Dark in death, p.24
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       Dark in Death, p.24
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         Part #46 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  “Brad told me, he told me about watching out for a woman with red hair and blue dreads. And to tell him if I saw her, especially if she ordered a pomtini. I wasn’t paying attention, we were so busy, and I just went on auto. This guy knocked over a whole screamer, all over the bar, then got in my face about it. He was really harsh, so I was mopping it up and making him a new one, and she must’ve sat down.”

  “She wasn’t sitting there before the screamer?”

  “I don’t think so, I really don’t. I’m not a hundred percent, okay? But I don’t think so. And I’m dealing with this dickwad, and she orders the pomtini. Lays down the cash, and a solid tip. I was thinking more about the dickwad, and the tip. And Brad was on his break, I think, and people were yelling for drinks, and I had two table orders to fill, so I was just on auto.”

  She snuffled back a sob. “Am I in trouble?”

  “Did she say anything else to you?”

  “No. I don’t think. She just said, ‘pomtini,’ put the cash down. And I finished the screamer for the dickwad, who was still giving me grief like I knocked the glass over, which I didn’t, and I finished one of the table orders, mixed the pomtini, took the cash, filled the other table order. She wasn’t sitting there anymore, I don’t think, because Dorinda—one of the waitresses—came up and ran down another order, and I think I’d have seen her. And Brad was back, and I thought, ‘phew,’ then all hell broke loose.”

  “Did you see her when all hell broke loose?”

  “No. No, not really. People were yelling, and, Jesus, Brad jumped over the bar and started running. Then some people were pushing and shoving, more than usual. And then I could see something bad was happening at VIP-4, but I didn’t know what. I don’t understand what happened. I know the Flash died. She OD’d, right?”

  “Not the way you mean. Do you have the cash for the pomtini?”

  “I put it in the till. I … I, uh, put the tip in my pocket. You’re supposed to report it, but …”

  “I need that. I’m going to give you a receipt for it, and you’ll get it back.”

  “Okay.” She took some bills out of the bar apron pocket, drew out a fresh, lettuce-crisp five. “It’s this because it’s, like, brand-new.”

  Eve signaled Roarke, then programmed a receipt, printed it out, handed it over. “You can go.”

  “I’m not in trouble?”

  “No.”

  “I’m really sorry I made the drink.”

  Not as sorry as Loxie Flash, Eve thought, and took an evidence bag from the field kit.

  “Peabody just came in—with McNab.”

  “Good.” She slid the five-dollar bill into the bag, marked and sealed it.

  “What can I do?”

  “Doubtful there are any cams in here. Take the outside surveillance, find her. I can put McNab on her personal devices. Peabody.”

  Face pink from the cold, Peabody stepped up. “Which one is it?”

  “Loxie Flash. Order in a screen, then round up anyone seated near VIP-4—Flash’s table—start on statements and contacts and releases. Hold anyone who had contact with or a good line of sight on the redhead. Leave Glazier and his group—we need to interview him separately. I’m going to start with the waitstaff and her table companions.”

  “Glaze is here, too?”

  “Yeah. Was that a bonus, or did she manage to arrange it? McNab, the uniforms have the vic’s purse, coat. Check her pocket ’link. I spoke with her earlier this evening, and left a v-mail that will likely time in after or around her TOD. See who and what else.”

  “I’ve got it.”

  Eve started on the waitstaff, got nowhere. No sightings until the dash. She walked back to the first on scene.

  “Where are the people who were at the DB’s table?”

  “We stowed them up in a privacy room, but had to put a man on the door. Bunch of assholes, Lieutenant, to tell the truth on it.”

  “I guess they fit right in then. Names?”

  He checked his notebook, and she transferred the names to hers. She started for the stairs, stopped when McNab hailed her.

  He jogged over on his plaid snowboots. “You’re going to want to see her last text. It came in about twenty after your conversation with her.”

  She took the ’link, read.

  “Just couldn’t say no and stay the fuck home.”

  “It’s from a Janis Dorsey.”

  “One of her group. At least that keeps it simple. She’s upstairs. I’ll talk to her now. Roarke’s got the door cams. You can help with statements and contacts. I need to clear out most of these people before I start on the DB.”

