Naked in death, p.23
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       Naked in Death, p.23
 

         Part #1 of In Death series by J. D. Robb  
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  She sniffed, stuck her thumbs in the front pockets of her baggy brown trousers.

  “Here’s his brokerage account. Screen three. Spineless,” Roarke added after a quick scan.

  “What do you mean?”

  “His investments, such as they are. All no risk. Government issue, a few mutual funds, a smattering of blue chip. Everything on-planet.”

  “What’s wrong with that?”

  “Nothing if you’re content to let your money gather dust.” He slanted her a look. “Do you invest, lieutenant?”

  “Yeah, right.” She was still trying to make sense of the abbreviations and percentage points. “I watch the stock reports twice a day.”

  “Not a standard credit account.” He nearly shuddered.

  “So what?”

  “Give me what you have, I’ll double it within six months.”

  She only frowned, struggling to read the brokerage report. “I’m not here to get rich.”

  “Darling,” he corrected in that flowing Irish lilt. “We all are.”

  “How about contributions, political, charities, that kind of thing?”

  “Access tax saving outlay,” Roarke ordered. “Viewing screen two.”

  She waited, impatiently tapping a hand on her thigh. Data scrolled on. “He puts his money where his heart is,” she muttered, scanning his payments to the Conservative Party, DeBlass’s campaign fund.

  “Not particularly generous otherwise. Hmm.” Roarke’s brow lifted. “Interesting, a very hefty gift to Moral Values.”

  “That’s an extremist group, isn’t it?”

  “I’d call it that, the faithful prefer to think of it as an organization dedicated to saving all of us sinners from ourselves. DeBlass is a strong proponent.”

  But she was flipping through her own mental files. “They’re suspected of sabotaging the main data banks at several large contraception control clinics.”

  Roarke clucked his tongue. “All those women deciding for themselves if and when they want to conceive, how many children they want. What’s the world coming to? Obviously, someone has to bring them back to their senses.”

  “Right.” Dissatisfied, Eve stuck her hands in her pockets. “It’s a dangerous connection for someone like Simpson. He likes to play middle of the road. He ran on a Moderate ticket.”

  “Cloaking his Conservative ties and leanings. In the last few years he’s been cautiously removing the layers. He wants to be governor, perhaps believes DeBlass can put him there. Politics is a bartering game.”

  “Politics. Sharon DeBlass’s blackmail disc was heavy on politicians. Sex, murder, politics,” Eve murmured. “The more things change . . .”

  “Yes, the more they remain the same. Couples still indulge in courting rituals, humans still kill humans, and politicians still kiss babies and lie.”

  Something wasn’t quite right, and she wished for Feeney again. Twentieth-century murders, she thought, twentieth-century motives. There was one other thing that hadn’t changed over the last millennium. Taxes.

  “Can we get his IRS data? The past three years?”

  “That’s a little trickier.” His mouth had already quirked up at the challenge.

  “It’s also a federal offense. Listen, Roarke—”

  “Just hold on a minute.” He pressed a button and a manual keyboard slipped out of the console. With some surprise, Eve watched his fingers fly over the keys. “Where’d you learn to do that?” Even with required department training, she was barely competent on manual.

  “Here and there,” he said absently, “in my misspent youth. I have to get around the security. It’s going to take some time. Why don’t you pour us some more wine?”

  “Roarke, I shouldn’t have asked.” An attack of conscience had her walking to him. “I can’t let this come back on you—”

  “Ssh.” His brows drew together in concentration as he maneuvered his way through the security labyrinth.

  “But—”

  He head snapped up, impatience vivid in his eyes. “We’ve already opened the door, Eve. Now we go through, or we turn away from it.”

  Eve thought of three women, dead because she hadn’t been able to stop it. Hadn’t known enough to stop it. With a nod, she turned away again. The clatter of the keyboard resumed.

  She poured the wine, then moved to stand in front of the screens. Tidy as they came, she mused. Top credit rating, prompt payment of debts, conservative and, she assumed, relatively small investments. Surely that was more money than average spent on clothes, wine shops, and jewelry. But it wasn’t a crime to have expensive taste. Not when you paid for it. Even the second home wasn’t a criminal offense.

