I'm the primary's aide. Stop breathing on me."

  "You smell pretty good, She-Body."

  "You're not going to have a nose to smell with in about five seconds."

  Eve paused outside her office door and rapped her fists against the sides of her head. This was her team, squabbling like a couple of five-year-olds while Mom was away.

  God help her.

  They were glaring at each other when she stepped in. Both jerked back, shifted attention to her, and struggled to look innocent.

  "Recess is over, kids. Move it into the conference room. I tagged Feeney on my way down. I want all data on all cases streamlined and cross-checked by end of shift. We need to bag this bastard before he adds to his collection."

  After she'd turned on her heel and strode out, McNab broke into a grin. "Man, I love working with her. You think we'll headquarter in her home office on this one? Roarke's got the best toys on the block."

  Peabody only sniffed and began to gather discs and files. "We work where the lieutenant says we work." She rose, bumped into him, and felt her nerves sizzle. She stared dolefully into his cheerful green eyes. "You're in my way, McNab."

  "I keep trying. So how's Charlie?"

  She counted to ten, then replied, "Charles is fine, and it's none of your business. Now move your skinny ass." She gained some pleasure in elbowing him aside as she stomped out.

  McNab merely sighed, rubbed his sore gut. "You sure do it for me, She-Body," he muttered. "Christ knows why."

  Eve paced the conference room. She needed to put Bowers and that situation out of her mind. She was nearly there, she told herself. Just a little more cursing, a little more pacing, and she would have put Bowers in some deep, dark hole. With a few rats for company, she decided, and a single crust of moldy bread.

  Yeah, that was a good image. She took two more cleansing breaths and rounded on Peabody as her aide entered. "Death scene stills, on the board. Work up a location map, highlighting each crime scene. Victims' names referenced with appropriate city."

  "Yes, sir."

  "McNab. Give me what you've got."

  "Okay, well—"

  "And keep the chatter and editorials to a minimum," Eve added and made Peabody snicker.

  "Sir," he began, miffed, "I've got your top health and research centers in the cities in question. On mainframe, disc and hard copy." Since the hard copy was handy, he nudged it across the desk. "I cross-checked your short list of docs from New York. You can see there that all of them have an affiliation with at least one of the other centers. My research indicates that there are only three hundred-odd surgeons with organ plucking as a specialty who possess the skill required to have performed the procedure that killed all subject victims."

  He stopped, damn proud of his quick, no-nonsense report. "I'm still running like crimes. The reason for the time lag stems from the filing and investigative avenues pursued in other areas."

  He just couldn't stand it anymore. He sat on the edge of the desk, crossed his slick green airboots at the ankles. "See, it looks to me like some of the homicide guys either buried the cases because it's, like, who cares, or figured it was just another weird street crime. They gotta plug it in before IRCCA can pick it up on the first pass. Otherwise, we have to dig, which I'm doing. What I'm hitting mostly is cult and domestic stuff. I've got a lot of castrations performed in the home by irate cohabitators or spouses. Man, you wouldn't believe how many women whack a guy off permanent because he didn't keep his dick in his pants. Six new eunuchs in North Carolina in the past three months. It's like an epidemic or something."

  "That's a fascinating bit of trivia, McNab," Eve said dryly. "But for now, let's stick with the internal organs." She jerked a thumb toward the computer. "Nar
row it down. I want one health center per city that fits."

  "You ask, it's done."

  "Feeney." Eve's shoulders relaxed fractionally when he strolled in, carrying his bag of nuts. "What have you got on the pin?"

  "Nothing to that one. Three locations in the city carry that design in eighteen carat. The jewelry store at the Drake Center, Tiffany's on Fifth, and DeBower's downtown."

  He juggled the bag absently, watching Peabody clip stills to the board. "The eighteen carat runs about five grand. Most of the classier health centers run an account with Tiffany's on the pin. They buy in bulk to give to graduating interns. Gold or silver, depending on placement. Last year, Tiffany's moved seventy-one gold, ninety-six silver. Ninety-two percent of those were through direct accounts with hospitals."

  "According to Louise, most doctors have them," Eve commented. "But not all of them wear them. I saw Tia Wo wearing one, Hans Vanderhaven. And Louise," she added with a frown. "We'll have to see if we can find out who's lost one recently. Keep tabs on the three outlets. Whoever did might want a replacement."