  “Roger that. Screen’s on the way.”

  “Give me a buzz when it gets here.” She went upstairs and to the uniform on one of the privacy room doors. Saw it was Shelby from her own division.

  “Stick around, Officer.”

  “Yes, sir. Sir, they were half-stoned when we herded them in there.”

  “Won’t this be fun?”

  Eve went in. Two males, three females, she noted. One of the males and one of the females were currently tongue diving each other. The male’s hand squeezed the female’s exposed left breast with its glitter-painted nipple.

  The lot of them may have been half-stoned when they’d entered the room, but they’d crossed the finish line.

  “I can see you’re all grieving over the loss of your friend.”

  A female with half a mile of blond hair scattered with pink braids smiled glassily. “Loxie puked and went plop, right on the floor.”

  The female beside her who’d chosen swirls of black-and-white body paint in lieu of pants giggled.

  “Yeah, that’s a laugh, all right. The old puke, plop, and perish.”

  “Perish my left ass cheek.” The other male snorted, slouched down farther on the single bed they all shared. “Bitch is messing around, like she does.”

  Eve took out her badge, walked closer to shove it into his face. “I’m Homicide, you fucking moron. Dead’s my business. Loxie Flash is dead.”

  “No serious way. I was humping her like a minute before she puked and plopped.”

  “Consider it her last hump.”

  “She’s, like, dead?” The blonde blinked and some tiny glimmer of sanity flickered in the glassy eyes. “Like, dead?”

  “Yes. You two.” Eve kicked the bed to break up the tongue-diving competition. “Knock it off, cover it up.”

  “Sex is life, man.”

  “If you take that pathetic replacement for your brain out, I’ll haul it and you down to Central, lock you in a cage, and forget about you for the next forty-eight. Man.”

  His hand paused in the act of undoing the trio of buttons that covered the bulge of his crotch. “Fuck, a bitch oughta lighten up.”

  Eve just opened the door, finger curled to Shelby. “Officer, take that extreme asshole into Central, book him on committing lewd acts in public, and toss him in with the other perverts.”

  “Whoa, whoa.” He threw up both hands. “Take it down, yeah? I’m chill. I be chill.”

  “Stand by,” Eve told Shelby, and shut the door again. “You be quiet until I tell you otherwise. Janis Dorsey.”

  The blond raised her hand, wiggled her fingers.

  “Did Loxie have plans to join your group of stupid tonight?”

  “I … I don’t know. I hadn’t hooked with her for a few days.”

  “You texted her this evening.”

  “I did? I don’t know.” She looked at the woman beside her. “Did I?”

  The woman shrugged. “You didn’t say.”

  “But I … Uh-uh, I didn’t. The G-man came in, and I thought it’d be some laughs if she came in, too, but then we wanted to dance, and I forgot. Anyway, I texted her how he was in Palisades when I went in to have dinner awhile ago, and she got super pissed. And all, like, ‘Why should I give a shit?’ So I wasn’t even sure I should because she’s mean when she’s pissed. Then she came anyway.”

  “Let me see
your ’link.”

  “I don’t think you hafta.” The one whose crotch had ceased bulging gave Eve the hard eye. “She needs, like, a warrant.”

  “I can get one—and you can go to Central and wait until I have one, wait until I examine your friend’s cold, dead body, until she’s taken to the morgue, until I finish with the crime scene. Then I’ll come let you out of the holding pen.”

  “You can’t—”

  “I warned you to stay quiet. Speak again, you’re charged with obstruction, the lewd behavior, and possession of whatever’s left in your pockets of what you’ve ingested.”

  “You can see it, you can see it.” Janis opened a tiny, useless purse, pulled out her ’link. Closed the purse so fast Eve assumed some of what was left was inside the small and useless.

  Eve took the ’link, called up the texts. Then turned the display screen around.

  She watched Janis’s face, saw the baffled shock. “But I didn’t! Hey, Dodo, look! This isn’t from me. It doesn’t have my sig.”

  Dodo stopped examining her nails, looked at the display. “Bogus. She, like, signs her texts. Jadar. Like radar with a J, right? No sig, not hers.”

