Dark in death, p.19
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       Dark in Death, p.19
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         Part #46 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  “You’ve got another coming in. At least she said she’d give us five on her way to a recording session. She claims she’s putting a band together that blows your skin off. Shanna K. Just the initial for the last name because, she says, labels limit expression.”

  “Can’t wait.”

  “And Nadine’s on her way.”

  “Good.”

  Eve wrote up the interview with Loxie. Went out again to repeat the routine with Shanna K.

  Shanna didn’t call her a bitch, listened with wide eyes heavily lashed in magenta, smiled with lips outlined in tiny, tiny sparkles.

  And dismissed everything Eve told her, as she claimed people only killed other people when they’d run afoul of each other in a past life. As she herself had undergone reincarnate cleansing, she was therefore absolved of all past-life transgressions.

  Still Eve pressed, pushed, went so far as to wipe the sparkle smile away by shoving photos of the DBs across the table.

  By the end she figured if she hadn’t put the fear of reincarnated gods into Shanna K, she’d put the fear of Dallas into her.

  That would have to do.

  On the way back she caught it. The siren’s perfume. The aroma of sin.

  Chocolate.

  Nadine stood in her bullpen, laughing with Santiago as every cop in the place scarfed down brownies. Any cop currently in the field, using the john, or doing their damn job trying to save some reincarnated skank’s life would be dead out of luck, brownie-wise.

  She noted Nadine had, as instructed, brought a camera, and the woman appeared to be reading the division motto posted over the break-room door with interest.

  She noted, too, Nadine had brought along her new intern.

  Quilla perched on the corner of Peabody’s desk, chattering away and eating a brownie. She’d whacked her hair short, with sharp points over both ears, a trio of them at the neck, a grouping of narrower ones over the forehead.

  Some of them were the blue you might get if you lit gas on fire, then tossed in some napalm.

  Eve had stopped wondering why people insisted on adding colors not seen in nature to various parts of their bodies.

  The kid spotted her, grinned.

  She’d added that blue to her lash tips, too, Eve observed. She wore ear hoops and a red sweater with black baggies and chunky, lace-up-to-the-knee boots.

  Quilla said, “Hey.”

  “Hey. Aren’t you supposed to be in school or something?”

  “I got a waiver for the day. Educational career training. Thanks for the recommend.”

  “Yeah. Don’t blow it.”

  “I’m gonna rock it so solid.” Quilla looked around as she spoke. “Been in the cops, but never in Homicide before. I figured it would look more chill and spill.”

  “We mop up the blood and gore every morning.”

  Quilla snickered, and spoke again before Eve could turn to Nadine.

  “They took us on a field trip last month.”

  “Great. Peabody, find someplace to plant the kid while we—”

  “They took us to An Didean. It’s a whack name, but frosty whack. So, they let us go through and look at the plans, and a couple of people who’re going to work there talked to us about what’s the what and all that.”

  “Okay.”

  “It’s going to be sweet, you know? It’s going to be solid sweet. We even went up to the roof, and they talked about the memorial for the girls who got killed, and how we’re going to have a garden up there. I hung back when everybody went down. We weren’t supposed to, but—”

  “You don’t always do what you’re supposed to.”

  Quilla mated a grin with an exaggerated shrug. “What’s the fun in that? Anyway, I did it because I wanted a minute up there by myself to think what I’ve been thinking since it all went down. One of those girls could’ve been me. I mean, the crazy guy was gone and all, but that’s just timing, right? It could’ve been any of the girls who’re going to live in the new digs. They said maybe it’ll be ready in May, and that’s not long to wait.”

  “Are things okay where you are?”

  “They don’t all the way suck.” Quilla shrugged it off, then glanced at Nadine with a gleam in her eyes. “They’re going to get better.”

  Eve moved closer. “She’s no pushover, kid.”

  “Why would I want, like, career training from a pushover? If I’m gonna rock it solid, I need a solid to show me the ropes, right?”

  “Good thinking. Nadine, my office. Just you right now.”

