Conspiracy in death, p.19
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.19

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

  "I'm not using him or his money to clean up my mess."

  "You've always been a stubborn bitch, Dallas. It's one of the many things I find attractive about you."

  "Bite me."

  "I did. It didn't take." Eyes sober again, he stepped forward. "I care about you—as a friend and a colleague. I'm warning you, she intends to take you under. And not everyone's going to hold out a hand to keep you from sinking. When you're in the position you've reached—professional and personal—there's a lot of latent jealousy simmering. This is the kind of thing that pops the lid on it."

  "I'll handle it."

  "Fine." He shook his head and started out. "I'll just tell you again: Watch your excellent ass."

  She sat, lowered her head to her hands, and wondered what the hell to do next.

  • • • •

  At the end of her shift, she opted to get the hell out. She took the files with her, including the data Chicago had finally transferred. But she was by God going home on time. A vicious headache kept her company on the drive.

  She was snarled in northbound traffic, between Fifty-first and Fifty-second on Madison when Bowers stomped up the stairs from the subway at Delancy. She was, for Ellen Bowers, decidedly cheerful. As far as she was concerned, she'd scalded Eve Dallas's ass. Fried the bitch, she thought and very nearly skipped down the sidewalk.

  It had been so gratifying to stand in front of a camera, have a reporter nod understandingly, while she detailed all the abuse she'd suffered.

  Man oh man, it was about fucking time it was her face on-screen, her words being heard.

  She'd wanted, oh, she'd wanted to tell them how it had all started years ago, back in the academy when Dallas had walked in and taken over. Fucking taken over. Broken all the records. Yeah, she'd broken them, all right. Broken them by giving instructors blow jobs. Probably gone down on the female supervisors, too. And anybody with any sense knew the slut had been doing Feeney and probably goddamn Whitney for years. God knew what kind of sick sex games she played with Roarke in that big, fancy house.

  Her days were over, Bowers decided and treated herself by stopping into a 24/7 and springing for a quart of chocolate chunky ice cream. She'd eat the whole goddamn quart while she wrote her daily report in her private journal.

  Bitch thought she could kick Ellen Bowers around and get away with it. Surprise, surprise. All that bouncing around from precinct to precinct, from assignment to assignment had finally paid off.

  She had contacts. Damn right. She knew people.

  She knew the right people.

  This time, the destruction of Eve Dallas would be her springboard to fame, respect, and she'd be the one sitting at a desk in Homicide.

  She'd be the one with her face on the screen.

  Yeah, yeah, it was about goddamn time, she thought again as black hate crawled into her belly. And when she was done grinding Dallas into dust, she was going to see to it that prick Trueheart paid for his disloyalty.

  She knew damn well Dallas had let him fuck her.

  That's the way it was, that's the way it worked. That's why she'd never let some slick-talking creep stick his dick into her. She knew what people thought; she knew what people said. Sure she did.

  They said she was a troublemaker. They said she was a sloppy cop. They said maybe she had a little blip in the brain somewhere.

  They were all assholes, every last one of them, from Tibble right on down to Trueheart.

  They weren't going to slide her quietly out of the department, shake her loose of the job with half pension. She'd fucking own the NYPSD when she was done.

  All of them were coming down, all of them, starting with Dallas.

  Because it all started with Dallas.

  The rage worked under her cheer. It was always there, whispering to her. But she could control it. She'd controlled it for years. Because she was smart, smarter than all of them. Every time some department asshole ordered her to take a personality test, she hushed those whispers with a careful dose of Calm-It and passed.

  Maybe she needed higher doses just lately, and it was best if she mixed some Zoner in for a nice soothing cocktail, but she was still in control.

  She knew how to get around the assholes and their tests and their questions. And she knew what buttons to push, you bet she did. Her finger was on the trigger now, and it was staying there.

