Naked in death, p.24
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       Naked in Death, p.24

         Part #1 of In Death series by J. D. Robb  
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  She didn’t have friends. If you had friends you had to make up stories about where the bruises came from. How you were clumsy when you weren’t clumsy. How you’d fallen when you hadn’t fallen. Besides, they never lived in one place very long. If you did, the fucking social workers came nosing around, asking questions. It was the fucking social workers who called the cops that put you away in that dark, bug crawling hole.

  Her Daddy had warned her.

  So she was a good girl, without any friends, who moved from place to place when she was taken.

  But it didn’t seem to make any difference.

  She could hear him coming. She always heard him. Even if she was sound asleep, the creeping shuffle of his bare feet on the floor woke her as quickly as a thunder clap.

  Oh, please, oh, please, oh please. She would pray, but she wouldn’t cry. If she cried she was beaten, and he did the secret things anyway. The painful and secret thing that she knew, even at five, was somehow bad.

  He told her she was good. The whole time he did the secret thing he would tell her she was good. But she knew she was bad, and she would be punished.

  Sometimes he tied her up. When she heard her door open, she whimpered softly, praying he wouldn’t tie her this time. She wouldn’t fight, she wouldn’t, if he just didn’t tie her up. If he just didn’t hold his hand over her mouth, she wouldn’t scream or call out.

  “Where’s my little girl? Where’s my good little girl?”

  Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes as his hands slipped under the sheets, poking, probing, pinching. She could smell his breath on her face, sweet, like candy.

  His fingers rammed inside her, his other hand coming down hard over her mouth as she drew in breath to scream. She couldn’t help it.

  “Be quiet.” His breath was coming in short gasps, in a sickening arousal she didn’t understand. His fingers dug into her cheeks where bruises would form by morning. “Be a good girl. There’s a good girl.”

  She couldn’t hear his grunts for the screaming inside her head. She screamed it over and over and over.

  No, Daddy. No, Daddy.

  “No!” The scream ripped out of Eve’s throat as she reared up in bed. Gooseflesh prickled on her clammy skin, and she shivered and shivered as she tugged the blankets up.

  Didn’t remember. Wouldn’t remember, she comforted herself and drew up her knees, pressed her forehead against them. Just a dream, and it was already fading. She could will it away—had done so before—until there was nothing left but the faint nausea.

  Still shaky, she got up, wrapped herself in her robe to combat the chill. In the bath she ran water over her face until she was breathing evenly again. Steadier, she got herself a tube of Pepsi, huddled back into bed, and switched on one of the twenty-four-hour news stations.

  And settled down to wait.

  It was the lead story at six A.M., the headline read by a cat-eyed Nadine. Eve was already dressed when the call came through summoning her to Cop Central.

  chapter seventeen

  Whatever personal satisfaction Eve felt on finding herself part of the team who questioned Simpson, she hid it well. In deference to his position, they used the office of Security Administration rather than an interrogation area.

  The clear wrap of windows and the glossy acrylic table didn’t negate the fact that Simpson was in deep trouble. The beading of sweat above his top lip indicated he knew just how deep.

  “The media is trying to injure the department,” Simpson began, using the statement meticulously prepared by his senior aide. “With the very visible failure of the investigation into the brutal deaths of three women, the media is attempting to incite a witch-hunt. As chief of police, I’m an obvious target.”

  “Chief Simpson.” Not by the flicker of an eyelash did Commander Whitney expose his inner glee. His voice was grave, his eyes somber. His heart was celebrating. “Regardless of the motive, it will be necessary for you to explain the discrepancy in your books.”

  Simpson sat frozen while one of his attorneys leaned over and murmured in his ear.

  “I have not admitted to any discrepancy. If one exists, I’m unaware of it.”

  “Unaware, Chief Simpson, of more than two million dollars?”

  “I’ve already contacted my accounting firm. Obviously, if there is a mistake of some nature, it was made by them.”

  “Will you confirm or deny that the account numbered four seventy-eight nine one one two seven, four ninety-nine is yours?”

  After another brief consultation, Simpson nodded. “I will confirm that.” To lie would only tighten the noose.