  She tucked her hands in her pockets and turned to the board. "Before we start, you need to know the commander's put a media block on us. No interviews, no comments. We're Code Five, so all data pertaining to any of these cases is now on a need-to-know basis. Files are to be encoded."

  "Departmental leak?" Feeney wanted to know.

  "Maybe. But there's pressure, political pressure, coming in from East Washington. Feeney, how much can you find out about Senator Waylan of Illinois without alerting him or his staff of a search?"

  A slow smile brightened Feeney's rumpled face. "Oh, just about anything down to the size of his jockies."

  "I'm betting on fat ass and small dick," she muttered and had McNab snorting. "Okay, here are my thoughts. He's collecting," she began, moving to the board to gesture at the stills. "For fun, for profit, because he can. I don't know. But he's systematically collecting defective organs. He removes them from the scene. In at least one case, we know there was a transfer bag, so odds are that pattern holds for all. If he's careful to preserve the organ, he has to have some place to keep them."

  "A lab," Feeney said.

  "It follows. Private. Maybe even in his home. How does he find them? He's tagged each one of them ahead of time. These three," Eve added, tapping a finger on stills, "were all taken out in New York and all had a connection with the Canal Street Clinic. He has access to their data. He's either associated with the clinic or he has someone on the inside passing him what he wants."

  "Could be a cop," Peabody murmured and shifted uncomfortably when all eyes turned to her. "Sir." She cleared her throat. "The beat cops and scoopers know these people. If we're concerned about a leak in the department, maybe we should consider the leak includes passing data to the killer."

  "You're right," Eve said after a moment. "It could be right at our door."

  "Bowers works the sector where two of the victims were taken out." McNab swiveled in his chair. "We already know she's a wild hair. I can run an all-level search and scan on her."

  "Shit." Uneasy, Eve paced to the window, winced against the bouncing glare of sun off snow. If she ordered the search, it would have to go through channels, be put on record. It could, and would in some quarters, smell of harassment.

  "We can order it out of EDD," Feeney said, understanding. "My name goes on the request, it puts it off you."

  "I'm primary," Eve murmured. So it was duty to the job and to the dead. "The order goes out of here, with my name on it. Send it now, McNab, let's not piss around."

  "Yes, sir." He swung back to the computer.

  "We're getting no cooperation from the primary in Chicago," she went on. "So we turn the heat up there. We wait for the data to come in from London." She walked back to the board, studied the faces. "But we sure as hell have enough to keep us busy in the meantime. Peabody, what do you know about politics?"

  "A necessary evil that on rare occasions works without corruption, abuse, and waste." She smiled a little. "Free-Agers rarely approve of politicians, Dallas. But we're terrific at non-violent protests."

  "Tune up your Free-Ager and take a look at the American Medical Association. See how much corruption, abuse, and waste you can find. I'm going to put a fire under that asshole at CPSD, and check with Morris to see if the autopsy's finished on Jilessa Brown."

  Back in her office, she tried Chicago first, and when she was again passed to Kimiki's E- mail, she snarled and opted to go over his head.

  "Putz," she said under her breath and waited to be transferred to his shift commander.

  "Lieutenant Sawyer."

  "Lieutenant Dallas, NYPSD," she said briskly, measuring her man. He had a long, thin, weary face the color of tobacco, eyes of a deep gray, and a mouth thin as a stiletto from corner to corner. "I'm working on a series of homicides here that appear to link with a case out of your house."

  She continued to watch his face as she detailed information, saw the faint line form between his brows. "One minute, New York."

  He blanked the screen, leaving Eve drumming her fingers on the desk for three full minutes. When he came back on, his face was carefully composed. "I haven't received a request for data transfer in this matter. The case you refer to has been shifted to inactive and unsolved."

  "Look, Sawyer, I talked to the new primary over a week ago. I made the request. I've got three bodies here, and my investigation points to a connection with yours. You want to dump the case, fine, but dump it here. All I'm asking is a little professional cooperation. I need that data."

  "Detective Kimiki is currently on leave, New York. We get our share of dead files here in Chicago, too. I'd say your request just fell through the cracks."

