Dark in death, p.23
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       Dark in Death, p.23
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         Part #46 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  “I can think of literally nothing as long as it’s consensual.”

  “These women, Cock and Balls, the Sexy Bitch? They might hook with one of those for a short amount of time, sometimes a short and intense amount, but they’ll still look for the bang with someone else. None of it’s real. A few of them—Loxie, Yola, that level? It’s more a roller coaster. They’re hooked longer, tighter. There might actually be something there. Not necessarily a good something or a healthy something, but something. Still, they guzzle illegals and booze—another void to fill. And, like the character of Bliss Cather in the book, live in deliberate disregard for others. Fight with their chosen counterpart in public because that gets them off, too. Playing for the crowd, reading about it later, seeing vids on the gossip channels.”

  “And Strongbow observes.”

  “Yeah, she observes, and most likely concludes the women are—because they come off that way—interchangeable. All of them offer the wrong things, destructive things, to the man she’s selected as above, as better, as one worthy of her—of the character she’s living in, of the writer she believes herself to be. Remove one—one she judges as influential—and he has the chance to reach that worthy potential.

  “And I’m circling,” Eve admitted. “Because none of this points me at her.”

  “Circling maybe, but you’re thinking like her.”

  “I’m thinking like I think she thinks,” Eve amended, “but she’s slippery. Because she’s crazy.”

  “You’ve bagged the crazy before, Lieutenant. You’ll bag her.”

  “Penguin coats and blue dreads, a personality so malleable it absorbs itself into fictional characters. But I damn well will bag her. Give me what you’ve got so far on the rockers.”

  “It’s a subjective and unscientific sort of ranking.”

  “I’ll take what you’ve got. Top pick.”

  “At this stage, that would be Glaze, aka Adam Glazier, lead guitar and vocals for the Glaze.”

  “Loxie Flash’s ex.” Swiveling toward the board, his photo, she frowned. “I’d have slotted him in loser territory.”

  “You have to dig down a bit. Financially, he’s very solvent.”

  “So trash rockers make big bucks. What—”

  “Many blow those big bucks on illegals, overpriced homes, and vehicles. They live carelessly, engage poor management, and so on. Take Nadine’s Jake as a yardstick.”

  “I don’t know if he’s Nadine’s Jake.”

  “For simplicity’s sake. He bought his mother a house—that qualifies him as a good and loving son, but also a man with enough brains not to buy her some flash jewelry, for instance. To think of her security, her future. While he certainly engages managers, he also remains involved and aware. Glazier hasn’t bought his mother a house.”

  “Okay.”

  “But he has purchased a condo in New York, his base in the city. And while he tosses money about, he also culls a sensible percentage out to invest, with a reputable money manager. He hasn’t, using Jake again, maintained friends and bandmates over long terms, as he’s fronted two bands prior to this, but Glaze is being handled professionally. He’s been dinged more than once for possession, and apparently developed a taste for Zeus in the last turbulent months of his relationship with this Loxie. While he has had court-ordered rehab, he entered, voluntarily, a facility in Zurich four months ago. And upon his return to New York, during the recording of a new album—with reportedly all of the songs written or cowritten by him during his treatment—he’s continued with addiction therapy and meetings.”

  “Okay, good potential here. Is he in New York now?”

  “He is, recording—and in the small-world department—the Glaze is using East Side Sound—that’s Jake Kincade’s studio.”

  “Okay, I’ll talk to him in the morning.”

  She grabbed her ’link when it chirped. “Dallas.”

  “She’s here!” The harsh whisper hissed under a wall of noise. “The blue dreads. Lieutenant? It’s Brad Smithers. I just saw her.”

  Eve was already up and moving. “Don’t approach. Tap your own security, have them block exits. I’m on my way.”

  “To where?” Roarke asked as he grabbed a coat.

  “A dive called Screw U, downtown. She’s there.”

  Roarke snagged her hat and scarf, as she was already striding out the door and calling for uniforms.

