Conspiracy in death, p.21
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.21

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

  "We'll straighten it out. You'll get it back. I promise you." She was shaking so violently, it seemed her bones would crash together and shatter. He sat, tightened his grip. "Just hold onto me."

  "Don't go away."

  "No, baby, I'll stay right here."

  She wept until he feared she'd be ill; then the sobs faded away, and she was limp in his arms. Like a broken doll, he thought. He ordered a soother and took her to bed. She, who would fight taking a painkiller if she were bleeding from a dozen wounds, sipped the sedative he brought to her lips without protest.

  He undressed her as he would an exhausted child.

  "They made me nothing again."

  He looked down at her face, into eyes, hollow and heavy. "No, Eve."

  "Nothing." She turned her head away, closed her eyes, and escaped.

  • • • •

  She'd been nothing. A vessel, a victim, a child. One more statistic sucked into an overburdened, understaffed system. She'd tried to sleep then, too, in the narrow bed in the hospital ward that smelled of sickness and approaching death. Moans, weeping, the monotonous beep, beep, beep of machines, and the quiet slap of rubber soles on worn linoleum.

  Pain, riding just under the surface of the drugs that dripped into her bloodstream. Like a cloud full of thunder that threatened from a distance but never quite split and spilled.

  She was eight, or so they'd told her. And she was broken.

  Questions, so many questions from the cops and social workers she'd been taught to fear.

  "They'll throw you into a hole, little girl. A deep, dark hole."

  She would wake from the twilight sleep of drugs to his voice, sly and drunk, in her ear. And she would bite back screams.

  The doctor would come with his grave eyes and rough hands. He was busy, busy, busy. She could see it in his eyes, in the sharp sound of his voice when he spoke to the nurses.

  He didn't have time to waste on the wards, on the poor and the pathetic who crowded them.

  A pin…was there a gold pin on his lapel that winked in the lights? Snakes, coiled up and facing each other.

  She dreamed within the dream that the snakes turned on her, leaped on her, hissing with fangs that dug into flesh and drew fresh blood.

  The doctor hurt her, often, through simple hurry and carelessness. But she didn't complain. They hurt you more, she knew, if you complained.

  And his eyes looked like the snakes' eyes. Hard and cruel.

  "Where are your parents?"

  The cops would ask her. Would sit by the bed, more patient than the doctor. They snuck her candy now and then because she was a child with lost eyes who rarely spoke and never smiled. One brought her a little stuffed dog for company. Someone stole it the same day, but she remembered the soft feel of its fur and the kind pity in the cop's eyes.

  "Where is your mother?"

  She would only shake her head, close her eyes.

  She didn't know. Did she have a mother? There was no memory, nothing but that sly whisper in her ear that had fear jittering through her. She learned to block it out, to block it all out. Until there was no one and nothing before the narrow bed in the hospital ward.

  The social worker with her bright, practiced smile that looked false and tired around the edges. "We'll call you Eve Dallas."

  That's not who I am, she thought, but she only stared. I'm nothing. I'm no one.

  But they called her Eve in the group homes, in the foster homes, and she learned to be Eve. She learned to fight when pushed, to stand on the line she'd drawn, to become what she needed to become. First to survive. Then with purpose. Since middle childhood, the purpose had been to earn a badge, to make a difference, to stand for those who were no one.

  One day when she stood in her stiff, formal uniform, her life had been put in her hands. Her life was a shield.

  "Congratulations, Dallas, Officer Eve. The New York Police and Security Department is proud to have you."

  In that moment, the thrill and the duty had burned through her like light in a strong, fierce blaze that had seared away all the shadows. And finally, she'd become someone.

  "I have to ask for your badge and your weapon."

  She whimpered in sleep. Going to her, Roarke stroked her hair, took her hand, until she settled again.

  Moving quietly, he walked to the 'link in the sitting area and called Peabody.

  "Tell me what's going on here."

  "She's home? She's all right?"

  "She's home, and no, she's far from all right. What the hell have they done to her?"

