Dark in death, p.26
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       Dark in Death, p.26
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         Part #46 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  18

  Eve surfaced out of dreams mildly annoyed with her subconscious. Couldn’t it give her a break once in a while, come up with some puffy white clouds for her to float on?

  Why would she—or anybody—want to float around on puffy white clouds? One strong wind could knock you off, then you’d have to dream up a parachute. And for all you knew, you could end up splashing into some big dream ocean and get eaten by sharks.

  Forget the damn, stupid clouds.

  “You’re thinking too loud.”

  Eve opened her eyes, looked straight into Roarke’s.

  So blue, she thought. If you splashed into an ocean that blue, there wouldn’t be any sharks because it would be perfect.

  “What are you doing here?”

  “I was sleeping until your brain woke up and started muttering.”

  “Is there nothing left in the universe to buy or sell or build or invent? Have we reached critical mass?”

  “Buying, selling, and so on can wait another hour.” As he spoke, his hand skimmed down her back, glided over her ass.

  “Somebody told me last night that sex was life.” Since it was handy, she gave his really exceptional ass a pat. “I wish I had time to live,” she added, rolling away from him and out of bed.

  Galahad leaped off behind her, beat her to the AutoChef. Pretty much on auto herself, she programmed his kibble, and two mugs of black coffee.

  The first glorious sip fired up a few circuits as she walked over to hand Roarke the other mug.

  “Thanks.”

  She narrowed her sleepy eyes at him. “How can you look awake? How can anybody look awake before the coffee? It’s just not right.”

  “I enjoy the awake more after the coffee.”

  “Not the same thing. Do you think the subconscious gets bitchy because it knows it’s starting the day at the morgue?”

  “It may factor. Bad dreams?”

  “No, bitchy ones. As in dead Loxie Flash bitching about being dead. Everybody’s fault but hers, right, until you wanted to punch her in her whiny face. But since she’s dead, what’s the point?”

  “I’d say your subconscious recognizes your latest victim contributed to her own fate, and if personality follows into death, she’d bitch and cast the blame about.”

  “Yeah. She deserved a good punch in the face, but she didn’t deserve murder—or having her last moments splashed all over the Internet and gossip venues. So.” She drained her coffee where she stood. “Morgue,” she grumbled and headed for the shower.

  She’d just started to work out the basic outline of her morning when Roarke stepped in behind her, into the hot, crisscrossing jets.

  His arms came around her. That hard, wet body pressed against her back, and she lost her train of thought.

  “A little life to start off the day.” His hand slid down to her center. “And to counterbalance the morgue.”

  “When you put it like that.” She started to turn around, turn into him, and found herself pressed to the tiles.

  “We’ll just have to make it quick.”

  His fingers slid into her, shot her straight to peak even as his teeth grazed over the back of her neck.

  She splayed her hands on the tiles, prepared to push off, pivot somehow, and grab on to him. But he thrust inside her, destroyed her with hard, fast strokes. Her vision blurred—crazed pleasure, rising steam, the pulsing beat of water—so she closed her eyes, surrendered.

  She heard the helpless sounds she made, echoing, drowning under the hot rain. And everything in her tightened, clung, hung on that sharp, stunning edge between pleasure and panic.

  Then fell.

  Somewhere, somehow, she felt his heart pounding against her back and his lips brushing against the side of her neck. Felt his grip become a caress before he turned her.

  Once again she looked straight into his eyes, and thought she’d fallen into that perfect blue sea after all.

  She skimmed her fingers through his wet hair. “I guess the word’s wow.”

  His lips curved as she brushed hers over them. “Something about having my naked wife serve me coffee in bed, I suppose.”

  She held on to him another moment, decided dreams of the bitching dead and trips to the morgue really could be counterbalanced.

  Then she nudged him away. “Okay, that’s done, now hands off, pal. I’ve got to move.”

  She finished showering, hopped in the drying tube and, grabbing the robe off the back of the door, went out for a second hit of coffee. She’d programmed breakfast by the time he came out, a towel slung around his hips.

  “Hungry, are you?”

  “I am now.”

