Dark in death, p.27
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       Dark in Death, p.27
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         Part #46 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  “I’m, ah, okay. Rapped my head pretty good.” She reached around, probed with her fingertips. “Ow!”

  “Haul his tiny, stupid ass up the steps.” Eve dragged him up, shoved him at the uniforms. “Two counts of assaulting an officer,” she said, rubbing her stinging jaw. “Find out what he ingested, popped, or smoked. For Christ’s sake.”

  “I love you, sweet cheeks,” the tiny, wriggling man shouted at Eve. “Wanna kiss your boobies!”

  “Yeah? Well, I want to kick your tiny ass. We’ll both live with the disappointment.” She gripped Peabody’s arm, guided her into the elevator.

  “Boobies!” he shouted before the elevator doors shut.

  “I’m surrounded by boobies. Do you need medical?”

  “I don’t think … Were we just slammed by a giggling, bearded dwarf?”

  “You were.”

  “Then I probably only need an ice pack. And a blocker.”

  “Get both. Goddamn world’s full of goddamn crazy people.”

  The elevator doors opened; several people started to get on. Eve snarled. Several people backed off.

  She repeated the process all the way to Homicide, where once again she gripped Peabody’s arm and dragged her to the bullpen. “Somebody get Peabody an ice pack and a damn blocker.”

  Baxter swiveled in his chair. “You take a hit, Peabody?”

  “I got decked by a flying dwarf.”

  “I can’t count the times that’s happened to me.” But he rose, patted her cheek. “I’ve got you covered. Let’s get your coat off, sweetie.”

  Across the bullpen, Santiago pulled open a drawer on his desk. “Got your blocker, Peabody.”

  Someone else came up with a tube of water, and the reliable and earnest Trueheart trotted over with an ice pack.

  Satisfied her partner would live through the morning, Eve started to turn away and walk to her office. She caught the scent of fat, yeast, sugar. Narrowed her eyes as Nadine walked in with a bakery box.

  And with a rock star.

  The blue line dissolved in the scent of fresh donuts.

  Nadine, wisely, pushed the box at Eve and avoided a stampede. “Are you all right, Peabody?”

  “I got slammed by a flying dwarf. Hit my head.”

  “A flying dwarf?” Nadine repeated with a look of concern at Eve.

  “It happens. What do you want, Nadine? We’re a little busy.”

  “I come with baked goods, and some potential information. If you aren’t interested—”

  “My office.” Eve set the box on Peabody’s desk, gave her men the hard eye. “She gets the first, or I hear about it.”

  “Awww,” Peabody said as Eve stalked away.

  “What information?” Eve demanded. “I’m not bullshitting about the busy, and Peabody’s eyes are still wheeling around in her head.”

  “Um …” Tall, built, and handsome in a been-there-done-that sort of way, Jake glanced over his shoulder. “Where did the flying dwarf come from?”

  “The elevator.” Eve headed straight for the AutoChef, as her to-go cup of coffee had splatted on the garage floor. “You’re here because I was going to look you up later, see if you could tell me anything about Glaze and Loxie Flash.”

  “Actually, that’s why …” Jake trailed off as he caught sight of her murder board.

  Eve programmed three coffees, gave him a once-over. “If you’re sensitive, we can take this elsewhere.”

  “I wouldn’t have thought, but … that’s pretty harsh. I guess usual for you, like flying dwarfs.”

  She reassessed him. She’d only met him once, under tense circumstances, and had found him steady. He had that tall, dark, dangerous look she knew some women went for. She assumed he had more going for him if Nadine was flustered over him.

  He turned to Eve now, gestured toward her face with a long finger. “It looks like you took a slam, too.”

  “The dwarf had feet in really hard shoes.” And her ribs ached at the moment like a bad tooth. “Sorry, crap mood.”

  “Getting kicked in the face by a dwarf’s bound to sour the mood.” Jake took the coffee she offered. “Thanks. Listen, I heard about Loxie. It’s all over the everywhere. Nadine figured I should come in, talk to you.”

  “Talk.” She gestured toward her visitor’s chair.

  He sat, winced a little. “Does this chair have teeth?”