  Whitney glanced at Eve. They’d agreed the account was an IRS matter. All they’d wanted was for Simpson to confirm.

  “Will you explain, Chief Simpson, the withdrawal of one hundred thousand dollars, in twenty-five thousand dollar increments, every three months during the past year?”

  Simpson tugged at the knot of his tie. “I see no reason to explain how I spend my money, Lieutenant Dallas.”

  “Then perhaps you can explain how it is those same amounts were listed by Sharon DeBlass and accredited to you.”

  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  “We have evidence that you paid to Sharon DeBlass one hundred thousand dollars, in twenty-five thousand dollar increments in one year’s period.” Eve waited a beat. “That’s quite a large amount between casual acquaintances.”

  “I have nothing to say on the matter.”

  “Was she blackmailing you?”

  “I have nothing to say.”

  “The evidence says it for you,” Eve stated. “She was blackmailing you; you were paying her off. I’m sure you’re aware there are only two ways to stop extortion, Chief Simpson. One, you cut off the supply. Two . . . you eliminate the blackmailer.”

  “This is absurd. I didn’t kill Sharon. I was paying her like clockwork. I—”

  “Chief Simpson.” The elder of the team of lawyers put a hand on Simpson’s arm, squeezed. He turned his mild gaze to Eve. “My client has no statement to make regarding Sharon DeBlass. Obviously, we will cooperate in any way with the Internal Revenue Service’s investigation into my client’s records. At this time, however, no charges have been made. We’re here only as a courtesy, and to show our goodwill.”

  “Were you acquainted with a woman known as Lola Starr?” Eve shot out.

  “My client has no comment.”

  “Did you know licensed companion, Georgie Castle?”

  “Same response,” the lawyer said patiently.

  “You’ve done everything you could to roadblock this murder investigation from the beginning. Why?”

  “Is that a statement of fact, Lieutenant Dallas?” the lawyer asked. “Or an opinion?”

  “I’ll give you facts. You knew Sharon DeBlass, intimately. She was hosing you for a hundred grand a year. She’s dead, and someone is leaking confidential information on the investigation. Two more women are dead. All the victims made their living through legal prostitution—something you oppose.”

  “My opposition of prostitution is a political, moral, and a personal stance,” Simpson said tightly. “I will support wholeheartedly any legislation that outlaws it. But I would hardly eliminate the problem by picking off prostitutes one at a time.”

  “You own a collection of antique weapons,” Eve persisted.

  “I do,” Simpson agreed, ignoring his attorney. “A small, limited collection. All registered, secured, and inventoried. I’ll be more than happy to turn them over to Commander Whitney for testing.”

  “I appreciate that,” Whitney said, shocking Simpson by agreeing. “Thank you for your cooperation.”

  Simpson rose, his face a battleground of emotion. “When this matter is cleared up, I won’t forget this meeting.” His eyes rested briefly on Eve. “I won’t forget who attacked the office of Chief of Police and Security.”

  Commander Whitney waited until Simpson sailed out, followed by his team of attorneys. “When this is settled, he won’t get within a hundred yards of the office of Chief of Police and Security.”

  “I needed more time to work on him. Why’d you let him walk?”

  “His isn’t the only name on the DeBlass list,” Whitney reminded her. “And there’s no tie, as yet, between him and the other two victims. Whittle the list down, get me a tie, and I’ll give you all the time you need.” He paused, shuffling through the hard copies of the documents that had been transmitted to his office. “Dallas, you seemed very prepared for this interview. Almost as if you’d been expecting it. I don’t suppose I need remind you that tampering with private documents is against the law.”

  “No, sir.”

  “I didn’t think I did. Dismissed.”

  As she headed for the door, she thought she heard him murmur “Good job” but she might have been mistaken.

  She was taking the elevator to her own section when her communicator blipped. “Dallas.”

  “Call for you. Charles Monroe.”

  “I’ll get back to him.”

  She snagged a cup of sludge masquerading as coffee, and what might have been a doughnut as she passed through the bullpen area of the records section. It took nearly twenty minutes for her to requisition copies of the discs for the three homicides.