  He grabbed a robe for himself so he could join her. And, after removing warming domes, sat a moment in silence.

  “You programmed oatmeal.”

  “Yeah, so? I … What? Damn it!”

  He sat back, laughing at her shocked consternation.

  “You’ve screwed with my subconscious. I should be eating waffles.”

  He patted her leg. “Tomorrow, waffles it is, whoever gets to the AC first.”

  Since she just continued to scowl at the bowl, he doctored up the oatmeal as he knew she liked—or tolerated. “It’s a good choice. We’re caught in this cold snap, dipping down from Canada. We’ll be lucky to hit twenty degrees today.”

  “Canada’s got no business dipping down here so the rest of us have to eat oatmeal.” But she ate it, and comforted herself with berries.

  “What can I do to help today, if I manage to find some time for it?”

  “You can let me know if you know any rich old ladies with a greedy, murderous son who plays the biddable, and a daughter who can be framed.”

  He considered as he ate. “I likely have a passing acquaintance with a few.”

  “Next vic. She’ll have her target selected and set up. I don’t know how long she’ll wait to move on it now. Whether she’ll push or step back. But if the bartender comes through with Yancy, I’ll have a face. And maybe Harvo finds something on the damn coat. Maybe we turn up the dreads and get something off them. Loxie made it easy for her, but she still moved too fast, and she made mistakes.

  “I’ve got to dig deeper into Delaware,” she continued as she got up to go to her closet. “Especially if I have a face. She had a life there. She lived somewhere, worked somewhere. Shopped, ate, has a history there. Maybe family.”

  She thought it through while she dressed, came out to find Roarke knotting a wine-colored tie with thin gray stripes. The gray matched his shirt exactly and came in a few tones lighter than the suit.

  As she strapped on her weapon, she saw him pick up the gray button he always carried, slide it into his pocket. And felt a stupefying wave of love.

  She rubbed a hand over the diamond under her sweater. Here was the cop, sentimental over a big, fat diamond. And the kazillionaire sappy over some stray button.

  What a pair they were.

  “Luck’s bullshit.”

  He glanced over. “Darling Eve, those are fighting words for an Irishman.”

  “Luck’s bullshit,” she repeated, and put a hunter green jacket over a sweater the color of Mira’s tea. “Except when it isn’t. I’m feeling pretty lucky to wake up with you, then there’s the whole getting nailed in the shower, even if oatmeal followed. I can’t say that counterbalances Strongbow’s luck last night, but it’s given me a damn good start to the day.”

  Eve filled her jacket pockets with her usual paraphernalia. “She doesn’t have that—not just the waking up and getting nailed. She might have a rush from the kill, but she’s got to be worried. She got spotted, chased, left possessions behind. She has to worry about that. She has to worry about me.”

  Now he studied her as she’d studied him. “How will she write you in, Lieutenant?”

  “Can’t say, but I can guarantee her story isn’t going to have a happy ending.”

  Thinking of stories, of endings, she sent Feeney a long text as she drove downtown a
long madly slippery streets.

  Attached are several writing samples from my prime suspect in the three murders associated with Blaine DeLano’s Dark series. If you’re not up to date, McNab can brief you. Is it possible to run an analysis of the writing, do a global search for similar styles, word uses, blah, blah, focusing on sites for writers? Wannabe types? Especially places where they can put up samples of their work for others to read?

  I can have Peabody start a search on social media sites. Suspect wrote a manuscript titled Hot Blood, Cold Mind, but my searches for the title on self-publishing types, social media, and so forth gets bupkus.

  On my way to the morgue now to see what Morris can tell me about her third vic. I’ll be in Central in about an hour if you need any clarification. Appreciate it. Dallas

  Long shot, Eve thought. She wasn’t confident Strongbow would put her work out there for comments or criticism. But maybe, maybe, there was a hunger that needed feeding. Maybe she’d risk it.

  Eve’s DLE handled the ice patches with barely a shudder, and certainly better than the pair of Rapid Cabs she saw crunched together on Ninth between Thirty-fifth and Thirty-fourth.