  Nadine signaled to her camera to wait, turned to Quilla. “Observe,” she instructed. “I want a thirty-second report on the Homicide bullpen, any aspect thereof, when I’m done.”

  “Can’t I observe the one-on-one? You know, observe you work?”

  “Observe here,” Nadine ordered and followed Eve. “I’ve either made a brilliant stroke or a terrible mistake.”

  “You’re taking her on?”

  “God, she’s smart. I figured that out in one quick minute. Sly, too, and I admire sly. She’s also going to be a pain in my ass, I know it. Just like I know the sensible thing would be to go to Columbia or NYU and interview solid journalism students. I’m not altogether sure whether I took her on or she took me, but I’ve got myself a teenage intern. And now I have to file weekly reports on her with Child Services, with copies to my own boss and to the head of the shelter.”

  “She will be a pain in your ass, but you’ll probably like it. Lois.”

  Nadine’s eyebrows lifted.

  “I figure that’s what the rocker calls you when you’re banging.”

  Smoothly, Nadine reached into a handbag the size of a semi, pulled out a compact, and checked her face. “When you’re banged well, it doesn’t matter what they call you. However, I’m just seeing Jake casually. Now and again.”

  “Right.”

  “He’s busy, I’m busy. And he travels quite a bit. Our lifestyles are very different, though he’s certainly more stable and steady than most expect from a rocker.”

  Eve said nothing for a moment. Then blew out a breath. “Jesus, you’re serious about him.”

  “I don’t know that I am. Or he is. We are.” Nadine tossed her compact back in the enormous bowels of her bag. “We only started seeing each other a few weeks ago, and I’m not looking for serious anyway. We’re not even exclusive. Not that I’m seeing anybody else right now, because I’m busy. God, I really like him. I need coffee, since you won’t have any booze in here.”

  Eve turned to the AutoChef, and Nadine dropped down in the desk chair.

  “You know, I have my own show, and Now’s ratings are solid. They’re rock solid. I have the desk at Seventy-Five. I have one bestseller under my belt, and I’m up for a goddamn Oscar for the screenplay adaptation. I’ve written another book, and it’s damn well going to be a bestseller. I have an amazing new apartment, and I’m actually thinking about buying a vacation home in Aruba or somewhere, though when the hell am I going to actually use it for more than a blink of time because I’m busy.”

  “Yeah, you said.” Eve handed Nadine coffee.

  “So why did I get it into my head to take on this teenager?”

  “I think you said something about mentoring and molding.”

  “Yeah, yeah, and I wasn’t even drunk at the time. I’m taking on this smart, sly kid because I lost my mind. Why the hell am I getting tangled up on the personal side with a rock star?”

  “He bangs right?”

  “Funny. And that would be one thing, that’s the okay, this is fun, no worries. But there are so many aspects to him. The music, and that’s core to him. The audience, and they matter to him. His bandmates, they’re like family. And he’s interesting and aware. He’s not an asshole.”

  “Not being an asshole’s important.”

  “It is!”

  “Who’s arguing?”

  Nadine sighed. “I am.”

  “Do we have to go have ice cream now or something?”

&nb
sp; Nadine’s sigh turned into the gimlet eye. “No.”

  “Are you going to give me the brownie you’ve got stashed in that blimp you haul around?”

  “How do you know I have a brownie in my purse?”

  “I can smell it. Give.”

  Nadine took it out, held it out. Eve unwrapped it, bit in.

  “Do you want to know the actual reason you’re here?”

  “Yes.” Nadine swiped her hands in the air, made a shoving motion. “The other is now outside the door.” She gestured to the board. “And, as I’m telling my young apprentice, reporters observe. You’ve got a suspect. Two. Working together?”

  “Observe more closely.”

  Obliging, Nadine rose, walked to the board, studied the shots from the vid palace’s feed. “One. That’s the same person? Entering a male,” she noted. “Sunshades, watch cap, bulky coat. Leaving as female. Truly horrible coat, pom-pom earflap hat, those ridiculous wind goggles. But … same boots, same pants. Wait, wait—that’s … that’s Dark Days, that killing. The actress, the vid. And the killer was male.”

