Rapture in death, p.23
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       Rapture in Death, p.23
 

         Part #4 of In Death series by J. D. Robb  
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  A hand shot out, grabbed the logbook. “Yeah, this could do it. It could fucking do it. Suck my dick.”

  “Irishmen have such a way with words.”

  At Eve’s dry tone, Feeney’s head popped up. His hair stuck straight up, as if he’d shocked himself while fiddling with the electronics. His eyes were bright and wild. “Hey, Dallas. I think we just nailed it.”

  “What took you so long?”

  “What a kidder.” Feeney’s head disappeared again.

  Eve exchanged a long, sober study with Roarke. “Good morning, Lieutenant.”

  “You’re not here,” she said as she walked past him. “I don’t see you here. What have you got, Feeney?”

  “Got a lot of options on this baby,” he began, and popped up again to settle in the molded chair of the console. “Lotsa doodads, and they are impressive. But the one we had to dig deep to find, under layers of some pretty hunky security, is the honey.”

  He ran his hands over the console again, stroking fingers over the smooth surface that now topped empty guts. “The designer would have made a hell of an E-detective. Most of the guys under me can’t do what he can. Creativity, see.” He wagged a finger at her. “It’s not just formulas and boards. Creativity turns the corner into an open field. This guy’s walked that field. He fucking owns it. And this is what he’d call his crowning glory.”

  He offered the logbook, knowing she’d scowl over the codes and components. “So?”

  “It took some art to get down to that. He had it locked under his private pass, his voice pattern, his palm print. Some layers of fail safe, too. Nearly blew ourselves up about an hour ago, right, Roarke?”

  Roarke rose and tucked his hands in his pockets. “I never doubted you for an instant, Captain.”

  “Like hell.” In tune with his man, Feeney grinned. “If you weren’t saying your prayers, boyo, I was saying mine. Still, I can’t think of many others I’d be pleased to be blown to hell with.”

  “The feeling’s nearly mutual.”

  “If you two have finished your little male bonding dance, would you care to explain what the hell I’m supposed to be looking at here?”

  “It’s a scanner. The most intricate I’ve seen outside of Testing.”

  “Testing?”

  It was a procedure every cop dreaded, and one every cop faced whenever they were forced to set their weapon on maximum for termination.

  “Even though every member of NYPSD’s brain pattern is on record, a scan’s taken during Testing. Search for damage, flaws, any abnormalities that might have contributed to the use of maximum force. That scan’s compared with the last taken, then the subject is taken on a couple of VR rides that use the data downloaded from the scan. Nasty business.”

  Feeney had only faced it once and hoped never to go through the process again.

  “And he’s managed to duplicate or simulate that process?” Eve asked.

  “I’d say he’s improved on it on a couple of levels.” Feeney gestured toward the stack of discs. “That’s a lot of brain wave patterns. Shouldn’t be too difficult to compare them with the victims’ and identify.”

  Her pattern would be on one, she thought. Her mind, on disc. “Tidy,” she said half to herself.

  “Brilliant, really. And potentially deadly. Our boy’s got some spiffy twists on mood sets. They’re all tied into musical patterns, you know, notes and chords. He picks the tune, see, then enhances what you’d call the tone of it, to pump along the target’s reaction, their state of mind say, their unconscious impulses.”

  “So he uses it to get into their head, deep. The subconscious.”

  “Got a lot of medical technology I’m not real familiar with, but I’d say that’s about it. Heavy into sexual urges,” Feeney added. “That’s our boy’s specialty. I’ve got a little more breakdown to do, but I’d say he could program the brain pattern, set the mood enhance, and give the target mind a nice hefty push.”

  “Off a ledge?” she demanded.

  “That’s tricky, Dallas. Where I’m at here is enhancement, suggestive shit. Sure, if somebody was leaning toward the ledge, thinking about going over, this might give them that last nudge. But to coerce a mind to act in a manner completely adverse, completely out of character, I’d have to back off on that for now.”

