Conspiracy in death, p.27
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.27
 

         Part #8 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  "Good. Great." Everything inside her yearned to be there at the sticking point. "You track Vanderhaven?"

  "He's skipping around Europe. He's not landing. You ask me, he's running."

  "He can't run forever. I'm about to run some data I got from a source in Chicago. I'll see what else we can find on her. Anything looks like weight, I'll pass it through Peabody's personal."

  "We'll fill you in when we're done. I've got to get moving here."

  "Good luck."

  He was already gone. She stared for a moment at the black screen, then shoved away from the console. "Goddamn it."

  She hissed, balled her fists, then snarled when the AutoChef beeped to signal meal delivery. "It's a pisser all right," Roarke murmured.

  "It's stupid. The point is to close the case, not to be the one to snap the locks on it."

  "The hell it isn't."

  She looked at him, shrugged violently, then strode across the room to get the food. "Well, I've just got to get over it." She grabbed a plate, dropped it noisily on a table. "I will get over it. When this is done, I might just let you pay me a maxibus load of money to refine your security. The hell with them."

  He left the computer doing its scan and rose to pour wine. "Mmm-hmm," was his only comment.

  "Why the hell should I bust my ass the way I do? Work with equipment that's not fit for the recycling heap, play politics, take orders, log in eighteen-hour days, to have them spit in my face."

  "It's a puzzle all right. Have some wine."

  "Yeah." She took the glass, gulped down a healthy swallow of six-hundred-dollar-a-bottle wine like tap water, and continued to prowl. "I don't need their stinking regulations and procedures. Why the hell should I spend my life walking through blood and shit? Fuck all of them. Is there any more of this?" she demanded, gesturing with her empty glass.

  If she meant to get drunk, he decided, he could hardly blame her. But she'd blame herself. "Why don't we have a little food to go with it?"

  "I'm not hungry." She spun around. The gleam that came into her eyes was a flash, dangerous and dark. She was on him in one leap, fast and rough, with her hands dragging at his hair and her mouth brutal.

  "That seems hungry enough to me." He murmured it, his hands skimming down her to soothe. "We'll eat later." So saying, he jabbed a mechanism and had the bed sliding out of the wall seconds before they fell onto it.

  "No, not that way." She strained, bucking under him as his mouth shifted to her throat to nibble. She reared up, sank her teeth into his shoulder, tore at his shirt. "This way."

  The hot stream of lust flooded through him, clawed at his throat and loins. In one rough move, he caged her wrists in his hand and yanked her arms over her head.

  Even as she struggled for freedom, he crushed his mouth to hers, devouring, taking greedy swallows of her ragged breaths until they turned to moans.

  "Let go of my hands."

  "You want to use, but you'll take what I give you now." He leaned back, his eyes wildly blue and burning into hers. "And you won't think of anything but what I'm doing to you." With his free hand, he opened the buttons of her shirt, one at a time, letting his fingertip graze flesh as he moved from one to the next, as he exposed her. "If you're afraid, tell me to stop." His hand cupped her breast, covered, molded. Possessed.

  "I'm not afraid of you." But she trembled, nonetheless, her breath catching as he circled his thumb, light, whisper light, over her nipple until it seemed every nerve in her body was centered just there. "I want to touch you."

  "You need to be pleasured." He dipped his head, licked delicately at her nipple. "You need to go where I can take you. I want you naked." He flipped open the button of her jeans, slid his hand down, scraped his nails lightly over her so that she arched against him helplessly. Quivered. "I want you writhing." He lowered his head, took the sensitized point of her breast gently in his teeth, bit down with an exquisite control that sent her heart hammering against that marvelous mouth. "And later…screaming," he said and sent her stumbling over the edge with teeth and fingers.

  Flames burst in her body, seared her mind clean as glass. There was nothing but the feel of his hands and mouth on her, the violent glory of being driven slowly, thoroughly, then brutally to peak again and again while her trapped hands flexed helplessly, then finally went limp.

  There was nothing he couldn't take from her. Nothing she wouldn't give. The sensation of his skin sliding and slipping over hers made her breath catch, her heart stutter.

  He dazed her, delighted and destroyed her.

  He knew there was nothing, nothing more arousing than the surrender of a strong woman, that melted-bone yielding of a tough body. He took, tender and patient until he felt her float, heard her sigh. Then, ruthless and greedy, so that she shuddered and moaned. The arrow point of purpose now was to pleasure her. To make that long, limber body pulse and glow. To feed it as he fed on it.

  He dragged her clothes aside, spread her wide. And feasted.

  Her breath sobbed out, became his name repeated mindlessly, again and again, as she came in a long, hot gush. Her hands, free now, clutched and clawed at the sheets, at his hair, his shoulders. The desire to taste him was a desperate ache. The blood burned in her head, hammered her heart toward pain.