  16

  Before she walked into the club, Loxie popped a tab of Buzz. She had a few more tabs at home, and a decent supply of Erotica. But she’d dip on Janis for the party favors, and save her own for that trip to the islands.

  Her mood bounced straight up—the Buzz and the crowds, the screaming music, the flash and swirl of lights.

  People, so many people who knew her, wanted her, envied her.

  She made it a point to scan for Glaze, spotted him at one of the VIP booths. Not just the hos, she noted, but his bass player, his hard-eyed manager, and a third pair of tits she didn’t recognize.

  The minute she saw him grin at the pair of tits, lean toward her so they could share a laugh, she decided he’d be the one to scratch her itch.

  She swirled off her coat. She’d gone bare-legged with a glittery, short, snug, crotch-skimming skirt and a top that opened in a vee down to her navel. Thick chains draped into the vee and hooked to the nipple clamps clearly outlined beneath the top.

  She’d damn near frozen on the trip to the club, but knew Glaze had a weakness for tits—and he’d given her the chains and clamps.

  He would remember what they’d done with them.

  She slithered through the crowd on chunky short boots with high, curved heels.

  When he saw her, when their eyes met and held for just a couple beats, her nipples hardened against the clamps like shards of glass.

  “Hey there, G-man.”

  “Lox. How’s it going?”

  “Up, up, and away.”

  She had to shout it—the music’s volume demanded it. She leaned over the table, leading with that deep vee, pursed her red-to-the-edge-of-black lips in an exaggerated kiss.

  “Haven’t seen you around.”

  “Haven’t been around.”

  “Yeah, another detox, right? I need a drink.” She picked up his glass, downed some. “Jesus, WTF.”

  “Mineral water, twist of lemon.” He took the glass back from her, set it aside.

  “How the mighty have fallen. You get up off that fine ass and want to live again, I’m over there.”

  She hip-swung her way to another booth where Janis and some of the usual crowd piled together.

  “Hey, Lox. I wondered if you’d show up tonight.”

  “I said I would, didn’t I?” She screwed her ass between two others, slouched back, angled toward Glaze’s booth. Spread her legs.

  Her smug smile faded when she glanced toward his booth, saw he not only wasn’t looking, he had his head together with the new tits.

  In retaliation, she laid her hand on the cock of the man beside her, gave it a teasing squeeze. “Who do I have to fuck to get a drink and a tab?”

  She grabbed a drink off the table at random, downed it. And didn’t see the woman with the blue dreads come out of the shadows to sit at the end of the bar.

  Loxie hit the obliging Janis for another tab of Buzz, pulled the obliging cock—Bennie, she remembered, maybe Bernie—onto the dance floor. Pushed through the twisting, grinding bodies so she’d be in Glaze’s line of sight.

  She turned her back to her partner, ground her ass into his crotch, arched and gleamed when his hands slid over her breasts, tugged lightly at the chains.

  When Glaze looked at her this time, she slithered up and down the body behind her, ran the tip of her tongue over her lips. And, lowering her hand in front of her crotch, curled her fingers in invitation.

  His eyes didn’t fire with lust, as they always did. Instead … Was that fucking pity? she thought. Enraged, she nearly leaped to his booth, vicious words ready to scream from
her throat. She stoked the rage by spinning around, grinding crotch to crotch, grinding mouth to mouth, fully aware that more than one clubgoer had pulled out a ’link to record the moment.

  Everyone would see—every-fucking-body would see. She was known, wanted, envied.

  She listened, blood cold, as Bennie or Bernie or whoever the hell he was told her all the things he wanted to do to her.

  “Later. I need that drink.”

  She cast a look over her shoulder on the way back to the booth, but Glaze wasn’t watching her. In fact, he signaled for the check.

  Leaving, she thought. Let him. Fuck him. She nudged the hands groping and pawing all over her away.

  “I said later.” Snatching up the martini glass filled with deep red, she drained it dry with a long series of swallows.

  She heard the shout-out to the Glaze as the band kicked into one of their hits.