  She had an inside track—and nobody knew but her. And now she had a nice, tidy pile of untraceable credits just for doing what she'd wanted to do in the first place: going public.

  Her teeth flashed in a smile as she turned the comer and headed down the dark street toward her building. She was going to be rich, famous, powerful, as she was meant to be.

  And with a little help from her friend, she'd pin Dallas to the wall.

  "Officer Bowers?"

  "Yeah?" Eyes narrowed, she turned, peered into the dark. Her hand lowered, hovered near her stunner. "What?"

  "I have a message. From your friend."

  "Oh yeah?" Her hand shifted, reached up to pat her container of ice cream. "What's the message?"

  "It's delicate. We need privacy."

  "No problem." She stepped forward, thrilled that there might be more she could use. "Come on up."

  "I'm afraid you need to come down." The droid leaped out of the dark, his eyes colorless, his face blank. He swung the metal pipe once, cracking it against the side of her head before she could suck in air to scream.

  The ice cream flew, landed with a splat. Blood smeared the sidewalk as he dragged her across. Her body bounced with muffled bumps on the stairs as he pulled it through the open basement door and down.

  Efficiently, he climbed up again, locked the door. He didn't need the light. He'd been programmed to see in the dark. Quickly, he stripped off the uniform, took her ID, her weapon, and bundled all, including the pipe, in the large bag he'd brought with him. It would be placed in a recycle bin he'd already chosen and sabotaged.

  And there in the cold dark, with emotionless skill, he used his hands and feet to break her to pieces.


  "Sloppy, half-assed work." Eve fumed as she paced Roarke's office. She had to bitch to someone, and he was there. He made sympathetic noises while he scanned an incoming fax and went over the latest progress report from one of his largest interplanetary undertakings, the Olympus Resort.

  It occurred to him that the resort could use another personal visit and that his wife could use a vacation. He made a mental note to work it in around their schedules.

  "Two different primaries," she continued, striding around the office. "Two different cops, and both of them fucked up the case. What are they using to train them in Chicago—old videos of the Three Boobs?"

  "I think that's Stooges," Roarke murmured.


  He glanced up, focused fully on her, and smiled at the absolute baffled fury on her face. "Stooges, darling. The Three Stooges."

  "What's the difference, they're still incompetent knot-heads. Half the paperwork's missing. There's no documentation of witness interviews or reports, the postmortem documents are lost. They did manage to ID the victim, but nobody did a background check. Or if it was done, it's not in the file."

  Roarke made some notations on the fax—a small adjustment that dealt with approximately three quarters of a million and change, and shot it off to his midtown office and his assistant's attention. "What do you have?"

  "A dead guy," she snapped, "with a missing heart." She frowned as Roarke rose and walked over to select a bottle of wine from his chill box. "I can see one cop screwing up a case. I don't like it, but I can see it. But two cops screwing up the same one, it just doesn't hold. And now both of them are out of touch, so I'm going to have to do some dance with their boss tomorrow."

  She had so much anger and frustration bottled up inside her. "Maybe somebody got to them. Bribed, threatened. Shit. The leak on this might not just be in the NYPSD, it might be all over the damn place

  "And your interfering senator is from the great state of Illinois, as I recall."

  "Yeah." Christ, she hated politics. "I have to clear it with the commander, but I should probably dance with this Chicago boss in person."

  Taking his time, Roarke poured two glasses, carried both across the room to stand in front of her. "I'll take you."

  "It's cop business."

  "And you're my cop." He lifted her hand, curled her fingers around the stem of the glass. "You won't go to Chicago without me, Eve. That's personal. Now, drink some wine and tell me the rest."

  She could have argued, for form's sake. But it seemed like a waste of energy. "Bowers filed a couple more complaints." She ordered herself to relax her jaw and sip. "She was first on scene this morning, and she caused trouble so I relieved her of duty. It's on record, and when they review, they won't be able to fault my actions, but she's really getting in my face."

