Dark in death, p.25
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       Dark in Death, p.25
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         Part #46 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  “She left it on the barstool. It looks to me like she hung it there when she ordered the drink. Left it there when she walked the drink to the table here.”

  “But didn’t go back for it. Stayed here, closer to the booth. She wanted to watch, to make sure it went according to script.”

  “I guess when she saw Brad made her, she grabbed the closest coat right off the bench. Did you say mink?”

  “Yeah.” Eve jammed frustrated hands in her pockets. “If she tries to pawn it or sell it, we may be in luck. I’ve got the description from its idiot owner. We’ll get it out. Contact the other women on the list, Peabody, contact Yola Bloomfield. She got a text from the moron’s ’link, too. And the rest of the list. See if they got one from another ’link.”

  “It’s really late, Dallas.”

  “It’s a hell of a lot later for her.” Eve glanced at Loxie again. “Let’s get the dead wagon and the sweepers.”

  She stepped out, moved to the only people present now besides cops—and an expert consultant, civilian.

  “I’m sorry you had to wait.”

  “It doesn’t matter,” Glaze told her.

  “If I could speak to you, Mr. Glazier. Over there.”

  “Glaze,” he said as he rose, laid a hand on the shoulder of the brunette sitting beside him. “Mr. Glazier’s my old man.”

  She took him to a table away from the body, and his friends.

  “You and the deceased were involved at one time.”

  “We were a lot of things at one time.” He had a compelling face, with deep, dark eyes against pale, pale skin. Hair, nearly as dark as his eyes, that shagged long around it. “We were a lot of things, off and on, for too long a time. You never think it’ll be you. That you’ll be the one to play too hard, party too much, cross that line, and check out. Lox thought she was invincible. I used to think the same.”

  Eve didn’t disabuse him about the overdose. “Did you know she was coming here tonight?”

  “No. I guess I knew she might, that somebody might tell her I was here. The last time we ran into each other, it was pretty harsh.”

  “When was that?”

  “Five months, three weeks, and two days ago.”

  “That’s very specific.”

  “Yeah. I’d been clean. For nine weeks and two days before that, I’d been clean. We’d busted off again, me and Lox, a couple weeks before that, and I meant it to stay busted off. I started seeing Lauren.” He glanced in the direction of his booth.

  “I met her at a frigging bookstore, do you believe it? I was trying to stay straight, and I was reading a lot. I just happened into this place—I didn’t have any actual books. She did, she worked there. We started talking, and … doesn’t matter. I started seeing her, started to see how it could be. Then I got restless one night. Nine weeks and two days clean, and I got restless, decided to drop into Styx—another club, not much different than this.”

  Shifting, he stared at the stage. “Not much different,” he said again. “I just wanted to hear some music, maybe jam in on a set. That’s what I told myself. Maybe have one brew. What could one hurt? And there’s Loxie. We got trashed together, went back to my place, got more trashed.

  “I woke up the next afternoon sick, strung out, hating myself. Hating Loxie. We busted up again. I didn’t tell Lauren. Didn’t have to, as word got out. She wouldn’t see me, talk to me. I begged. The next few weeks, I sent her a text every day. I’m clean, day one. Day two, like that.”

  He spread his hands on the surface of the table. Two thick silver rings winked on his fingers.

  “Finally, she met me for coffee. It wasn’t enough, she told me, and she was right. I needed help, she said, and right again. Nobody could make me, and God, didn’t I know it? I had to do it. So I did. I went to Zurich, and I got help. I wrote music. I got my shit together. I’ve got Lauren. No sex,” he added with a wry smile. “I get to a year clean, we’ll celebrate. We’re recording. That’s why we came in tonight. We had a string of really good days in the studio. I’ve been clean for five months, three weeks, and a day.”

  He let out a long breath. “I wanted to test myself. To see if I could sit in a club, hear music, be around people drinking and popping. And I could. I could, and that was better than any high I’d ever pumped in. Can’t explain it.”

  “You just did.”

  He stared down at his hands. “I needed to test myself, and I passed. And when Loxie came in, and gave me all the signals, it didn’t push the buttons. Not because of Lauren—or not only. But because of me.