  “You can look, go on and look, all my texts. I can show you.”

  “I can find them.” Eve called them up, ignored the gossip, the nonsense, the bullshit displayed. And saw ever yone with the Jadar signature line.

  “All right, did you lend your ’link to anybody?”

  “As if!”

  “Was it in your possession all evening?”

  “Right on the table.”

  “Right on the table, say, when you all got up to dance.”

  “Sure. Nobody’s going to steal it, right? And I’ve got more at home anyway. Not like my hoodie. Somebody took my hoodie right off the booth, and it was my favorite mink. Anyway, I didn’t text Loxie.”

  “I need the ’link. I’ll give you a receipt.”

  Janis sighed. “Bummed.”

  “Run it through for me, from the time she came in.”

  “Okay, well, I saw her over at the G-man’s booth. He was there with a group, and I saw her hitting on him pretty hard, but he didn’t bite, right? So she came over to hang with us, took my drink, right, Dodo?”

  “Slurped it right down. You gave her a tab of—Hey,” Dodo objected when Janis jabbed her with an elbow. “What the fuck does she care?”

  “Anyway,” Janis said quickly. “Loxie said how she needed another drink, but then she slithered up Bennie to dance some sexy, then she came back, drank her drink down. Then she … she fell on the floor. Plop, then puke. Everybody scrambled up because, wow. I didn’t think she really died. I didn’t think.”

  Do you ever? Eve wondered. “How did she get the drink, the one she had before she died?”

  “Ah … I guess she ordered it?”

  “Who served it?”

  Janis shrugged, looked at Dodo. Another shrug, looked at Bennie.

  “It was there when we came back to the booth.”

  Eve looked at the second male, got a snarky smile.

  “Speak.”

  “Little tits. I notice tits.” He brushed his hand over the partially covered breast of the woman currently curled up, passed out, and snoring beside him.

  “The server had small breasts.”

  “Barely made bumps in her top. Like yours.”

  She let that pass. “Did you happen to notice anything else about her?”

  “Some fan.” He started to reach for the unconscious woman’s breast again, caught the hard glint in Eve’s eyes. Laid his roaming hand back on his thigh.

  “Why do you assume that?”

  “I assume it wasn’t a waitress because they all wear short black skirts and tight red tops, and she wasn’t. Hangers-on send over drinks all the time. And other things,” he added with that smile.

  “What was she wearing?”

  “It wasn’t that. Home dye job, red, fake side dreads, blue.”

  “You noticed her tits and her hair.”

  “Her tits because I have a dick. Her hair because it’s what I do and am. Sylvio, hair designer to those who rock. You could use some work. Some Brimstone lowlights to add some fire.”

  “I’ll keep that in mind.”

  17

  It took her longer than she liked to pick her way through the memories and observations of the group in the privacy room. Since the one woman slept through it, Eve arranged for her transportation home, and earmarked her for later, if necessary.

  At least by the time she came back down the screen closed off the body, and at least half the number of patrons had been moved out.

  Eve went first to Glaze’s booth. “I’m going to ask you to wait awhile longer.”

  “Not a problem, as long as you need. But could you let the others go on home?”

  Before she could answer, the man to his left shook his head. “We stick, brother. We all stick.”

  “I’d appreciate it.” Eve turned away, started for the screen. Roarke intercepted her.

  “I’ve got her coming and going. You might want to have a look.” He offered her a handheld. “I copied the feed, just her bit. First, the arrival, front door cam. Second, exit out of the back.”

  Eve studied the feed. The hat, the goggles—the same as she’d worn at the vid palace. Dark, knee-length coat with some sort of glittery braiding on the cuffs, the hem, the shoulders. Thick-heeled ankle boots—gold chains with dangling skulls draped from the top. Skin pants with a star pattern.

  A shoulder bag—larger than the useless one Janis used. Big enough for a vial of poison, she assumed, and the cash needed, with room enough to stow the goggles, the gloves, the scarf, and the hat.

  She noted the time stamp, calculated Strongbow had entered the club about the time Eve herself had spoken with the victim. Maybe slightly prior.