  Some of the contributions were dicey for a registered Moderate, but still, not criminal.

  She heard Roarke curse softly and looked back. But he was hunkered over the keyboard. She might not have been there. Odd, she wouldn’t have guessed he had the technical skills to access manually. According to Feeney, it was almost a lost art except in tech-clerks and hackers.

  Yet here he was, the rich, the privileged, the elegant, clattering over a problem usually delegated to a low-paid, overworked office drone.

  For a moment, she let herself forget about the business at hand and smiled at him.

  “You know, Roarke, you’re kind of cute.”

  She realized it was the first time she’d really surprised him. His head came up, and his eyes were startled—for perhaps two heartbeats. Then that sly smile came into them. The one that made her own pulse jitter.

  “You’re going to have to do better than that, lieutenant. I’ve got you in.”

  “No shit?” Excitement flooded through her as she whirled back to the screens. “Put it up.”

  “Screens four, five, six.”

  “There’s his bottom line.” She frowned over gross income. “It’s about right, wouldn’t you say—salarywise.”

  “A bit of interest and dividends from investments.” Roarke scrolled pages. “A few honorariums for personal appearances and speeches. He lives close, but just within his means, according to all of the data shown.”

  “Hell.” She tossed back wine. “What other data is there?”

  “For a sharp woman, that’s an incredibly naive question. Underground accounts,” he explained. “Two sets of books is a tried and true and very traditional method of hiding illicit income.”

  “If you had illicit income, why would you be stupid enough to document it?”

  “A question for the ages. But people do. Oh yes, they do. Yes,” he said, answering her unspoken question as to his own bookkeeping methods. “Of course I do.”

  She shot him a hard look. “I don’t want to know about it.”

  He only moved his shoulders. “The point being, because I do, I know how it’s done. Everything’s above board here, wouldn’t you say?” With a few commands he had the IRS reports merged on one screen. “Now let’s go down a level. Computer, Simpson, Edward T., foreign accounts.”

  “No known data.”

  “There’s always more data,” Roarke murmured, undeterred. He went back to the keyboard, and something began to hum.

  “What’s that noise?”

  “It’s just telling me I’m hitting a wall.” Like a laborer, he flicked open the buttons at his cuffs, rolled up his sleeves. The gesture made Eve smile. “And if there’s a wall, there’s something behind it.”

  He continued to work, one handed, and sipped his wine. When he repeated his command, the response had shifted.

  “Data protected.”

  “Ah, now we’ve got it.”

  “How can you—”

  “Ssh,” he ordered again and had Eve subsiding into impatient silence. “Computer, run numerical and alphabetical combinations for passkey.”

  Pleased with the progress, he pushed back. “This will take a little time. Why don’t you come here?”

  “Can you show me how you—” She broke off, shocked, when Roarke pulled her into his lap. “Hey, this is
important.”

  “So’s this.” He took her mouth, sliding his hand up her hip to just under the curve of her breast. “It could take an hour, maybe more, to find the key.” Those quick, clever hands were already moving under her sweater. “You don’t like to waste time, as I recall.”

  “No, I don’t.” It was the first time in her life she’d ever sat on anyone’s lap, and the sensation wasn’t at all unpleasant. She was sinking, but the next mechanical hum had her pulling back. Speechless, she stared at the bed gliding out of a panel in the side wall. “The man who has everything,” she managed.

  “I will have.” He hooked an arm under her legs, lifted her. “Very shortly.”

  “Roarke.” She had to admit, maybe just this once, she enjoyed being swept up and carried off.

  “Yes.”

  “I always thought too much emphasis, in society, advertisement, entertainment, was put on sex.”

  “Did you?”

  “I did.” Grinning, she shifted her body, quick and agile, and overbalanced him. “I’ve changed my mind,” she said as they tumbled onto the bed.