  “Apparently. Glazier’s been recording at your place.”

  “Right.” Jake shoved at his long, tousled hair. “I want to say he’s turned himself around, and it’s not always easy in our game. He’s been an asshole, but he’s young and it’s almost required you’re an asshole when you’re young and rocking it.”

  “Are you an asshole?”

  “Jesus, Dallas.”

  “It’s fair,” Jake said to Nadine with a spark of humor in crystal blue eyes. “I’m not so young, and while I had asshole moments, I decided early on the music was more important than the party. Even than the sex, though that can run neck and neck in some cases. Glaze took awhile to get there, made some idiot choices, but he’s on the road. Loxie was a big pothole in that road.”

  The humor died as he glanced down at the coffee in his hand. “I’m sorry she’s dead. I’m sorry she died like she did, but Glaze had already driven around that pothole and moved on. He wouldn’t have hurt her.”

  “Do you know who would have?”

  Jake looked at Nadine.

  “You can be straight,” Nadine said in a way that told Eve she had said the same before. “She won’t think less of you.”

  “I think a little less of me for saying it, but okay. She was one prime bitch. Selfish, mean as a rattler, with no sense of loyalty. My opinion? She wanted Glaze more after he didn’t want her. Dog in the manger.”

  “She had a dog?”

  For a moment, Jake just stared. “It’s an expression. Like, you want something more when you can’t have it.”

  “What does that have to do with dogs and mangers? Never mind. You knew her well?”

  “Not really. I knew who and what she was. I’ve seen her kind plenty. Between bouts with Glaze she made moves on Rocky—our drummer. Our married drummer. He didn’t move back. She made them on me, and just hell no. She just wanted to leech onto rockers. That sounds harsh.”

  Apparently he did have a sensitive side, and Eve didn’t have time for it.

  “Does being dead make her less of a bitch while she was breathing?”

  He blew out a breath, stared down into his coffee again. “No. Nadine figured I should tell you I ran into her a few days ago, and we had some hard words.”

  “When, where, what?”

  “She came to my place, wanted to see Glaze. They were recording. I was going to lay some tracks with them, so I was around. I saw her on the security. I didn’t say anything to Glaze—she’s a distraction. Was,” he corrected. “I went to the door, told her to blow. She told me to suck it and so on. She was high. Buzzed most likely. She offered me a bj if I’d let her in. I said, shit, I said I thought too much of my dick to have her mouth on it. She took a swing at me, missed. I told her if she came back, if she tried any of that shit again, I’d twist her up. And I shut the door on her. So, I threatened her.”

  “How about you tell me where you were last night at about twenty-two hundred.”

  “Is that ten in actual time? Because about then Lois and I were engaged in certain activities.”

  “He was at my place from about nine o’clock last night, and we were together all night. Stop playing with him, Dallas.”

  “It’s routine and procedure,” Eve corrected. “Did she try to come back?”

  “No, at least not when I was around. Glaze is clean—I know when someone isn’t. He’s seeing a really nice woman, and he’s focused on staying clean, the woman, and the music. This’ll mess him up some, and I’m more sorry about that than her being dead. And that’s harsh, too, but truth.”

  “You’re around the studio a lot?”

&n
bsp; “I live there. I work there. So, yeah. When I’m not traveling or we’re not doing a gig or promo, I’m there.”

  “Did you ever notice a woman hanging around—” Before she could finish he flashed a grin, the one that told her just what flustered Nadine.

  “Maybe one or two.”

  “A specific woman,” Eve continued. “About five-six, on the lean side. Red hair, blue side dreads.”

  “Hitting around forty? A couple of times.”

  Eve went on alert. “Outside the studio?”

  “Across the street. I nearly ran into her—I think the same day as Loxie. I was coming back from a meeting, to lay those tracks, and she must’ve been camped out, like, I’d seen her a couple times. She sort of bumped into me, then freaked. I started to say something, but she jerked back and took off running. Didn’t think much of it. We get the type.”

  “You—”

  Eve jabbed a finger at Nadine to silence her. “How good a look did you get?”

  “Face-to-face is a pretty good look.”