  Still, she couldn’t deny relief when she could get out of the damn car, off the damn streets, and into the white tunnel of the morgue.

  Halfway down she heard the unmistakable Peabody clump behind her.

  She paused in the air that smelled of chemical cleaning, fake lemon, and death.

  Bundled like a candied Eskimo in her pink coat, pink fuzzy-topped boots, a scarf in bleeding shades of blue with pink fringe, an earflap hat in the same pattern with bouncing pom-poms, Peabody clumped to catch up.

  “I take it back about the dumb-ass wind goggles. I wish I’d had a pair just for the walk to and from the subway.”

  “Blame Canada,” Eve told her. “It’s a changeup from blaming February.”

  “I’ve been looking at gardening sites. We’re going to do some window boxes, plant herbs and stuff. I shouldn’t have started thinking about spring.”

  “Maybe we’ll blame you then.” Eve kept walking, and pushed through Morris’s double doors.

  He’d gone for a black turtleneck rather than a shirt and tie—and who could blame him? It gave the steel-blue suit a sort of artsy vibe. He’d wound his hair into a single, thick braid that hung down the back of his protective cloak.

  “Here we are again,” he said.

  “She wouldn’t listen. Hit the club, drank the drink.”

  “Vodka, a whiff of vermouth, pomegranate juice, and a lethal twist of cyanide. That’s in addition to the Buzz, Erotica, Zoner, and the champagne cocktail—champagne, bitters, sugar substitute, and a splash of grenadine—already in her system.”

  “That’s fast work on the tox.”

  “I started on her last night. We had several unexpected guests—weather related.”

  “You’ve been here all night?”

  “Considering the weather and the state of the roads, it seemed wiser to spend the night with the dead rather than risk joining them. I have a very comfortable sofa here. It’s unfortunate my house here doesn’t run to anything approaching decent coffee.”

  “Peabody.”

  “On it.”

  “No, no.” He waved a hand in the air. “Don’t go out in this urban Arctic on my account.”

  “Just to my vehicle,” Eve told him. “I have the real deal in its AC.”

  “Then I’d be grateful.”

  Eve waited until Peabody scurried off. “Plus it gets her out of this part—she hates this part.”

  “Some never fully adjust.” He looked down at Loxie Flash, naked, chest still splayed open from the Y-cut. “Here you have a young woman, only a few years over the legal age, whose body has already been ravaged by addictions. Kidneys, liver, heart, lungs all already showing signs of that abuse. If she’d continued down this path, it’s unlikely she’d have seen forty. Of course, she didn’t have the chance to continue or to stop.”

  “She had the chance. She didn’t take it. Cyanide confirmed COD?”

  “Yes, and the TOD from your gauge confirmed. You see the cherry-red skin color. There are a couple of hairline fractures on her ribs I’d speculate came from an attempt at CPR.”

  “There was an attempt.”

  “The lack of bruising there indicates it was already too late. The cyanide salts she ingested would have acted quickly. The tats and piercings as you see. She was a bit overweight, and considering the lack of muscle tone didn’t exercise. She had breast enhancements, and was wearing nipple clamps when delivered to us. She has little else to say. A life hard lived, hard ended.”

  Peabody came back with a small pot. “I grabbed this out of your office, programmed you three cups from the DLE’s AC, dumped them in.”

  “You’re a genius.”

  “I couldn’t remember how you take it.”

  “At this moment? With great gratitude.”

  “If anything else shows up with her,” Eve told Morris, “let me know. Otherwise, you’ve given me what I expected.”

  “I don’t think she’s holding any secrets now, but we’ll finish. I haven’t heard from next of kin as yet.”

  “If you don’t, her ex said he’d make her arrangements. Let’s hit it, Peabody.”

  “Be safe out there,” Morris called after them. “And my eternal thanks for the coffee.”

  “I didn’t stall,” Peabody began, and Eve shook her head.

  “Straightforward poisoning. No surprises. Unless you consider the fact she was slowly killing herself with alcohol, illegals, and bad choices a surprise. I don’t. You can start trying to nail down where Strongbow got her hands on cyanide salts. Let’s give the next of kin another twenty-four before contacting Glaze.”