  She’d already learned that lovemaking could be intense, overwhelming, even dangerously exciting. She hadn’t known it could be fun. It was a revelation to find that she could laugh and wrestle over the bed like a child.

  Quick, nipping kisses, ticklish groping, breathless giggles. She couldn’t remember ever giggling before in her life as she pinned Roarke to the mattress.

  “Gotcha.”

  “You do indeed.” Delighted with her, he let her hold him down, rain kisses over his face. “Now that you have me, what are you going to do about it?”

  “Use you, of course.” She bit down, none too gently, on his bottom lip. “Enjoy you.” With her brows arched, she unfastened his shirt, spread it open. “You do have a terrific body.” To please herself, she ran her hands over his chest. “I used to think that sort of thing was overrated, too. After all, anyone with enough money can have one.”

  “I didn’t buy mine,” Roarke said, surprised into defending his physique.

  “No, you’ve got a gym in this place, don’t you?” Bending, she let her lips cruise over his shoulder. “You’ll have to show it to me sometime. I think I’d like watching you sweat.”

  He rolled her over, reversing positions. He felt her freeze, then relax under his restraining hands. Progress, he thought. The beginnings of trust. “I’m ready to work out with you, lieutenant, anytime.” He tugged the sweater over her head. “Anytime at all.”

  He released her hands. It moved him to have her reach up, draw him down to her to embrace.

  So strong, he thought, as the tone of the lovemaking changed from playful to tender. So soft. So troubled. He took her slowly, and very gently over the first rise, watched her crest, listened to the low, humming moan as her system absorbed each velvet shock.

  He needed her. It still had the power to shake him to know just how much he needed her. He knelt, lifting her. Her legs wrapped silkily around him, her body bowed fluidly back. He could take his mouth over her, tasting warm flesh while he moved inside her, deep, steady, slow.

  Each time she shuddered, a fresh stream of pleasure rippled through him. Her throat was a slim white feast he couldn’t resist. He laved it, nipped, nuzzled while the pulse just under that sensitized flesh throbbed like a heart.

  And she gasped his name, cupping his head in her hands, pressing him against her as her body rocked, rocked, rocked.

  She discovered lovemaking made her loose, and warm. The slow arousal, the long, slow finish energized her. She didn’t feel awkward climbing back into her clothes with the scent of him clinging to her. She felt smug.

  “I feel good around you.” It surprised her to say it aloud, to give him—or anyone—even so slight an advantage.

  He understood that such an admission, for her, was tantamount to a shouted declaration of devotion from other women.

  “I’m glad.” He traced a fingertip down her cheek, dipped it into the faint dent in her chin. “I like the idea of staying around you.”

  She turned away at that, crossed over to watch the number sequences fly by on the console screen. “Why did you tell me about being a kid in Dublin, about your father, the things you did?”

  “You won’t stay with someone you don’t know.” He studied her back as he tucked his shirt into his trousers. “You’d told me a little, so I told you a little. And I think, eventually, you’ll tell me who hurt you when you were a child.”

  “I told you I don’t remember.” She hated even the whisper of panic in her voice. “I don’t need to.”

  “Don’t tighten up.” He murmured to her as he walked over to massage her shoulders. “I won’t press you. I know exactly what it is to remake yourself, Eve. To distance yourself from what was.”

  What good would it do to tell her that no matter how far, how fast you ran, the past always stayed two paces behind you?

  Instead, he wrapped his arms around her waist, satisfied when she closed her hands over his. He knew she was studying the screens across the room. Knew the instant she saw it.

  “Son of a bitch, look at the numbers: income, outgo. They’re too damn close. They’re practically exact.”

  “They are exact,” Roarke corrected, and released the woman, knowing the cop would want to stand clear. “To the penny.”

  “But that’s impossible.” She struggled to do the math in her head. “Nobody spends exactly what they make—not on record. Everyone carries at least a little cash—for the occasional vendor on the sidewalk, the Pepsi machine, the kid who brings the pizza. Sure, it’s mostly plastic or electronic, but you’ve got to have some cash floating around.”

  She paused, turned around. “You’d already seen it. Why the hell didn’t you say something?”