  “Off the record,” Eve snapped at Nadine. “I need you to work with our police artist.”

  Jake lifted his eyebrows. “You think that strange, spooky woman’s involved?”

  “You were face-to-face with a strange, spooky woman who’s killed three people. Nadine, none of this goes out.”

  “I know the damn drill, Dallas. I need a one-on-one update.”

  “Can’t do it. Listen, if you get two from me in as many days, it’ll rub too many feathers. I’m giving you an according to an NYPSD source, name withheld, as the source doesn’t have authorization to discuss the investigation.”

  Nadine sulked a moment, then nodded. “That works.”

  “That source indicates investigators conclude the murder of Loxie Flash is connected to two other open cases. Multiple eyewitnesses have identified a person of interest, and investigators are pursuing new leads.”

  “That’s a runaround,” Nadine complained.

  “Those are facts. And we’re going to have a likeness of that person of interest this morning. Wait—add the hair, and a mink hoodie.”

  “A mink hoodie?”

  “She grabbed it on the run last night. No point letting her enjoy it. Jake, I need you to come with me. Nadine, out of my office.”

  “I need to feed this to the station.”

  “Not from my office.”

  “Fine. Are you using Yancy?”

  “Yeah.”

  “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” She patted Jake’s arm when he rose. “I won’t be long.”

  “It’s okay. Weird, but okay.” Then he dipped down, kissed her. “Do what you do, Lois.”

  19

  Eve led Jake out of the bullpen and toward a glide.

  “There’s a guy back there wearing a tie designed to fry corneas, and another guy in a cowboy hat,” Jake noted.

  Eve said, “Yes.”

  “But they’re cops?”

  “Yes.”

  “This is a really weird day.”

  Eve didn’t glide on glides. She moved. Jake, long legs and jump boots, kept up with her, weaving and bobbing. She noted he got a lot of double takes, chin and finger points along the way. Apparently he didn’t consider being recognized every five seconds part of a weird day.

  She caught a movement, glanced back to see a woman barreling up the glide with a wild look in her eyes. So Eve finger pointed herself. “No,” she said, firm and cool.

  “But I just wanna—”

  “No.”

  Jake flashed a smile over his shoulder as he quickened his steps to match Eve’s pace. “Maybe later.”

  “I love you, Jake!” the woman shouted—with, Eve noted, a glimmer of tears in her eyes.

  “Is that usual?” she asked.

  He shrugged. “It happens. Did you really get kicked in the face by a dwarf?”

  “It happens.”

  When he laughed, Eve decided he was—possibly—okay.

  “Since you had that face-to-face,” Eve began, “did you notice her eye color?”

  “Brown. Ah … maybe hazel leaning brown.”

  “You pay attention.”

  “I like looking at women,” he said easily. “All kinds of women.”

  “The one who just confessed her love for you. Can you describe her?”

  “Ah … heading toward forty—not quite there yet. Pretty blue eyes, a lot of dark blond hair. Wavy, not curly. Is this a test?”

  “You did okay.”

  “She was wearing a wedding ring,” he added. “Not everybody does who is—you do—but it’s something I like to notice.”

  “Not a bad policy. How about the redhead? Did you notice any jewelry?”

  “Skull earrings, now that you mention it. She had gloves on, so I can’t say if she wore a ring.”

  Keeping up the pace, she wound him through to Yancy’s division, and saw Brad the bartender already there.

  Brad spotted her, and the initial look of relief in his exhausted eyes turned to wide-eyed stunned when he recognized Jake.

  “Um, Lieutenant … um.”

  “Dallas.”

  “Right. This is so chill. I mean, it’s awful. I’ve been trying … Jake Kincade. Wow. Iced.”

  “Detective Yancy, Mr. Kincade also got a good look at the suspect.”

  “You—you were there?”

  “Another time and place,” Eve said before Brad could stammer out more. “We appreciate you coming in this morning, Brad.”

  “Didn’t get any sleep anyway. I got a good look at her, I did. It’s just harder to, like, see her now. The lights in there are whack, on purpose, so …”

  “We’re getting there.” Yancy, only a few years Brad’s senior, offered the bartender an encouraging smile.