  Her stomach muscles began to tighten with tension as she spoke of it, thought of it. "My contact at IAB came down to warn me she's stirring the pot, that she went to the media."

  "Darling, the world is full of assholes and morons." He reached up, skimmed a finger down the shallow dent in her chin. "Most are surprisingly recognizable. She'll end up sinking herself."

  "Yeah, eventually, but Webster's worried."


  "The guy I know in IAB."

  "Ah." Hoping to distract her a little, he cupped a hand at the back of her neck, rubbed. "I don't believe I've heard that name before. And how well do you know him, darling?"

  "We don't run into each other much anymore."

  "But there was a time…"

  She shrugged, would have shifted, but his fingers tightened just enough to make her eyes narrow. "It was nothing. It was a long time ago."

  "What was?"

  "When we got drunk and naked and bounced around on each other," she said between her teeth. "Happy?"

  He chuckled, leaned in to kiss her lightly. "I'm devastated. Now you'll have to get drunk and naked and bounce around with me to make up for it."

  It wouldn't have hurt her ego, she realized, if he'd pretended to be just a little jealous. "I've got work."

  "Me, too." He set his glass aside, pulled her against him. "You are such work, Lieutenant."

  She turned her head, told herself she was not going to enjoy the way his teeth scraped along her neck at just the perfect point. "I'm not drunk, pal."

  "Well." He nipped the glass out of her hand, put it down. "Two out of three works for me," he decided and pulled her to the floor.

  • • • •

  When the blood stopped roaring in her head and she could think again, she told herself she would not let him know she'd enjoyed being ravished on the office floor. "Well, you had your fun, ace, now get off of me."

  With a little humming sound, he burrowed against her throat. "I love the taste of you. Right here." As he nibbled, he felt her heart pick up speed again and kick against his. "More?"

  "No, cut it out." Her blood was starting to buzz again. "I've got work." She shoved at him, putting some muscle behind it while she still could. There was a combination of relief and disappointment when he rolled aside.

  She scrambled up, grabbed his shirt as it was closest to hand. She sent him a bland look. Christ, was all she could think, the man had such a body. "You going to lie there, naked and smug, all night?"

  "I would, but we have work to do."


  "Mmm." He rose and settled for his trousers. "Your missing documents. If they ever existed, I can get them back for you."

  "You can—" She stopped herself, holding up a hand. "I don't want to know how you could manage that, I really don't. But I'm going to handle this through the proper channels."

  As soon as she said it, she wanted to bite her tongue. That little statement was going to make it hard to ask him to dig up data, unofficially, on the Westley Friend suicide.

  "Up to you." He shrugged, picked up his wine again. "But I could probably have your data in a couple of hours."

  It was tempting, too tempting. She shook her head. "I'll just plod along on my own, thanks. That's my 'link," she added, glancing back through the open connecting door to her office.

  "I'll transfer it here." He moved around the desk, tapped a quick series of keys, and had his own 'link beeping. "Roarke."

  "Roarke, damn it, where's Dallas?"

  He kept his gaze on Nadine's image on-screen, catching the brisk shake of Eve's head. "Sorry, Nadine, she's not available right now. Can I do something for you?"

  "Turn on your screen, channel 48. Shit, Roarke. You tell her to call me with a rebuttal. I can get it on live the minute she does."

  "I'll let her know. Thanks." He disengaged, then looked across the room. "View screen on, channel 48."

  Instantly, the screen filled with Bowers's face and a spew of venom. "With three separate complaints filed, the department won't be able to overlook Lieutenant Dallas's corrupt or abusive behavior any longer. Her thirst for power has caused her to cross lines, to ignore regulations, to slant reports, and to misuse witnesses in order to close cases in her favor."

  "Officer Bowers, those are serious accusations."