  She reared up, bowed back as his mouth began to travel up her, scraping teeth against her hip, sliding tongue along her torso. Then she was rolling with him, her fingers digging into damp flesh, scraping viciously along the muscled ridge of his shoulders, her mouth wild and willful as it found his.

  With one hard thrust, he was deep inside her, with each violent plunge, he seemed to go deeper, stroking into her fast and fierce. Still, the thirst couldn't be slaked.

  Once again her body bowed, forming a bridge with muscles quivering from strain and pleasure. His fingers dug into her hips, his eyes were slits of wicked blue that never left her face.

  Her body gleamed with sweat. Her head thrown back in full abandon as she absorbed each violent stroke. He watched it build one last time, felt the power of it swarming into her, into him, that surge of outrageous energy, the one shivering stab of fear that came when control was about to snap.

  "Scream." He panted it out with the madness of her swallowing him whole. "Scream now."

  And when she did, he went blind and emptied himself into her.

  • • • •

  He'd bruised her. He could see the marks of his own fingers on her skin as she lay facedown on the rumpled bed. Her skin had a surprising delicacy she was never aware of and that he forgot at times. There was such toughness under it.

  When he started to draw the sheet over her, she stirred.

  "No, I'm not sleeping."

  "Why don't you?"

  She shifted, balled the pillow under her head. "I did want to use you."

  He sat beside her, sighed heavily. "Now I feel so cheap."

  She turned her head to look at him, nearly managed a smile. "I guess it's okay, since you got off on it."

  "You're such a romantic, Eve." He gave her a playful swat on the butt and rose. "Do you want to eat in bed or while you work?"

  He glanced back from the AutoChef, intending on heating up their meal. Seeing her studying him with narrowed eyes, he lifted a brow. "Again?"

  "I don't think about sex every time I look at you." She scooped back her hair and wondered idly if she had any clothes left that could still be worn. "Even if you are naked and built and just finished fucking my brains out. Where are my pants?"

  "I have no idea. Then what were you thinking?"

  "About sex," she said easily, and, finding her jeans inside out and tangled, tried to unknot them. "Philosophically."

  "Really." He left the plates warming and came back to search out his own trousers, making do with only them as she'd already confiscated his shirt. "And what is your philosophical opinion of sex?"

  "It really works." She hitched on her jeans. "Let's eat."

  • • • •

  She plow
ed her way through a rare steak and delicate new potatoes while she studied the data on-screen. "The first thing we have are connections. Cagney and Friend in the same class at Harvard Medical. Vanderhaven and Friend consulting at the center in London sixteen years ago, at the Paris center four years ago." She chewed, swallowed, cut more beef. "Wo and Friend serving on the same board and working the same surgical floor at Nordick in '55, then her continuing to be affiliated with that clinic to the present. Waverly and Friend both officers of the AMA. And Friend regularly consulting at the Drake where Waverly is attached, and has been attached for nearly a decade."

  "And," Roarke continued, topping off their wineglasses, "you can follow the pattern deeper and connect the dots. Every one of them meshes in some manner with another. Links to links. I imagine you can expand and find the same incestual type of relationship in the European centers."

  "I'm going to have McNab do the match, but yeah, we'll find other names." The wine was cool and dry and perfect for her mood. "Now, we have Tia Wo, who does regular consults at Nordick. McRae was checking public transpo to see if she'd traveled to Chicago on or around the date of his murder. He didn't find anything but that doesn't mean it isn't there."

  "I'm ahead of you," Roarke told her and ordered up new data. "No records of private or public transportation tickets in her name, but that wouldn't include the mass shuttle that goes back and forth hourly between the two cities. You just need credit tokens. I have her schedule at Drake showing she had rounds on the afternoon of that date. Should have been finished by four o'clock. I'm pulling up her office log now."

  "I won't be able to use it. I mean, Feeney won't be able to use that data. He'll need a warrant."

  "I don't. Her security's rather pathetic," Roarke added as he finessed controls. "A five-year-old hacker with a toy scanner could break this. On-screen," he ordered.

  "Okay, rounds until four, office consult four-thirty. Logged out at five, and has a six o'clock dinner with Waverly and Cagney. Feeney can check to see if she kept that appointment, but even if she did, it would give her time. She didn't have anything the next day until eight-thirty a.m., and that's a lab consult with Bradley Young. What do we know about him?"

  "What would you like to know? Computer, all available data on Young, Dr. Bradley."

  Eve pushed away from her plate and rose while the computer worked. "Dinner with Cagney and Waverly. Cagney put pressure on Mira to shuffle the case back or drop it. Waverly just struck me wrong. There's more than one person involved in this deal. Could be the three of them. They have a dinner meeting, discuss the when and how. One or all of them head over to Chicago, do the job, come back. Then Wo transports the sample to Young in the lab."

  "It's as good a theory as any. What you need is to find the buried records. We'll work on that."