  Closeting herself in her office, she studied them again. She reviewed her notes, made fresh ones.

  The victim was on the bed each time. The bed rumpled each time. They were naked each time. Their hair was mussed.

  Eyes narrowed, she ordered the image of Lola Starr to freeze, pull into close-up.

  “Skin reddened left buttocks,” she murmured. “Missed that before. Spanking? Domination thrill? Doesn’t appear to be bruising or welting. Have Feeney enhance and determine. Switch to DeBlass tape.”

  Again, Eve ran it. Sharon laughed at the camera, taunted it, touching herself, shifting. “Freeze image. Quadrant—shit—try sixteen, increase. No marks,” she said. “Continue. Come on, Sharon, show me the right side, just in case. Little more. Freeze. Quadrant twelve, increase. No marks on you. Maybe you did the spanking, huh? Run Castle disc. Come on Georgie, let’s see.”

  She watched the woman smile, flirt, lift a hand to smooth down her tousled hair. Eve already knew the dialogue perfectly: “That was wonderful. You’re terrific.”

  She was kneeling, sitting back on her haunches, her eyes pleasant and companionable. Silently, Eve began to urge her to move, just a little, shift over. Then Georgia yawned delicately, turned to fluff the pillows.

  “Freeze. Oh yeah, paddled you, didn’t he? Some guys get off on playing bad girl and Daddy.”

  She had a flash, like a stab of a knife through the brain. Memories sliced through her, the solid slap of a hand on her bottom, stinging, the heavy breathing. “You have to be punished, little girl. Then Daddy’s going to kiss it better. He’s going to kiss it all better.”

  “Jesus.” She rubbed shaking hands over her face. “Stop. Put it away. Put it away.”

  She reached for cold coffee and found only dregs. The past was past, she reminded herself, and had nothing to do with her. Nothing to do with the job at hand.

  “Victim Two and Three show marks of abuse on buttocks. No marks on Victim One.” She let out a long breath, took in a slow one. Steadier. “Break in pattern. Apparent emotional reaction during first murder, absent in subsequent two.”

  Her ’link buzzed, she ignored it.

  “Possible theory: Perpetrator gained confidence, enjoyment in subsequent murders. Note: No security on Victim Two. Time lapse on security cameras, Victim Three, thirty-three minutes less than Victim One. Possible theory: More adept, more confident, less inclined to play with victim. Wants the kick faster.”

  Possible, possible, she thought, and her computer agreed after a jittery wheeze, with a ninety-six-three probability factor. But something else was clicking as she ran the three discs so closely together, interchanging sections.

  “Split screen,” she ordered, “Victims One and Two, from beginning.”

  Sharon’s cat smile, Lola’s pout. Both women looked toward the camera, toward the man behind it. Spoke to him.

  “Freeze images,” Eve said so softly only the sharp ears of the computer could have heard her. “Oh God, what have we here?”

  It was a small thing, a slight thing, and with the eyes focused on the brutality of the murders, easily missed. But she saw it now, through Sharon’s eyes. Through Lola’s.

  Lola’s gaze was angled higher.

  The height of the beds could account for it, Eve told herself as she added Georgie’s image to the screen. Each woman had their head tilted. After all, they were sitting, he very likely standing. But the angle of the eyes, the point at which they stared . . . Only Sharon’s was different.

  Still watching the screen, Eve called Dr. Mira.

  “I don’t care what she’s doing,” Eve spat out at the drone working reception. “It’s urgent.”

  She snarled as she was put on hold and her ears assaulted with mindless, sugary music.

  “Question,” she said the moment Mira was on the line.

  “Yes, lieutenant.”

  “Is it possible we have two killers?”

  “A copycat? Unlikely, lieutenant, given as much of the method and style of the murders has been kept under wraps.”

  “Shit leaks. I’ve got breaks in pattern. Small ones, but definite breaks.” Impatient, she outlined them. “Theory, doctor. The first murder committed by someone who knew Sharon well, who killed on impulse, then had enough control to clean up behind himself well. The second two are reflections of the first crime, fined down, thought through, committed by someone cold, calculating, with no connection to his victims. And goddamn it, he’s taller.”