  “They jumped, choked, and bled to death,” she reminded him impatiently. “Maybe we’ve all got suicidal urges buried in the subconscious. And this just brings them to the surface.”

  “You need Mira for that, not me. I’ll keep digging.” He smiled hopefully. “After breakfast?”

  She forced down impatience. “After breakfast. I appreciate the long night, Feeney, and the quick work. But I needed the best.”

  “And you got it. The guy you decided to link yourself up with isn’t half bad, either, as a tech. I’d make a decent E-man out of him if he’d give up the drudgery of his lifestyle.”

  “My first offer of the day.” Roarke smiled. “You know where the kitchen is, Feeney. You’re welcome to the AutoChef, or you can ask Summerset to arrange for the meal of your choice.”

  “Around here, that means real eggs.” He stretched kinks out, popped joints. “You want me to tell him breakfast for three?”

  “You get started,” Roarke suggested. “We’ll be down shortly.” He waited until Feeney had sauntered out, whistling at the thought of eggs Benedict and blueberry pancakes. “You haven’t much time, I know.”

  “I have enough, if you have something to say.”

  “I do.” It was rare for him to feel awkward. He’d almost forgotten the sensation until it swamped him. “What Feeney just pointed out to you, about his opinion on the capabilities here. The fact that it’s unlikely for the subject to be influenced to act out of character, to do something abhorrent.”

  She saw immediately where he was going and wanted to curse. “Roarke—”

  “I’ll finish this. I’ve been the man who took you last night. I’ve lived in that skin, and it hasn’t been so long ago that I’ve forgotten him. I turned him into something else because I wanted to. And I could. Money helped, and a certain need for . . . polish. But he’s still there. He’s still part of me. I was reminded of that rather violently last night.”

  “Do you want me to hate you for it, to blame you for it?”

  “No, I want you to understand it, and me. I came from the kind of man who hurt you last night.”

  “So did I.”

  That stopped him, had emotion swimming back into his eyes. “Christ, Eve.”

  “And it scares me. It wakes me up in the middle of the night, the wondering just what’s inside me. I live with it every single day. I knew where you came from when I took you on, and I don’t care. I know you’ve done things, broken laws, lived outside them. But I’m here.”

  She huffed out a breath, shifted her feet. “I love you, okay? That’s it. Now, I’m hungry, and I’ve got a full day ahead of me, so I’m going down before Feeney cleans us out of eggs.”

  He stepped in front of her before she could storm out. “One more minute.” He framed her face with his hands, lowered his mouth to hers, and turned her scowl into a sigh with a kiss so tender it made her throat ache and her toes curl.

  “Well,” she managed when he eased back. “That’s better, I guess.”

  “Much better.” He linked his fingers with hers. And because he had used it when he’d hurt her, he balanced that out by using it now. “A ghra.”

  “Huh?” A line appeared between her brows. “Is that Gaelic again?”

  “Yes.” He brought their joined fingers to his lips. “Love. My love.”

  “It’s got a nice ring.”

  “It does, yes.” He sighed a little. It had been a long time since he’d let himself hear the music of it.

  “It shouldn’t make you sad,” she murmured.

  “It doesn’t. Just thoughtful.” He gave her hand a friendly squeeze. “I’d love to buy you breakfast, Lieutenant.”

  “Talked
me into it.” Comfortable, she tightened her grip. “We got any crepes?”

  The trouble with chemicals, Eve thought as she set up for the next interview with Jess Barrow, was that no matter how safe, mild, and helpful they claimed to be, they always made her feel false. She knew she wasn’t naturally alert, that underneath that surging, induced energy, her body was a mass of desperate fatigue.

  She kept imagining her system wearing a huge clown’s mask of enthusiasm over a gray, exhausted face.

  “Back in the saddle, Peabody?” Eve asked as her aide walked into the white-walled, uncluttered room.

  “Yes, sir. I briefed myself via your reports, dropped by your office on the way here. You have a message from the commander on hold, and two from Nadine Furst. I think she smells a story.”

  “She’ll have to wait. I’ll relay to the commander during our first break here. Know anything about baseball, Peabody?”