  Once she slid behind the wheel, Eve sat a moment, organizing her thoughts. “We’re going to focus on looking for the next target, try to get ahead of her. In the book, the vic was sixty-eight, so let’s go from sixty to seventy-five. She was worth about two hundred and sixty mil. We’re going to go from two mil up to four. She can be widowed or divorced—the fictional vic had been both—but she won’t be currently married or cohabbing. She’ll have a son and a daughter. Maybe other offspring, but she’ll have to have one of each.”

  “I reread parts of it last night before I got the call from Dispatch. I can start a search.”

  “Okay. Unless Harvo pulled an all-nighter like Morris, she hasn’t had time to get us anything yet, but we need to keep on that. I want Yancy all over the sketch. We push on the canvass for the damn dreads.”

  “Can I have hot chocolate?” Peabody offered a winsome smile. “I fantasized about it on the hike from the subway.”

  “Go.” Eve flicked a hand at the in-dash.

  She drove to Central, saw with some astonishment a couple of kids sliding down the sidewalk on what looked like flattened cardboard.

  “Why aren’t their asses frozen?”

  “Probably because they’re only ten-year-old asses.” She handed Eve a go-cup of coffee. “I’ve been thinking about the coats—the two she made. Well, three, since one was reversible. She has to have a professional machine, like I said, something that will handle the heavier materials, the heavier thread. She probably brought it with her to Brooklyn. If she’s on a budget, buying one’s a big expense, so with her skill level, she probably had it before, hauled it or had it shipped up here. Maybe we can track it.”

  “We need to push into Delaware. That’s another angle there. If she had her own professional machine, she likely did work out of her own place. Either full-or part-time. Do you need a license for that?”

  Considering, Peabody pursed her lips. “Maybe a certification. I’ll check. If she sewed under the table—I mean didn’t report sales or fees—that’s a harder route to follow, but she’d have had some reportable income, or big flag. She’d need a certification or a tax ID to buy supplies wholesale.”

  “She’d want that,” Eve concluded. “She’d need to maximi
ze income. Start playing those angles back in Delaware, and we’ll keep on them in Brooklyn.”

  She pulled into the lot at Central, shuffling the agenda in her head.

  “Start digging on the license or certification or whatever the hell for tailoring. Female, in Delaware, and cross with any lapses in the last two years. Lapses or transfers to New York. We’ll look for employment, income from tailoring, seamstressing in Delaware, and again the lapse that fits our timeline.”

  Eve got out, headed to the elevators. “I’ll push on Harvo, take another look at the Transit Authority feed—and see if we can track her from the stop in Brooklyn last night. Even in a stupid fur hoodie, it was freaking cold, so maybe she took a cab or a bus.”

  As the elevator doors opened, something, some compact missile with arms and legs, launched out. It slammed Peabody on the fly, knocking her back and down. At the same instant Eve managed to pivot, catch the missile on her shoulder, use its momentum to flip it over.

  A clatter of footsteps on the iron steps echoed with Peabody’s breathless curse. Eve pivoted again, but wasn’t quite quick enough to avoid one of the limbs—a foot—from glancing off her jaw, another from banging into her ribs before she dropped bodily on the now-cackling … man, she realized. A very small man with a really long beard.

  She said: “Fuck, fuck, fuck me!” as she held him down, shifting to pull her restraints off her belt.

  He continued to cackle, to wriggle, as Peabody gained her hands and knees and the thundering footsteps became a pair of breathless uniforms.

  “Little asshole,” one of them spewed as Eve finally clamped on the restraints. “He just all of a sudden went batshit.”

  Eve sat on the little asshole, eyeing the uniforms balefully. “What the fucking fuck?”

  “Sir, he came in to report an assault, he said, and we were starting to process when he went batshit. He took off for the elevator like he had wings on his tiny little feet.”

  Eve looked down at the crazed, glassy eyes of a man who looked like a creepy garden gnome. “And neither of you could tell he’s on something that makes him think he can fly? Get him in the tank. He assaulted an officer. Peabody, your status.”

 
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