  "I'm at the Drake. Feeney's running the interviews we'd set up, but they're running late. I've only got a minute. Bowers was murdered last night. Dallas is a suspect."

  "What kind of insanity is that?"

  "It's bogus—everybody knows it—but it's procedure."

  "Fuck procedure."

  "Yeah." The image of his face on her screen, the cold, predatory look in those amazing eyes, had her fighting back a shudder. "Look, I don't have a lot of details. They're keeping the lid on Baxter—he's primary—but I got that Bowers had all this stuff about Dallas written down. Weird stuff. Sex and corruption, bribery, false reports."

  He glanced back at Eve when she stirred restlessly. "Is no one considering the source?"

  "The source is a dead cop." She ran a hand over her face. "We'll do whatever it takes to get her back and get her back fast. Feeney's going to do a deep-level search on Bowers," she said, lowering her voice.

  "Tell him that won't be necessary. He can contact me. I already have that data."

  "But how—"

  "Tell him to contact me, Peabody. What's Baxter's full name and rank?"

  "Baxter? Detective, David. He won't talk to you, Roarke. He can't."

  "I'm not interested in talking to him. Where's McNab?"

  "He's back at Central, running data."

  "I'll be in touch."

  "Roarke wait. Tell Dallas…tell her whatever you think she needs to hear."

  "She'll need you, Peabody." He broke transmission.

  He left Eve sleeping. Information was power, he thought. He intended for her to have all the power he could gather.

  • • • •

  "I'm sorry to keep you waiting, Detective…"

  "Captain," Feeney said, sizing up the slickly groomed man in the Italian suit. "Captain Feeney, filling in temporarily for Lieutenant Dallas as primary. I'll be conducting the interview."

  "Oh." Waverly's expression showed mild puzzlement. "I hope the lieutenant isn't unwell."

  "Dallas knows how to take care of herself. Peabody, on record."

  "On record, sir."

  "So official." After a slight shrug, Waverly smiled and sat behind his massive oak desk.

  "That's right." Feeney read off the revised Miranda, cocked a brow. "You get that?"

  "Of course. I understand my rights and obligations. I didn't think I required a lawyer for this procedure. I'm more than willing to cooperate with the police."

  "Then tell me your whereabouts on the following dates and times." Referring to his notebook, Feeney read off the dates of the three murders in New York.

  "I'll need to check my calendar to be sure." Waverly swiveled a sleek black box, laid his palm on top to activate it, then requested his schedule for the times in question.

  Off duty and clear during first period. Off duty and clear during second period. On call and at Drake Center monitoring patient Clifford during third period.

  "Relay personal schedule," Waverly requested.

  No engagements scheduled during first period. Engagement with Larin Stevens, booked for overnight during second period. No engagements scheduled during third period.

  "Larin, yes." He smiled again, with a twinkle. "We went to the theater, had a late supper at my home. We also shared breakfast, if you understand my meaning, Captain."

  "That's Stevens," Feeney said briskly as he entered the name in his book. "You got an address?"

  All warmth fl
ed. "My assistant will provide you with it. I'd like the police connection to my personal friends kept to a minimum. It's very awkward."

  "Pretty awkward for the dead, too, Doctor. We'll check out your friend and your patient. Even if they clear you for two of the periods, we've still got one more."

  "A man's entitled to spend the night alone in his own bed occasionally, Captain."

  "Sure is." Feeney leaned back. "So, you pop hearts and lungs out of people."

  "In a manner of speaking." The smile was back, digging charming creases into his cheeks. "The Drake has some of the finest organ transplant and research facilities in the world."

  "What about your connections with the Canal Street Clinic?"

  Waverly raised a brow. "I don't believe I know that facility."

  "It's a free clinic downtown."

  "I'm not associated with any free clinics. I paid my dues there during my early years. You'll find most doctors who work or volunteer at such places are very young, very energetic, and very idealistic."

  "So you stopped working on the poor. Not worth it?"