  “I played short for two years at the Academy. Golden Glove.”

  “Well, warm up. When I toss you a ball, you field it, zing it back. We’re going Tinker to Evers to Chance here, with Feeney coming in before the end of the inning.”

  Peabody’s eyes lit. “Hey, didn’t know you were a historian.”

  “I have many hidden facets. Just field the ball, Peabody. I want to dust this son of a bitch at the plate. You’ve read the report, you know the drill.” She signaled for the suspect to be brought in. “Let’s cook him. If he lawyers up, we’ll have to juggle. But I’m banking on him being too arrogant to go that route initially.”

  “Mostly, I like cocky men. I guess I’ll have to make an exception here.”

  “And he’s got such a pretty face,” Eve added, then moved aside as a uniform delivered her man. “How’s it going, Jess? Feeling better today?”

  He’d had time to regroup and time to stew. “I could hang you on undue force. But I’m going to let it pass because before this is done, you’ll be the top joke of your idiot department.”

  “Yep, he’s feeling better. Have a seat.” She stepped to the small table, engaged the recording unit. “Dallas, Lieutenant Eve, with Peabody, Officer Delia, as aide. The time is oh nine hundred, September 8, 2058. Interview subject Barrow, Jess, file number S-one nine three oh five. Would you please state your name for the record?”

  “Jess Barrow. You got that much right.”

  “I have, during our previous interview, given you your rights and options under the law, is that correct?”

  “You gave me the drill, sure.” For all the good it had done him, he thought, and shifted carefully in his seat. His cock ached like a rotted tooth.

  “And you understand those rights and options as stated?”

  “I got them then; I get them now.”

  “Do you wish, at this time, to make use of your right to an attorney or representative?”

  “I don’t need anybody but myself.”

  “All right then.” Eve sat, linked her fingers, smiled. “Let’s get started. In your previous statement, you admitted to the design and use of equipment built for tampering with personal brain patterns and behavior.”

  “I didn’t admit to shit.”

  She kept smiling. “That’s a matter of interpretation. Do you now deny that during a social gathering at my home last evening, you utilized a program you have designed to make certain suggestions, subliminally, to the subject Roarke?”

  “Hey, if your husband took you off and tossed your skirts over your head, it’s your business.”

  Her smile never faltered. “It certainly is.” She needed to hang him here, on this one point, to hang him on the rest. “Peabody, perhaps Jess is unaware of the penalty for giving false statement to a police official during Interview.”

  “That penalty,” Peabody said smoothly, “carries a maximum term of five years in full lockup. Shall I replay the pertinent data from the initial interview, Lieutenant? The subject’s memory might be faulty due to the injury received while assaulting an officer.”

  “Assault, my ass.” He snarled at Peabody. “You think you can double-team me this way? She struck me without provocation, then let that bastard she married come in and . . .”

  He trailed off, remembering the warning Roarke had issued in a soft, silky voice directly in his ear. While the pain, almost sweet in its intensity, had radiated through his system.

  “You wish to make an official complaint?” Eve asked.

  “No.” Even now, a light line of sweat beaded on his upper lip and made Eve wonder just what Roarke had done to him. “I was upset last night. Things got out of hand.” He took a steadying breath. “Listen, I’m a musician. I take a lot of pride in my work, in the art of it. I like to think what I do influences people, touches them. My pride in that might have given you the wrong impression as to the scope of my work. Basically, I don’t know what all the fuss is about.”

  He smiled again, with a good deal of his usual charm, and spread his handsome hands. “Those people you talked about last night. I don’t know them. I’ve heard of some of them, sure, but I didn’t know them personally or have anything to do with their decision to self-terminate. I’m against it, myself. In my opinion, life’s too short as it is. This is all a misunderstanding, and I’m willing to forget it.”

  Eve leaned back in her chair, sent a look toward her aide. “Peabody, he’s willing to forget it.”