  Eve imagined Yancy looked more like an artist than a cop, with the curly dark hair, the soulful eyes. But he was damn good at both.

  “Let’s see what you’ve got so far.”

  As Yancy worked both by hand and by comp, he turned his sketchbook around.

  She’d worked with less, Eve thought as she studied the sketch. But she’d have judged the woman the face represented to be in her late twenties—and the hair dominated the face itself.

  “We haven’t been at it long,” Yancy told her. “Just really getting down to it.”

  “More than we had. Does this match your impression, Jake?”

  “Well, she’s a good ten years older than she looks here. She’s got some wear—don’t mean any disrespect.”

  “We’re not here to respect her,” Eve pointed out.

  “Okay, so.” Head angled, he studied the sketch. “She’s got some wear, you know? Lines starting.” He started to reach for one of Yancy’s pencils, stopped himself. “Out from the eyes, beside the mouth.”

  “Do you draw?” Yancy asked him.

  “I fool around.”

  “Why don’t you go ahead and show me?”

  “I don’t want to mess it up.”

  “It’s already comp-logged. Go ahead.”

  “Okay, so …” Jake took the pencil. “I’d say her eyes are a little rounder. More like …” He rounded them subtly, smudged some lines at the corner with the side of a callused thumb. “And maybe a little broader nose. It seemed broader because her face is narrow, and it narrows more at the chin, like … that. Then the expression lines here. And I want to say she looked sallow. Like somebody who doesn’t get out much, in the sun.”

  “That’s right,” Brad murmured. “That’s really right. Her mouth’s smaller than what I said, isn’t it?”

  “I was going to say tighter, but yeah. Her features don’t really balance. It’s just a click or two off. She’s not—”

  Jake passed the pencil back to Yancy. “It feels wrong to diss a woman in front of a woman.”

  “A cop,” Eve corrected. “You want to say she’s not attractive.”

  “Not like dead ugly, but not the sort you look at twice. A fader, if you get me. The hair wa
s all ‘Look at me, I’m on it,’ but it didn’t go with the rest of her. She was trying to be what she wasn’t. Trying for younger, edgier, and just missing the mark.”

  “Wanted to be with,” Brad supplied, “and she’s without.”

  Yancy worked on the mouth, redefined the chin.

  Eve studied the sketch. heavily lined eyes, darkly dyed mouth, the dreads falling on either side of the face, closing it in.

  “It’s a good likeness,” Jake commented. “It’s a real skill to be able to draw a likeness that good of somebody just from other people’s bits and pieces.”

  “We’ll run with it,” Eve said. “Log that, copy, and send,” she told Yancy. “And can you do another, take away the heavy makeup, the dreads? Jake says brown eyes, possibly hazel, so go with brown hair.”

  “Playtime.” Yancy rolled his shoulders, swiveled to the computer, and began some tech magic.

  On-screen the dreads vanished. He filled in temples, cheeks, and side jawlines. Layer by layer he brushed away the thick eyeliner, the thickened lashes, took the eyebrows from dark and bold to a calmer brown.

  The lips went from hard red to pale, almost undefined.

  “Yeah, a fader,” Jake murmured as her hair faded to a nondescript brown.

  Before Eve could speak, Yancy held up a finger. “Gimme a second.”

  He redefined here, smudged there, deepened some of the lines. “Naked face, they’d show more,” he muttered.

  Eve leaned over his shoulder, studied the result. “There you are, bitch. There you fucking are.”

  Satisfied, Yancy nodded. “I can start facial recognition here.”

  “Do that, send it to me, and I’ll back that up. Damn good work. Go home, Brad, get some sleep.”

  “I helped?”

  She wanted to get to it, to start this part of the hunt with the scent inside her. But she took a moment. He looked so damn young, and so damn tired.

  “You helped now, you helped last night.”

  “The Flash is still dead.”

  “Not a damn thing you could’ve done to change that. There’s another life on the line now, and what you did last night, what you did right here, could help save that one. Tagging me, that was smart. Chasing after her, that was brave. Coming here, that was responsible. You hit all three marks. Go home and sleep.”

 
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