  Perfect, she thought. Now she had to listen to that shit when …

  A woman moved, just for a moment, into her field of vision. Red hair, blue side dreads. All the layers of enhancements couldn’t disguise the fact she’d already hit the 4-0 mark.

  Old bitch, smug smile, fucking crazy eyes. She started to shoot her the finger, started to demand another drink, another tab.

  And it all came flooding back.

  Poison. Pomtini. Stay out of the clubs.

  “No.” She croaked it out, grabbed her dance partner, tried to scream.

  He took it for an invitation, began to dry hump her while the laughter rose, the music screamed.

  Her gasps for breath only made the man with his hand up her skirt moan.

  Then the music faded; the lights dimmed.

  When she went limp, Bennie—it was Bennie—tried to haul her up.

  “Fuck, she passed out.”

  He dumped her back on the booth. Unconscious, essentially already dead, she rolled onto the floor and began to seize.

  The woman who currently embodied Bliss Cather’s killer smiled, satisfied. Vindicated. She turned away, caught the stunned, horrified stare of the bartender.

  He looked straight at her, into her. And had a ’link in his hand. When he shouted something, something drowned in the music, she snatched a coat off the back of the dead woman’s booth and sprinted away.

  Not toward the front. The bartender continued to shout, to gesture now. And to her own shock leaped over the bar to push through people, to push in her direction.

  She turned sharply, slammed into the kitchen, ran through and out the back. Kept running, running, shot around a corner, dragged on the coat.

  A coat that turned out to be a hip-length fur—mink!—with a hood.

  She ran another block, turned another corner.

  She dragged at the dreads, yanking them—and some of her own hair—off. She slowed her rush long enough to shove them in a recycler. And pulling the fur hood over bold red hair, shed the character.

  Strongbow walked through the icy night, stroking the fur.

  She thought: To the victor go the spoils.

  Eve walked into chaos and knew it was too late. Just as she knew whose body she’d find. Loxie Flash had been the only one on the list who hadn’t answered her ’link as Roarke raced over the icy roads downtown.

  She badged the big bulk of the bouncer. “Stay on the door,” she told him, and shoved her way to the first uniform she spotted.

  “I want this scene secured.”

  “We’re trying, Lieutenant. We’ve got close to three hundred and fifty in here, and a lot of them are drunk, a lot are stoned, a lot are both. I just called for more uniforms.”

  “Tap Dispatch for Officer Carmichael out of Central, and his partner.”

  “Got it. We’ve got two men on the DB, got people moved back from there. Looks like an OD. Somebody called the MTs, but she was already gone. LT, the bartender—ah, Brad Smithers—claims you told him to BOLO for a woman with red hair, blue side dreads. Says he saw her, tagged you.”

  “That’s correct.”

  “We’ve got him over there. But he stated she took off. He’d just alerted security, and they were on the main door. She caught on to him, he thinks, and she took off the other way. He tried to pursue. She went out the kitchen—again, according to his statement. He didn’t see a trace of her by the time he hit the back door.”

  Eve nodded, continuing to push through. She found some relief the body had been blocked off, and two uniforms kept the area clear. Someone had covered the body with a long, black leather coat.

  As it was bound to be death by poison, she opted not to grind her teeth over the possible screwing with trace and forensics.

  She lifted the coat enough to verify the victim, then called it in, with a request to notify her partner.

  “Your field kit, Lieutenant.” Roarke held it out to her.

  “Hold on to that a minute. I need to establish some damn order in here first.”

  She elbowed her way to the stage. Some guy in leather pants and nothing but tats to his waist stepped up to block her.

  “You can’t touch the equipment.”

  She tapped her badge.

  “Yeah, but still.”

  “I need one of those mics. You want to get out of here sometime before dawn you can get me one, set it up.”

  “I can do that.”

  He got her one that curled over her ear.

  “You’re hot. The mic’s hot, I mean,” he said quickly.

  Eve stepped onto the stage, and even with the mic, had to bellow.

  “I’m Lieutenant Dallas, NYPSD. I need everybody to shut the hell up. Knock it off! The sooner you cooperate, the sooner we can get your information and let you leave.”