  Eyes sparking, Nadine turned back. “Not just killing someone representing a character, but killing as a character.”

  “We’re not going public with that.”

  “Ouch.”

  “I’ve got a line on her, Nadine: wannabe writer, obsessed with DeLano. I’ve got correspondence.”

  Eve summed it up quickly.

  “How is Blaine dealing?”

  “She’s hiring security. She’ll be smart.”

  “I’m going to talk to her about this. I’ll keep her name out of it as long as possible. What are you looking for with the one-on-one?”

  “We’ve linked two cases, and are investigating them as connected. We believe we’re looking for one suspect. I’m primary on both cases. I’m heading a team focused on bringing this individual to justice. You’ll ask what you ask. I’ll give you the ‘can’t comment’ when I can’t, give you a few juicy bits when I can. She needs to see me as an adversary. I don’t think it’ll take her off DeLano, she’s too dug in. But it will give her something to worry about. It’ll shake the bubble she’s living in. It may damn well pop it.”

  Jiggling a foot, Nadine nodded. “You’re changing the plot on her, writing yourself in. I can tell you that introducing a major element, like a new antagonist, changes everything.”

  “I’m counting on it. Let’s get it done.” Eve hit the interoffice. “Peabody, send Nadine’s camera in.”

  Nadine took out the compact again, and this time actually did check her face, dusted her nose, then glanced over as not only the camerawoman but Quilla came to the door.

  “You’re on bullpen observation.”

  Quilla stood very straight, turned to the camerawoman, who grinned back at her. “The detectives and uniformed officers who inhabit the Homicide bullpen at NYPSD’s Cop Central may spend some parts of their shifts at desks, talking on ’links, writing reports, meticulously gathering data on investigations. But these often tedious tasks are as essential a part of the job they perform as confronting suspects and apprehending killers. They perform these duties with dedication and with a kind of intricate camaraderie, like soldiers during a battle lull. Their standards, their duty, their ethics are encapsulated in the motto they’ve posted in the bullpen to remind them what it is to carry a badge and work for the victim.

  “It reads: ‘No matter your race, creed, sexual orientation, or political affiliation, we protect and serve, because you could get dead. Even if you were an asshole.’

  “These are the words the brave men and women of the NYPSD, Homicide Division, live by.”

  Nadine touched up her lip dye. “You ran over the thirty, so you’d need some editing. And you’ve fallen back on passive voice here and there. Example: ‘The motto in their bullpen speaks for itself.’ Then you quote it. Active voice, fewer words.”

  “Got it. Can I observe the one-on-one?”

  “Stay off-camera, and keep it zipped.”

  As Quilla pumped a fist at her side, Nadine saw her eyes track to Eve’s board. It made her proud. “That’s off the record,” she said briskly. “Any journalist who doesn’t respect off the record has no ethics, and doesn’t deserve to be a journalist.”

  “I’ve got that, too. Can I ask you questions later?”

  “Why would I want an intern who didn’t ask questions?” Nadine returned. “But right now, zipped. No visual of the board,” she added to the camerawoman as she rose. “Let’s see how it looks by that sorry excuse for a window. A little slice of the city outside, the murder cop all in fuck-you black, the hard-driving crime beat reporter in her serious, if elegant, plum. How’s the light?”

  “Second,” the camerawoman muttered as she made adjustments. “Good. Good light.”

  “Content’s the big guns,” Nadine told Quilla as she took her angle. “But on air, if you want those bullets to penetrate, visuals matter. We’ll do the intro back at the station, so a straight-on two-shot. In three, two … Lieutenant Dallas,” she began.

  Nadine hit all the points. Eve kept it short and pithy, and tossed in a touch of arrogance with one viewer in mind. She judged it a satisfying use of her time, and calculated Nadine would have it on air within an hour—with repeat showings through the evening.

  Before she could get back to her desk, Peabody came in. “Got you another skank, in fact, two for one. Turns out they’re frenemies and came in together.”

  Eve considered. “I’ll take them together then. It may have more impact that way.”