  “I was feeling so damn good about it, about turning that corner, man. Then … I didn’t see her hit the floor. I heard—I think, maybe Janis—scream. A kind of wild, laughing scream. I just glanced over. Then I saw. Loxie on the floor, seizing. I yelled for Kick—my bass, my friend—to call nine-one-one, to get the MTs. I got over to her, finally. People in the way, crowding in, taking fucking vids. I couldn’t find a pulse. I tried CPR, like you do, for a couple minutes, but … She was staring up at me, just staring. There wasn’t anything there. I knew before the MTs got here, before they said there wasn’t anything there. Lauren brought my coat over, and we covered her up.”

  He let out a breath. “She’s not the first person I’ve lost this way. It would’ve been me sooner or later. Me, lying on the floor of some club or bar or some alley after a score. I’d cut her out of my life, you know, to save my own. But I didn’t want to see hers end.

  “She’s got a mother and a sister,” he said. “They don’t get along, but … If they can’t or won’t take care of, you know, the arrangements and all that, I can.”

  “I’ll contact her family, and let you know. I’m going to describe someone, and I want you to get the picture in your head, think about if you’ve seen her. Tonight, in here, or at any other time.”

  “Okay.”

  “A woman, in her forties, but maybe trying to look younger. About five-six, slim build. White. Red hair, blue side dreads. Orange dragon tat on the inside of her right wrist.”

  He waited a moment. “That’s it?”

  “I’ll have more tomorrow, but for now.”

  “I wasn’t really scoping the crowd tonight. A test, right? I was sort of closed into the booth, to friends. Some people dropped by … I don’t remember seeing a woman like that tonight.”

  “Maybe around where you live, in a restaurant, around where you’re recording.”

  “I don’t think I …” As he trailed off, his eyes narrowed. “Maybe, yeah, yeah. Outside the studio. Like last week. I went into the next room—this space where you can just sit and clear your head or have a meet. I wasn’t nailing the bridge, just wanted to chill it down. I looked out the window. That redhead in the bad coat—all that glitter trim—staring at the studio. Most likely for Jake—Jake Kincade, Avenue A? It’s his place, his studio. East Side Sound. But I caught her eye and waved. She ran like a rabbit.”

  He laughed then, sighed out the rest. “And I caught sight of her just this afternoon out there. Waved again. This time she blew me a kiss. I let Jake know he maybe has a stalker. He plays it low-key. I don’t get how that plays into Loxie.”

  “Loxie didn’t OD.”

  “But I saw—”

  “What you saw was death by poison. The woman you saw, twice, poisoned her.”

  His slumped shoulders jerked back. “But, come on. Murder? A lot of people might have wanted to kick her ass. I did myself, plenty. But …” She saw it come into his head, saw it in his eyes. “Was she stalking me? Me, not Jake? Oh Jesus Christ, did she kill Lox because of me?”

  “She killed Loxie because she’s a murderer, and Loxie provided her with the target and opportunity she wanted. I don’t think you’ll see her again, but if you do, don’t approach. Contact me.”

  “Lauren.”

  “She has no reason to wish any harm to Lauren. This person is delusional. She killed Loxie because Loxie fit certain characteristics. From what you’ve told me, Lauren doesn’t have
anything in common with Loxie.”

  “Me. She’s got me.”

  “It’s not you, Glaze, it’s the illusion of you, and, again, certain characteristics that no longer apply. I can almost guarantee you’re not even a blip in her world now. She’s finished with you, with Loxie, with this … scenario.”

  And now she becomes someone else, Eve thought.

  “Add to your security, and Lauren’s if you’re worried. But you, this, tonight? For her it’s a closed book.”

  “I will. I am.”

  “I’m going to talk to the rest of your group, then you’re all free to go.” Eve rose. “You know it’s a long street after that corner’s turned. I hope you stay on it.”

  “One step, every day, the rest of my life. I like the street. I like who I am when I’m walking it.”

  Eve talked to Glaze’s group, excused herself to take a frantic ’link tag from Yola Bloomfield, then finished up.

  Before she could hunt down Peabody, Roarke pushed coffee into her hand.

  She all but inhaled it. “I’d grant you exotic and possibly illegal sexual favors for this alone.”