  “That’s generous of him, Lieutenant, and not surprising, under the circumstances. A stretch for breaking the statute on personal privacy through electronics is stringent. And, of course, there’s the added charge of designing and implementing equipment designed for individual subliminals. Right there, with the multiple counts, you’re looking at a ten-year minimum in the cages.”

  “You can’t begin to prove any of it. Any of it. You’ve got no case here.”

  “I’m giving you a chance to roll over here, Jess. They go easier on you when you roll. And as to the civil case that my husband and I are entitled to bring against you, I will state here, for the record, that I will waive that right, contingent on your admission of guilt on the criminal charges—if that admission comes in the next thirty seconds. Think about it.”

  “I don’t have to think about anything, because you’ve got nothing.” He leaned forward. “You’re not the only one with people behind you. What do you think will happen to your big, bad career if I go to the press with this?”

  She said nothing, just watched him, then glanced at the time count on the recorder. “Offer is rescinded.” Eve nodded at the monitoring camera. “Peabody, please uncode the door for Captain Feeney.”

  When Feeney walked in, he was beaming. He set a disc and file on the table and stuck out his hand to Jess. “I’ve got to tell you, your work’s the best I’ve ever seen. It’s a real pleasure to meet you.”

  “Thanks.” Jess shifted to audience mode, shook hands warmly. “I love my work.”

  “Oh, it shows.” Feeney sat down, made himself comfortable. “I haven’t enjoyed anything for years as much as I did taking that console apart.”

  Another time, another place, it might have been comic, the way Jess’s face underwent the transformation from obliging star to blank shock to ripe fury. “You fucked with my equipment? Took it apart? You had no right laying a hand on it! You’re meat! You’re dead! You’re destroyed!”

  “Let the record show the subject is overwrought,” Peabody recited blandly. “His threats against the person of Captain Feeney are accepted as emotional rather than literal.”

  “Well, the first time, anyway,” Feeney said cheerfully. “You want to watch your step there, friend. Put too much of that on record, and we tend to get pissy. Now.” He leaned forward on his elbows. “Let’s talk shop. You had some great security, admirable. Took me a while to bypass. But then, I’ve been in the game as long as you’ve been breathing. Designing that personal brain scanner was some accomplishment. So compact, so delicate to the touch. I gauged its range at two yards. Now, that’s damn good for that small and
portable a unit.”

  “You didn’t get into my equipment.” Jess’s voice wavered. “You’re bluffing. You couldn’t get down to the core.”

  “Well, the three fail safes were tricky,” Feeney admitted. “I spent nearly an hour on the second one, but the last was really just padding. I guess you never figured you’d need anything at that level.”

  “Did you run the discs, Feeney?” Eve asked him.

  “Started on them. You’re on there, Dallas. We don’t have Roarke’s on file. Civilian, you know. But I found yours and Peabody’s.”

  Peabody blinked. “Mine?”

  “I’m running comparison checks on the names you requested, Dallas.” He smiled broadly at Jess again. “You’ve been busy, collecting specimens. That’s a fine storage option you designed, terrific data compression capabilities. It’s going to break my heart to destroy that equipment.”

  “You can’t!” It was sincere pain and distress now. His eyes swam with it. “I’ve put everything I’ve got into that. Not just money, but time and thought and energy. Three years of my life, almost straight through without a break. I stepped back from my career to design it. Do you have any idea what I can accomplish with it?”

  Eve picked up the ball. “Why don’t you tell us, Jess? In your own words. We’d love to hear it.”

  chapter seventeen

  Jess Barrow started slowly, in fits and starts, speaking of his experiments and research, his fascination with the influence of outside stimuli on the human brain; the senses, and the enhancement of the senses through technology.

  “What we can do for pleasure, for punishment—we haven’t even tapped the surface. That’s what I wanted to do,” he explained. “Tap the surface and go under it. Dreams, Dallas. Needs, fears, fantasies. All my life, music’s been what’s moved me to . . . everything: hunger, passion, misery, joy. How much more intense would all that be if you could just get inside, really use the mind to exploit and explore?”

  “So you worked on it,” she prompted. “Devoted yourself to it.”

 
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