  She switched to the exit. “Got the purse,” she noted. “Wearing it cross-body. I can see the strap across her back. Carrying a coat, but not the one she wore in.”

  “No,” Roarke agreed. “It looks like a fur of some sort, and there’s a hood. It’s dangling down there.”

  “Yeah, I see. It’s going to be mink. Damn it, she snatched the coat off the vic’s booth. Had the presence of mind not to run out into the cold and wind without a coat. That’s thinking on your fucking feet.”

  She handed him back the device. “Start contacting cab companies. Ten-block radius to this location. A pickup matching her description.”

  “They might not cooperate, as I haven’t a badge number.”

  “You’ll find a way.” No question of that, Eve thought. “She probably didn’t cab it. Subway maybe. Or grabbed a bus. Cab’s are tough on the budget, but we’ll start there.”

  She scanned for Peabody, spotted McNab. “McNab!”

  “Yo.”

  “Transit Authority. Start with lines going to Brooklyn. Have them scan for a woman wearing a hooded mink jacket. Add her description, though if she has brains—and she does—she’ll have ditched the dreads. I want subways, and buses.”

  “You got it.”

  She damn well hoped so.

  “Have Peabody search the club for a dark coat with glitter braiding. Probably homemade. She’ll know.”

  Eve stepped behind the screen. “Okay, Loxie, you idiot, let’s do what we can.”

  She removed the leather coat, tossed it on the padded booth. And did what she could.

  When Peabody stepped behind the screen, Eve closed her field kit. Straightened from her crouch.

  “Rounding it, TOD’s eighteen minutes before I got here.”

  “You must’ve flown.”

  “Roarke can drive. Strongbow sent the text from the moronic Janis Dorsey’s ’link—one she conveniently left on the table when she got up to dance with her moronic friends. Sent the text—which Loxie answered in less than a minute to announce she was on her way to die—faded back, and waited. The place is full of a lot of other morons, most of them high.”

&
nbsp; Eve looked down at the body with a combination of pity and disgust. “She waits until Loxie comes in, and doesn’t Loxie play right into the damn script and go over to try to sex up the ex. He, by all accounts, wasn’t sexed. She comes over here, drinks, takes more illegals, gets up to dance. Which presents excellent timing for Strongbow to order the drink, tip in the poison, and goddamn set it down on the table herself.”

  “She served the drink. Man, that’s ballsy.”

  “Risk and reward,” Eve muttered. “Nobody gave a shit that some stranger set a drink down. Nobody gave a shit what might be in it. Probably hoped it was laced with good stuff. She comes back, drinks it down, lets the guy she was dancing with paw her. And it kicks in. If, as advertised and as her color indicates, it’s cyanide, she had some trouble breathing, felt off, weird.

  “Did she think then?” A hint of rage leaked into Eve’s voice. “Did it even begin to occur to her then that she’d killed herself because she couldn’t not be a fuckhead? Who the hell knows? She passes out, falls off the bench. Starts to seize. That cherry-red’s coming up in her face. Her system revolts, tries to expel what’s already killed her. The morons she’s surrounded herself with squeal, scramble, and laugh. I’ll bet vids of her death are already making the rounds. Meanwhile, the seriously not-moronic bartender has not only called the cops and gotten his bouncer on the front door, but after locking eyes with the killer, tries to catch her when she runs. She’s smart enough to grab one of the morons’ coats, which—her lucky day—is a goddamn mink hoodie. She bolts out the kitchen, and she’s gone.

  “So’s Loxie, long before the MTs can get to her.”

  “A few people caught a glimpse of her,” Peabody added. “She knocked into a couple as she fled. The descriptions are what you’d expect given the alcohol, illegals, lighting. I’ve got the coat she wore to get here.”

  “Score one for us.”

  “McNab’s getting a bag from the kitchen. We don’t have any big enough. It’s well made—professionally made. She’s got skills, Dallas, and a professional machine. It’s a cheap, blended material, but she put in a decent lining for warmth. Cheap braiding, but perfectly sewn. Nothing in the pockets.”

  “She had a purse, put everything in there. Where did you find the coat?”

 
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