  “I’ll make a list.” He set a hand on her shoulder. “You should take a moment, gather your thoughts.”

  “They’re gathered. Where the hell is Peabody?”

  Even as she spoke, both Peabody and McNab came out of the kitchen area.

  “F train, Second Avenue station,” McNab said. “Transit copied me on the feed. I can hook it to the stage screen. Might take a minute.”

  “Take the minute.”

  While he went to work, Peabody added her progress. “I gave the suspect’s coat to the sweepers, told them to get Harvo on it. Any hair or fibers thereon, she’ll find them and pin them down.”

  “Asshole named Sylvio claims the red’s a home-dye job, and the dreads are fake.”

  “Sylvio? Like the hair king? He’d know. I can start running down the dreads.”

  “Do that and start a search for them—focused between here and the Second Avenue subway station—also inside the station, and on the F train. If she has brains, and she does, she’d have yanked them off and ditched them on the run. We find them, and Harvo’s got something else to play with.”

  “All over it. The only one on the skank list who also got a text was Yola Bloomfield.”

  “Culled it down to two,” Eve noted.

  “Got it up, Dallas.”

  Eve moved over to the stage area.

  She watched the night owls, the party people, the LCs calling it a night head for the platforms. A couple of sidewalk sleepers in from the cold huddled together on the floor, begging hats displayed—and ignored.

  She saw Strongbow. Mink hoodie up and buttoned to the neck, wind goggles in place. As she approached the transoms, Strongbow unbuttoned the hoodie to reach inside for her purse.

  Took out a swipe.

  Eve braced. Do it, do it, you crazy, murdering bitch.

  But she stopped, dipped her head lower. Stepping aside, she reached in her purse again, carefully counted out cash.

  She took it to the machine, paid for a new swipe.

  Cash, Eve noted from the display. One ride.

  “Smart enough, smart enough to be careful. Didn’t use a multi-swipe—we could’ve tracked her movements. Didn’t use an account via her ’link, and you can bet she’s got those. Cheaper than a ride-by-ride.”

  Strongbow pushed through, kept her head bowed as she waited on the platform. When she got on the train, McNab switched the feed. Eve saw her sit in a corner, huddle there.

  “She’s aware of the cameras, thinking about the cameras. Brooklyn, yeah, she’s got to risk that, but you can bet your ass she won’t get off at her usual stop. She’ll walk, warm in a scene well written and in that damn stupid jacket. Wearing gloves, probably had them in her purse, but still she’s careful not to touch things. Overcautious about prints or a germophobe? Can’t see any hair. You ought to get a hint of the dreads from some of the angles, but nothing. She’s already ditched them. Peabody, push on teams to scour the area from here to the station where she got on.”

  Eve paced in front of the screen as Strongbow rode.

  “Mistakes, got some mistakes now. Got spotted, had to run. What does she think of that? Is she asking herself how the bartender made her? Will she go back over the scene, looking for the mistakes? Had to leave her coat, got the better part of the deal with the mink, but we’ve got some pieces of her now. She didn’t get away clean.”

  “I kind of wonder …”

  When Peabody trailed off, Eve turned to her. “Finish it. Half thoughts are weak and annoying.”

  “Okay, I wonder if getting spotted, running, if that added a new element for her. If she got a thrill out of it. It’s attention, right? She craves it.”

  “That’s good,” Eve said. “That’s very good. First the shock, the fear, then the thrill. Nadine’s broadcast gave her a taste of it, likely juiced her up to move on this next chapter tonight. Now she’s got more. She hedged her bets,” Eve added. “She texted Yola Bloomfield from dumb-ass Janis’s ’link seconds after she texted Loxie.”

  Eve jammed her hands in her pockets, rocked back on her heels. “Yola tagged me, full panic. Word’s already out on Loxie Flash—with video.”

  “So it didn’t matter which of them,” Peabody said.

  “Glaze mattered. Loxie was likely top prize, but Yola’s done the dirty with him a couple times, so she’d do. Or would have if she hadn’t had the sense to stay home. She’s getting off. That’s … on Jay.”

  Head down the whole way, Eve thought. Even in the expensive coat, she was a woman who barely made a ripple on the air.