  "Are you going to fish it out?"

  "You'll have the files within the hour. I apologize for the delay. Let me have your ID number and transfer information. I'll handle it personally."


  One down, Eve thought when she finished with Chicago. She caught Morris in his office.

  "I'm putting it together now, Dallas. I'm only one man."

  "Give me the highlights."

  "She's dead."

  "You're such a joker, Morris."

  "Anything to brighten your day. The abdomen wound was cause of death. Wound was caused by a laser scalpel, again wielded with considerable skill. The victim was anesthetized prior to death. In this case, the wound was left unsealed, and the victim bled out. Her liver was removed. She had herself a ripe case of cancer, which had certainly affected that particular organ. She's had some treatment for it. There was some scarring that's typical with an advanced stage, but there was some nice pink tissue as well. The treatment was slowing down the progress, fighting the fight. She might, with regular and continued care, have beaten it back."

  "The incision—does it match the others?"

  "It's clean and it's perfect. He wasn't in a hurry when he cut. In my opinion, it's the same pair of hands. But the rest doesn't match. There wasn't any pride in this one, and she wasn't going to die. She had a good shot of living another ten years, maybe more."

  "Okay. Thanks."

  She sat back, closed her eyes to help all the new data shift through her mind. And opened them again to see Webster in her doorway.

  "Sorry to disturb your nap."

  "What do you want, Webster? You keep showing up, I'm going to have to call my advocate."

  "Wouldn't be a bad idea. You got another complaint against you."

  "It's bogus. Have you run the voice prints?" The temper she'd managed to lock away beat viciously for freedom. "Goddamn it, Webster, you know me. I don't make crank calls."

  She pushed herself out of her chair. Until that moment, she hadn't realized just how much rage she'd been chaining down. It roared through her, ripped at her throat until, for lack of something better, she grabbed an empty coffee mug off her desk and heaved it against the wall.

  Webster stood, lips pursed, nodded toward the
shards. "Feel better?"

  "Some, yeah," she replied.

  "We'll be running the voice prints, Dallas, and I don't expect them to match. I do know you. You're a direct, in-the-face kind of woman. Wimpy 'link threats aren't your style. But you've got a problem with her, and don't minimize it. She's screaming about your treatment of her on the crime scene this morning."

  "It's on record. You screen it, then talk to me."

  "I'm going to," he said wearily. "I'm going through channels on this, step by step, because it'll work better for you. Now I see you've ordered a search and scan on her. That doesn't look good."

  "It applies to a case. It's not personal. I ordered one on Trueheart, too."


  Her eyes went flat and cool. "I can't answer that. IAB has nothing to do with my dead files, and I've been ordered to keep all data pertaining on a need-to-know. I'm Code Five per Whitney's orders."

  "You're just going to make this harder on yourself."

  "I'm doing my job, Webster."

  "I'm doing mine, Dallas. Fucking A," he muttered, and jammed his hands in his pockets. "Bowers just went to the media."

  "About me? For Christ's sake."

  "It was quite a little rant. She's claiming departmental cover-up, all kinds of happy shit. Your name tends to bump ratings, and this story's going to be all over the screen by dinnertime."

  "There is no story."

  "You are the story," Webster corrected. "Hotshot homicide cop, the cop who took down one of the country's top politicians a year ago. The cop who married the richest son of a bitch on or off planet—who also happens to have a very shadowy past. You're ratings, Dallas, and one way or the other, the media's going to run with this."

  "That's not my problem." But her throat was tight and her stomach uneasy.

  "It's the department's problem. Questions are going to be asked and need to be answered. You're going to have to figure out when and how to make a statement to defuse this situation."

  "Damn it, Webster, I'm in a media block. I can't talk to them because too much of it touches on my investigation."

  He gave her a level look, hoping she knew it was friend to friend now. "Then let me tell you, you're in a squeeze. The voice prints will be compared, and a statement on the results will be issued. The record from the crime scene this morning will be reviewed, and a decision on your conduct and hers will be rendered. Your request for a search and scan will be put on hold pending those decisions. That's the official line I'm required to give you. Now, on a personal note, I'm telling you, get a lawyer, Dallas. Get the best fucking lawyer Roarke's money can buy, and put this away."

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