  “It’s a theory, lieutenant. I’m sorry, but it’s just as likely, even more so, that all three murders were committed by one man who grows more calculating with each success. In my professional opinion, no one who wasn’t privy to the first crime, to the stages of it, could have so perfectly mirrored the events in the second two.”

  Her computer had ditched her theory as well, with a forty-eight-five. “Okay, thanks.” Deflated, Eve disconnected. Stupid to be disappointed, she told herself. How much worse could it be if she were after two men instead of one?

  Her ’link buzzed again. Teeth bared in annoyance, she flipped on. “Dallas, What?”

  “Hey, Lieutenant Sugar, a guy might think you didn’t care.”

  “I don’t have time to play, Charles.”

  “Hey, don’t cut me off. I got something for you.”

  “Or for lame innuendos—”

  “No, really. Boy, flirt with a woman once or twice and she never takes you seriously.” His perfect face registered hurt. “You asked me to call if I remembered anything, right?”

  “Right.” Patience, she warned herself. “So, did you?”

  “It was the diaries that got me thinking. You know how I said she was always recording everything. Since you’re looking for them, I figure they weren’t over at her place.”

  “You should be a detective.”

  “I like my line of work. Anyhow, I started wondering where she might put them for safekeeping. And I remembered the safe-deposit box.”

  “We’ve already checked it. Thanks, anyway.”

  “Oh. Well, how’d you get into it without me? She’s dead.” Eve paused on the point of cutting him off. “Without you?”

  “Yeah. A couple, three years ago, she asked me to sign for one for her. Said she didn’t want her name on the record.”

  Eve’s heart began to thump. “Then what good would it do her?”

  Charles’s smile was sheepish and charming. “Well, technically, I signed her on as my sister. I’ve got one in Kansas City. So we listed Sharon as Annie Monroe. She paid the rent, and I just forgot about it. I can’t even say for sure if she kept it, but I thought you might want to know.”

  “Where’s the bank?”

  “First Manhattan, on Madison.”

  “Listen to me, Charles. You’re home, right?”

  “That’s right.”

  “You stay there. Right there. I’ll be over in fifteen minutes. We’re going to go banking, you and me.”

  “If that’s the best I can do. Hey, did I give you a hot lead, Lieutenant Sugar?”

  “Just stay put.”

  She was up and shrugging into her jacket when her ’link buzzed again. “Dallas.”

  “Dispatch, Dallas. We have a transmission on hold for you. Video blocked. Refuses to identify.”

  “Tracing?”

  “Tracing now.”

  “Then put it through.” She swung up her bag as the audio clicked. “This is Dallas.”

  “Are you alone?” It was a female voice, tremulous.

  “Yes. Do you want me to help you?”

  “It wasn’t my fault. You have to know it wasn’t my fault.”

  “No one’s blaming you.” Training had Eve picking up on both fear and grief. “Just tell me what happened.”

  “He raped me. I couldn’t stop him. He raped me. He raped her, too. Then he killed her. He could kill me.”

  “Tell me where you are.” She studied her screen, waiting for the trace to come through. “I want to help, but I have to know where you are.”

  Breath hitching, a whimper. “He said it was supposed to be a secret. I couldn’t tell. He killed her so she couldn’t tell. Now there’s me. No one will believe me.”

  “I believe you. I’ll help you. Tell me—” She swore as the transmission broke. “Where?” she demanded after switching to dispatch.

  “Front Royal, Virginia. Number seven oh three, five five five, thirty-nine oh eight. Address—”

  “I don’t need it. Get me Captain Ryan Feeney in EDD. Fast.”

  Two minutes wasn’t fast enough. Eve nearly drilled a hole in her temple rubbing it while she waited. “Feeney, I’ve got something, and it’s big.”

  “What?”

  “I can’t go into it yet, but I need you to go pick up Charles Monroe.”

  “Christ, Eve, have we got him?”

 
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admin 22 September 2018 10:45
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