  “We’ll check store and street cams in that area,” Eve said. “She’s going to know where they are and how to avoid them, but we have to check. I’m betting her usual stop is at least a couple stations down the line, or a transfer. But we’re going to have a sketch tomorrow. Copy that transfer feed to my units, McNab. Peabody, morgue, eight hundred sharp.”

  “I figured.”

  “Go home, get some rack time. I’ll seal up here.”

  “I hear that.”

  “There’s transpo waiting for you outside,” Roarke told them. “Ice has gone to snow, which means ice under snow. It’s ugly out there.”

  “That’s even better news than ‘go home.’ ” Wearily, Peabody shrugged into her coat. “Thanks. Mega serious thanks.”

  “Squared,” McNab added, then snagged Peabody’s hand so they swung arms on the way out.

  Eve walked back over to the booth, shook her head.

  “Loxie almost had to see her. Look at the angles—booth to bar. Strongbow had to be close to the booth, maybe about here.”

  Eve walked around, imagined the mink hoodie carelessly tossed over the plush back. “Wits put vic here.”

  She circled again, pointed to the curved end farthest from the bar. “Here, Loxie’s got Glaze’s booth in her line of sight, and she wants that. Wants his eye on her—doesn’t get it. The way the booth curves, if Strongbow’s more or less where it makes sense—close enough, angled there, so she can watch Loxie drink and die—Loxie probably saw her.”

  “Does it matter?” Roarke asked her.

  “Just helps me get a picture. Vic here, killer there, bar there, Brad the bartender down there. People crowded around, moving through, plunked in other booths or at tables. She gets back from the dance floor—far end because she wanted Glaze to see her rubbing herself all over some guy named Bennie. Drink’s sitting here because Strongbow ordered it from this end of the bar—that stool where she left her coat—and set it down in front of five oblivious idiots.”

  Eve sat on the end of the booth. “Stand over there, will you?”

  Roarke moved in as surrogate for the killer.

  “Lots of weird lighting, lots of people, lots of noise, but here I am, pissed and insulted because my ex doesn’t have a boner for me. I pick up the drink.”

  She mimed lifting it, dri
nking it down. “Bennie’s got his hands all over me. Maybe I’ll let him do me later. Probably. Definitely want to get laid. Can’t get my breath—weird. I don’t feel right. Something’s wrong, it’s wrong. Bennie’s humping me, but I can’t breathe. I can’t—

  Eve drew a line with her hand from where she sat to where Roarke stood. “Almost had to see her. Not unconscious like the first vic, not in the back like the second. She wanted to be seen. She wanted to see and be seen. And that matters, because she’s going to want that again.”

  Heaving out a breath, Eve rose. “Did Loxie have that moment of awareness—seeing the woman with the blue dreads, thinking about the taste of that stupid martini? Did she have enough time for that fuckme moment?”

  She shook her head again. “Anyway. Strongbow cut back her lag time. Cut it way back. That’s the broadcast with Nadine.”

  “You won’t blame yourself for this.”

  She turned back to Roarke. “Damn right I won’t. I laid all this out for Loxie Flash, just like the others. I warned her, showed her crime scene pictures. Hardly more than a goddamn hour before she walked in here, I talked to her again, warned her again. She had to do one fucking thing to stay alive. Stay out of the clubs. Give me a few days, and stay out of the clubs. Instead she got her slut on, walked in here. Bad enough, all that’s bad enough, but I told her the drink to avoid. She drinks it anyway. Drinks what’s in front of her because she was weak, stupid, and liked sticking her finger in authority’s eye. She’s a goddamn accessory to her own murder.”

  Releasing frustration, Eve kicked the booth, twice. “And now she’s mine.”

  “She’s yours,” he agreed. “And you’re tired. Let’s follow your own orders and go home, get some rack time.”

  “Yeah. Nothing more to do here.” Looking at him, knowing he saw her, saw in her, she let the exhaustion come. “Damn it, Roarke, goddamn it. She just had to stay home.”

  “Baby.” He moved to her, drew her in. “Some can’t. For some, being alone is a kind of death.”

  “She made her choice. The last shit choice in a series of shit choices. Yeah, let’s go home. I need to notify her next of kin, though if Yola’s anything to go by, they already know.”

 
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