  Unoffended, he folded his hands on the desk. Peeking out from under his cuff was the smooth, thin gold of a Swiss wrist unit. "Financially, no. Professionally, there's little chance for advancement in that area. I chose to use my knowledge and skill where it best suits me and leave the charity work for those who are suited to it."

  "You're supposed to be the best."

  "Captain, I am the best."

  "So, tell me—in your professional opinion…" Feeney reached in his file, drew out copies of the crime scene stills and laid them on the highly polished surface of the desk. "Is that good work?"

  "Hmm." Eyes cool, Waverly turned the photos toward him, studied them. "Very clean, excellent." He shifted his gaze briefly to Feeney. "Horrible, of course, on a human level, you understand, but you asked for a professional opinion. And mine is that the surgeon who performed here is quite brilliant. To have managed this under the circumstances, with what certainly had to be miserable conditions, is a stunning achievement."

  "Could you have done it?"

  "Do I possess the skills?" Waverly nudged the photos back toward Feeney. "Why, yes."

  "What about this one?" He tossed the photo of the last victim on top of the others, watched Waverly glance down and frown.

  "Poorly done. This is poorly done. One moment." He pulled open a drawer, pulled out microgoggles, and slipped them on. "Yes, yes, the incision appears to be perfect. The liver has been removed quite cleanly, but nothing was done to seal off, to maintain a clear and sterile field. Very poorly done."

  "Funny," Feeney said dryly, "I thought the same thing about all of them."

  • • • •

  "Cold son of a bitch," Feeney muttered later. He paused in the corridor, checked his wrist unit. "Let's find Wo, chat her up, see about getting a look at where they keep the pieces of people they pull out. Jesus, I hate these places."

  "That's what Dallas always says."

  "Keep her out of your head for now," he said shortly. He was working hard to keep her out of his and do the job. "If we're going to help her close this, you need to keep her troubles out of your head."

  Face grim, he strode down the corridor, then glanced over as Peabody fell into step beside him. "Make an extra copy of all data and interview discs."

  She met his gaze, read it, and for the first time during the long morning, smiled. "Yes, sir."

  "Christ, stop sirring me to death."

  Now Peabody grinned. "She used to say that, too. Now she's used to it."

  The shadows in his eyes lifted briefly. "Going to whip me into shape, too, Peabody?"

  Behind his back, Peabody wiggled her brows. She didn't think it would take her much time to do just that. She fixed her face into sober lines when he knocked on Wo's door.

  An hour later, Peabody was staring, horrified and fascinated, at a human heart preserved in thin blue gel.

  "The facilities here," Wo was saying, "are arguably the finest in the world for organ research. It was at this facility, though it was not as expansive as it is today, that Dr. Drake discovered and refined the anti-cancer vaccine. This portion of the center is dedicated to the study of diseases and conditions, including aging, that adversely affect human organs. In addition, we continue to study and refine techniques for organ replacement."

  The lab was as large as a heliport, Feeney decided, sectioned off here and there with thin white partitions. Dozens of people in long coats of white, pale green, or deep blue worked at stations, manning computers, compu-scopes, or tools he didn't recognize.

  It was quiet as a church. None of the open-air background music some large facilities employed whispered through the lab, and when he inhaled, the air tasted faintly of antiseptic. He made certain he breathed through his nose.

  They stood in a section where organs were displayed in the gel-filled bottles, the labels attached to the bases.

  At the near door, a security droid stood silently, in case, Feeney thought with a sneer, somebody got the sudden urge to grab a bladder and run for it.

  Jesus, what a place.

  "Where do you get your specimens?" Feeney asked Wo, and she turned to him with a frigid look.

  "We do not remove them from live, unwilling patients. Dr. Young?"

  Bradley Young was thin, tall, and obviously distracted. He turned from his work at a sheer white counter populated with scopes and monitors and compu-slides. He frowned, pinched off the magni-clip he wore perched on his nose, and focused pale gray eyes.