  “I thought it would be more interesting to wait until we found his cache.” He glanced down as the blinking yellow light for searching switched to green. “And it appears we have. Ah, a traditional man, our Simpson. As I suspected, he relies on the well respected and discreet Swiss. Display data on screen five.”

  “Jesus fucking Christ.” Eve gaped at the bank listings.

  “That’s in Swiss francs,” Roarke explained. “Translate to USD, screen six. About triple his tax portfolio here, wouldn’t you say, lieutenant?”

  Her blood was up. “I knew he was taking. Goddamn it, I knew it. And look at the withdrawals, Roarke, in the last year. Twenty-five thousand a quarter, every quarter. A hundred thousand.” She turned back to Roarke, and her smile was thin. “That matches the figure on Sharon’s list. Simpson—one hundred K. She was bleeding him.”

  “You may be able to prove it.”

  “I damn well will prove it.” She began to pace. “She had something on him. Maybe it was sex, maybe it was graft. Probably a combination of a lot of ugly little sins. So he paid her to keep her quiet.”

  Eve thrust her hands into her pockets, pulled them out again. “Maybe she upped the ante. Maybe he was just sick and tired of shelling out a hundred a year for insurance. So he offs her. Somebody keeps trying to scuttle the investigation. Somebody with the power and the information to complicate things. It points right at him.”

  “What about the two other victims?”

  She was working on it. Goddamn it, she was working on it. “He used one prostitute. He could have used others. Sharon and the third victim knew each other—or of each other. One of them might have known Lola, mentioned her, even suggested her as a change of pace. Hell, she could have been a random choice. He got caught up in the thrill of the first murder. It scared him, but it was also a high for him.”

  She stopped prowling the room long enough to flick a glance at Roarke. He’d taken out a cigarette, lighted it, watching her.

  “DeBlass is one of his backers,” she continued. “And Simpson’s come out strongly in favor of DeBlass’s upcoming Morals Bill. They’re just prostitutes, he’s thinking. Just legal whores, and one of them was threatening him. How m
uch more of a danger to him would she have been once he put in his bid for governor?”

  She stopped pacing again, turned back. “And that’s just shit.”

  “I thought it sounded quite reasonable.”

  “Not when you look at the man.” Slowly, she rubbed her fingers between her brows. “He doesn’t have the brains for it. Yeah, I think he could kill, Christ knows he’s into control, but to pull off a series of murders this slick? He’s a desk man—an administrator, an image, not a cop. He can’t even remember a penal code without an aide prompting him. Graft’s easy, it’s just business. And to kill out of panic or passion or fury, yes. But to plan, to execute the plan step by step? No. He isn’t even smart enough to juggle his public records well.”

  “So he had help.”

  “Possible. Maybe if I could put pressure on him, I’d find out.”

  “I can help you there.” Roarke took a final, thoughtful drag before crushing out his cigarette. “What do you think the media would do if it received an anonymous transmission of Simpson’s underground accounts?”

  She dropped the hand she’d lifted to rake through her hair. “They’d hang him. If he knows anything, even with a fleet of lawyers around him, we might be able to shake something loose.”

  “Just so. Your call, lieutenant.”

  She thought of rules, of due process, of the system she’d made herself an intregal part of. And she thought of three dead women—three more she might be able to protect.

  “There’s a reporter. Nadine Furst. Give it to her.”

  She wouldn’t stay with him. Eve knew a call would come, and it was best if she were home and alone when it did. She didn’t think she would sleep, but she drifted into dreams.

  She dreamed first of murder. Sharon, Lola, Georgie, each of them smiling toward the camera. That instant of fear a lightning bolt in the eyes before they flew back on sex-warmed sheets.

  Daddy. Lola had called him Daddy. And Eve stumbled painfully into an older, more terrifying dream.

  She was a good girl. She tried to be good, not to cause trouble. If you caused trouble, the cops came and got you, and put you in a deep, dark hole where bugs skittered and spiders crept toward you on silent, slithery legs.

 
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admin 22 September 2018 10:45
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