  “Fucking police state!” somebody shouted.

  “It’s a crime scene and, while we have adequate facilities at Cop Central, I doubt most of you want to spend the night in the tank. I doubt most of you want to submit to a personal search, then find yourselves charged with possession.”

  “Narc bitch!”

  “Homicide bitch,” Eve corrected. “One who’d be happy to take each and every one of you into Interview and question you regarding the death of Loxie Flash.”

  “Loxie!” Someone screamed it, then began to sob loudly enough to drown out the complaints.

  Eve shifted, subtly laid a hand on her weapon when the man she recognized as Glaze from his ID shot approached.

  “I might be able to help calm them down. They know me.”

  He looked tired, she thought. Sad. Resigned. But not threatening.

  When she nodded, he got another mic, joined her on the stage.

  Inexplicably to Eve, a wild cheer erupted through the crowd.

  “Don’t do that.” He didn’t raise his voice, but held up a hand. “Don’t do that,” he repeated. “This isn’t the time for that. Most of you knew Lox. I’m asking you to show some respect. Just chill it off, okay? Chill it off, and let’s get through this.”

  “I need everyone to sit down, keep it down,” Eve told them. “Officers are going to take your information and statements. You’ll be released in an orderly fashion.”

  She pulled off the mic, turned to Glaze. “Adam Glazier, right?”

  “Yeah.”

  “I’m going to need you to stay. I need to speak with you, but we need to move the bulk of these people out.”

  “Sure.”

  She gave instructions to the uniforms, then moved to where Brad Smithers sat at the end of the bar.

  “I saw her—the redhead. I saw her, but it was too late.”

  “You did what you could. You did right. Loxie didn’t listen. Tell me how it went.”

  “Okay.” He blew out a breath, sucked another in. “I was kind of keeping an eye out, and I passed the word, like you said to. We were busy. A lot of people came in because the city asked people to stay home. It’s like a red flag, you know?”

  “Yeah, I know.”

  “I took my break, went back to the kitchen, got some chow. Loxie must’ve co
me in when I was on break. Probably did. I didn’t see her come in. I just heard a couple people talking about how she was making moves on Glaze, and he wasn’t having any. Then I saw the redhead. I saw her at the end of the bar. I didn’t see her before, or see her come in. She was just there. It was crowded, so she could’ve slipped by me. If I’d—”

  “No ifs, Brad. You saw her, you tagged me.”

  “Like, right then, I swear. It took me a minute to get to Malted—that’s our bouncer. A couple minutes. And when I got back. Jesus, when I got back she—Loxie—she was on the floor. Convulsing. I was going to go over to her, like you said to, and maybe move her to my station at the bar, but …”

  He scrubbed his hands over his face. “I was going to tag nine-one-one when I saw Loxie on the floor. And the redhead was standing there, watching. She saw me—the redhead. She saw me seeing her, and she took off. I tried to yell for Malt, but he couldn’t hear me. I tried to run after her, but I got hung up. Back door’s through the kitchen, so I figured that. I asked when I ran in, and they said she’d gone straight out the back. I wasn’t fast enough. I lost her.”

  He swiped at his eyes. “I’ve never seen anybody die before. It’s bad. Man, it’s bad. I couldn’t even give the artist cop a decent description. But I can now.” He swiped again. “I got a good look at her, good enough, and I’ve got it in my head. It’s weird light in here, but I got a good look.”

  “Can you come into Central, work with him tomorrow?”

  “Yeah. I can come in first thing. I’m sure as hell not going to sleep tonight.”

  “You go on home now. Is there anyone there?”

  “Yeah, two roommates, but … I’ve got a girl. I think I’m going to her place.”

  “I’m going to get you transpo.”

  “You don’t have to.”

  “It’s bad out there. We’ll get you to your girl.”

  She walked off to arrange it, then took the other bartenders.

  And found the one, still shaking, who’d poured and shaken the base for the murder weapon. Sasha Quint, in her first month as bartender, trembled and leaked as she gave her statement.

 
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