  "This is Captain Feeney and his…assistant," she supposed, "from the police department. Dr. Young is our chief research technician. Would you explain how we go about collecting our specimens here for research?"

  "Of course." He ran a hand over his hair. It was thin, like his bones, like his face, and the color of bleached wheat. "Many of our specimens are more than thirty years old," he began. "This heart for example." He moved across the blinding white floor to the container where Peabody had been standing. "It was removed from a patient twenty-eight years ago. As you can see, there is considerable damage. The patient had suffered three serious cardiac arrests. This heart was removed and replaced with one of the first runs of the NewLife unit. He is now, at the age of eighty-nine, alive, well, and living in Bozeman, Montana."

  Young smiled winningly. He considered that his finest joke. "The specimens were all either donated by patients themselves or next of kin in the event of death, or acquired through a licensed organ broker."

  "You can account for all of them."

  Young just stared at Feeney. "Account for?"

  "You got paperwork on all of them, ID?"

  "Certainly. This department is very organized. Every specimen is properly documented. Its donor or brokerage information, its date of removal, the condition at time of removal, surgeon, and team. In addition, any specimen that is studied on premises or off must be logged in and out."

  "You take these things out of here?"

  "On occasion, certainly." Looking baffled, he glanced at Dr. Wo, who merely waved a hand for him to continue. "Other facilities might request a specific specimen with a specific flaw for study. We have a loan and a sale policy with several other centers around the world."

  Click, Feeney thought, and took out his book. "How about these?" he asked, and read off Eve's list.

  Again, Young glanced at Wo, and again received a go-ahead signal. "Yes, those are all what we would consider sister facilities."

  "Ever been to Chicago?"

  "A number of times. I don't understand."

  "Captain," Wo interrupted. "This is becoming tedious."

  "My job's not filled with high points," he said easily. "How about giving me the data on the organs you checked in here within the last six weeks."

  "I—I—that data is confidential."

  "Peabody," Feeney began, keeping his eyes on the suddenly nervous Young, "start warrant procedures."

  "One moment; that won't be necessary." Wo gestured Peabody back in a way that had Peabody's eyes narrowing. "Dr. Young, get the captain the data he requested."

  "But it's confidential material." His face set suddenly in stubborn lines. "I don't have clearance."

  "I'm clearing it," she snapped. "I'll speak with Dr. Cagney. The responsibility is mine. Get the data."

  "We appreciate your cooperation," Feeney told her.

  She turned dark, cold eyes on him when Young left to retrieve the data. "I want you out of this lab and this center as soon as possible. You're disrupting important work."

  "Catching killers probably doesn't rate as high on your scale as poking at livers, but we all gotta earn our pay-check. You know what this is?" He took the sealed pin out of his pocket, held it at eye level.

  "Of course. It's a caduceus. I have one very much like it."


  "Where? At home, I imagine."

  "I noticed some of the docs around here wearing one. I guess you don't wear yours to work."

  "Not as a rule, no." But she reached up, as if out of habit, running her fingers on her unadorned lapel. "If you're done with me now, I have a great deal of work."

  "We're done, for now. But I have a couple of more interviews set for tomorrow. I'd like to see your pin, if you'd bring it in."

  "My pin?"

  "That's right. Someone lost one recently." He lifted the one he held a little higher. "I need to make sure it wasn't you."

  She tightened her lips and walked away.

  "A lot of steam in that one, Peabody. We'll take a closer look at her when we get back to Central."

  "She used to be president of the AMA," Peabody remembered. "Waverly's current president. The AMA put pressure on East Washington to put pressure on the mayor to put pressure on us to kick the case."

  "Wheels in wheels," Feeney murmured. "Let's get this data back and see what rolls out of them. Now, what's the deal with Vanderhaven?"

  "His interview was scheduled next, but he canceled. Professional emergency." She glanced around to be certain no one was within hearing distance. "I called his office, said I was a patient, and was told the doctor had taken leave for the next ten days."

  "Interesting. Sounds like he doesn't want to talk to us. Get his home address, Peabody. We'll pay a house call."

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