  "Each one is fact." Bowers jabbed a finger toward the perfectly groomed reporter. "And each will be proven through the internal investigation already under way. I've assured the Internal Affairs Bureau that I'll be turning over all documentation in these matters. Including those that prove Eve Dallas has habitually traded sexual favors for information and for promotions within the NYPSD."

  "Why, you slut," Roarke said easily, and slipped a supportive arm around his wife even as his own blood began to boil. "I'll have to divorce you now."

  "It's not a joke."

  "She's a joke, Eve. A poor and pitiful one. Screen off."

  "No, screen on. I want to hear it all."

  "It's long been suspected, and will be verified, that Dallas's husband, Roarke, is involved in a variety of criminal activities. He was, in fact, a prime suspect in a murder investigation early last year. An investigation Dallas was—conveniently—in charge of. Roarke was not charged in that matter, and Dallas is now the wife of a powerful, wealthy man who uses her connections to cover his own illegal activities."

  "She's gone too far." Under Roarke's hand, Eve began to vibrate with rage. "She's gone too far when she brings you into it."

  His eyes were cool, much too cool, as he studied the face on-screen. "I could hardly be left out."

  "Officer Bowers, by your own admission, Lieutenant Dallas is a powerful, perhaps dangerous, woman." The on-air reporter couldn't keep the gleam of delight out of his eyes. "Tell me, why are you risking going public at this time with your suspicions?"

  "Someone has to speak the truth." Bowers lifted her chin, fixed her face in sober lines and shifted slightly so that she stared directly into the camera. "The department may choose to cover up for a dirty cop, but I honor my uniform too much to be a part of it."

  "They'll hang her for this." Eve drew in a breath, let it out slowly. "However much sticks to me, she's just terminated her own career. They won't transfer her this time. They'll kick her."

  "Screen off," Roarke ordered again, then wrapped Eve in his arms. "She can't hurt you. She can, for the short term, inconvenience and irritate, but that's all. You can, if you like, sue for defamation. She crossed several steps over from freedom of speech. But…" He ran his hands up and down Eve's back. "Take the advice of someone who's dodged those slings and arrows before. Let it go." He pressed a kiss to her forehead, to support and to soothe. "Say no more than necessary. Stay above it, and the longer you do, the quicker it'll pass."

  Closing her eyes, she let him draw her in, cradle her head on his shoulder. "I want to kill her. Just one quick snap of the neck."

  "I can have a droid made up in her likeness. You can kill it as often as you like."

  It made her laugh a little. "It couldn't hurt. Look, I'm going
to try to get some work done. I can't think about her; it makes me crazy."

  "All right." He let her go, slipped his hands into his pockets. "Eve?"

  "Yeah?" She paused in the doorway, glanced back, "You could see it if you looked at her closely, looked at her eyes. She's not quite sane."

  "I did look. And no. No, she's not."

  Therefore, Roarke mused as his wife closed the door between them, Bowers was that much more dangerous. The lieutenant wouldn't approve, he thought, but it couldn't be helped. He would work in his private room that evening, on his unregistered equipment.

  And any and all data on Bowers would be in his hands by morning.

  • • • •

  It was, Eve thought as she sat in her idling vehicle and studied the crowd blocking the gate leading to the house, infuriating enough to have to dodge reporters when it was job-related, when it was on-scene or at Cop Central.

  But it was beyond infuriating to have a three-deep line of reporters screaming questions at her through the ironwork of her own gate. When it was personal. When it had nothing to do with the job.

  She continued to sit, watching the temperature of the crowd rise even as the ambient temperature struggled up to begin to melt the snow in steady drips. Behind her, the foolish snow people she and Roarke had built were losing weight rapidly.

  She considered various options, including Roarke's casual suggestion that they implement the electric current on the gate. In her mind she visualized dozens of drooling reporters jittering with the shock and dropping helplessly to the ground with their eyes rolling back white.

  But she preferred, as always, a more direct approach.

  She turned on the megaphone and started forward at a slow but steady speed.

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