  “I’ll set them up. Oh, and I may have a line on the fabric—and now I’m pretty sure you’re right about her making that coat. I’m waiting for a tag back. How about that Quilla?”

  “How about her?”

  “Seriously, Dallas, she’s really excited about working with Nadine. Talk about impact. It’s the kind of opportunity that can change the direction of a life. She told me she binge-watched, like, six hours of Nadine’s reports and some of Now, and she put in a request to read The Icove Agenda. She really wants to learn.”

  Peabody pulled out her signaling ’link. “That’s my tag-back.”

  “Take it. I’ll set up the skanks.”

  “They’re right outside the bullpen.”

  Eve went out, studied the pair of them. Decided they’d entered a contest on who could present a skankier appearance.

  She judged it a tie.

  “I’m Lieutenant Dallas.”

  The one on the left rolled her thickly kolhed eyes at the one on the right with the tattoo on the vast landscape revealed by the low scoop of her skin top that read: SEXY BITCH

  Sexy Bitch said, “B to the FD.”

  Her companion laughed so hard it made the cock-and-balls earrings hanging from her lobes dance and spin.

  Eve led them to Interview, spent nearly thirty minutes delivering the warning. Cock and Balls seemed genuinely frightened, enough she ignored Sexy Bitch’s derision, and stated she intended to go stay with her mother in New Jersey for a few days.

  Sexy Bitch claimed no crazy cunt scared her, and nobody messed with her good time. But Eve read fear in her eyes.

  When she released them, Eve sat in the relative peace of the box and wondered what set a life in the direction of sporting genitalia as an accessory, or having somebody carve “Sexy Bitch” into your flesh.

  Peabody gave the door a quick rap, opened it. “Dallas, I hit two outlets that carry the fabric. And the fact the fabric exists makes it a damn sure bet that coat was handmade. I think the outlet on the Lower East Side’s the best shot. I talked the manager into looking up sales of three yards or more prior to Christmas. She’s got one for five yards, logged in on Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving. It’s the only sale of enough yardage to make that coat.”

  Eve rose. “Good work.”

  “The clerk who logged it’s on a break, but she’s due back in twenty.”

  “Let’s go talk to her.”

  “We can d
o a skank run while we’re at it. One on the list lives a couple blocks from the outlet.”

  Eve thought of the four women she’d already dealt with. “I’m going to need more coffee.”

  Peabody worked her ’link as they made their way to the garage.

  “Another outlet—Brooklyn. It’s the first I found in Brooklyn.” Peabody slid into the car, strapped in. “I hit there first, figuring if she lives there, she’d go for fabric stores there, but this is the first I’ve found that confirms that fabric. Still, they don’t have a record of a sale over two yards.”

  “Maybe she works at a fabric store.”

  “Even employees have to log the yardage. Otherwise, the manager or owner doesn’t know what’s selling for inventory and reorders. Or what’s low on yardage and maybe going on remnants or clearance. You can get some really nice remnants for small projects and crafts. And the fact is, the people I’ve talked to all say the same thing. That particular fabric sells primarily one to two yards. Something for kids, for a craft. A lot of one-yard sales for winter and holiday crafty gifts and decorations.”

  “Whether or not she lives in Brooklyn, she has to come over the bridge to study and stalk her targets. No reason she can’t shop while she’s over here.”

  “That’s what I thought, and I think this place is where she shopped. It’s not that popular a fabric. I only found four places, all boroughs, that carried it at all, and only this one with the right yardage.

  “She might’ve bought it online.” But Peabody shook her head even as she considered it. “I’ve bought fabric—more like a sample of it—that way if I really know what I want and can’t find it in my usual spots. But that fabric? How could she decide she had to have penguins all over the coat? What she’d want is something easy to work with. Why would she care about pattern?”

  “I think, considering the pattern she used, she didn’t.”

  “Exactly, and Black Friday. It was on sale.”

  Watching the budget, Eve thought. Shop the big sale, buy the cheap. “Look for a silly pattern—who thinks stone killer when they look at a bunch of penguins? Girlie pattern. Come in as a guy, leave as a girl. Again, who’s going to look twice?”

 
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