  "Vanderhaven rabbits to Europe rather than face a routine interview. So…how many of them?" Eve murmured. "And when did it start? Why did it start? What's the motive? That's the hang-up here. What's the point? One rogue doctor who'd gone over the edge would be one thing. That's not what we've got. We've got a team, a group, and that group has ties to East Washington, maybe to the NYPSD. Weasels, anyway, in my department, maybe others. In health clinics. Somebody passing data. I need the why to find the who."

  "Organs, human. No real money in them today. If not for profit," Roarke mused, "then for power."

  "What kind of power can you get from stealing flawed organs out of street people?"

  "A power trip," he said with a shrug. "I can, therefore I do. But if not for power, then for glory."

  "Glory? Where's the glory?" Impatient, she began to prowl again. "They're useless. Diseased, dying, defective. Where's the glory factor?" Before he could speak, she held up a hand, eyes going to slits in concentration. "Wait, wait. What if they're not useless. If someone's figured out something that can be done with them."

  "Or to them," Roarke suggested.

  "To them." She turned back to him. "Every bit of data I've scanned says that all research points to the impracticality or impossibility of reconstruction or repair of seriously damaged organs. Artificial are cheap, efficient, and outlast the body. The major facilities we're dealing with haven't funded research in that area in years. Since Friend developed his implants."

  "A better mousetrap," Roarke suggested. "Someone's always looking for better, quicker, cheaper, fancier. The one who invents it," he added gesturing with his wine. "Gets the glory—and the profit."

  "How much do you make annually on the NewLife line?"

  "I'll have to check. One minute." He shifted in his chair, called up another unit, and ordered a financial spread. "Hmmm, gross or net?"

  "I don't know. Net, I guess."

  "Just over three billion annually."

  "Billion? Billion? Jesus, Roarke, how much money do you have?"

  He glanced back at her, amused. "Oh, somewhat more than that, although this particular three billion isn't my personal take. One does have to feed the company, you know."

  "Forget I asked, it just makes me nervous." She waved her hand and paced. "Okay, you take in three billion every year on the manufacture of the implants. When Friend developed it, he got plenty of glory. Tons of media, hype, awards, funding, whatever it is these guys get off on. He got it in truckloads. And he got a cut of the pie, too. It's his—what did you call it?—mousetrap. So…"

  She trailed off, working it out in her head while Roarke watched her. It was, he thought, a delight to see her gears meshing. Oddly arousing, he mused, sipping his wine, and decided he would have to seduce her, in an entirely different manner, when they were finished for the night.

  "So somebody, or a group of them, hits on a new technique, a new angle, using flawed organs. They've found, or nearly found, a way to buff them up and pop them back in. But where do you get them? You can't use the property of health clinics. It's tagged, logged, assigned. Donors and brokers would object to their body parts being used for something other than they've signed for. Big problems, bad press. Plus there are probably federal restrictions."

  She stopped, shook her head. "So you kill for them? You murder people so you can experiment? It's a hell of a stretch."

  "Is it?" Roarke toasted her. "Look at history. Those in power have habitually found nasty uses for those without it. And often, all too often, they claim it's for the greater good. You could have a group of highly skilled, educated, intelligent people who've decided they know what's best for humanity. Nothing, in my opinion, is more dangerous."

  "And Bowers?"

  "Casualties in the war on disease, in the quest for longevity. The quality of life for the many over the destruction of life for the few."

  "If that's why," she said slowly, "the answer's in the lab. I'll need to find a way into Drake."

  "I should be able to bring Drake to you, right here."

  "That's a start." She blew out a breath, took her seat again. "Let's take a closer look at Young."

  "Geek," Roarke said a few moments later when they scanned the data.

  "What?"

  "You really are behind on your retro-slang, Eve. What we have here is your classic techno-geek—what McNab might be without his charm, his affection for the ladies, and his interesting fashion sense."

  "Oh, like most EDD guys. Got it. They'd rather spend time with a motherboard than breathe regular. Thirty-six, single, lives with his mother."

  "Classic geekdom," Roarke explained. "Educationally, he excelled, except in social areas. President of the compu-tech club in high school."

  "That would be a geek club."

  "That would be correct. Ran the E-society and newsletter in college—Princeton—where he graduated at the tender age of fourteen."

  "Genius geek."

  "Precisely. He added the med-lab and found another niche. I employ hordes of his type. They're invaluable. Happily laboring to develop those new mousetraps. I'd say if Mira did a profile here, she would find him a socially stunted, massively intelligent introvert wit
h sexual phobias, an acute arrogance level, and an inherent predilection for taking orders from authority figures even though he considers them inferior."

  "Female authority figures should play in. He lives with his mommy. He works for Wo. Ties in. He's been employed at Drake for eight years, heads the research lab on organs. He's not a surgeon," she mused. "He's a lab rat."

  "And likely doesn't interact well with people. He's more comfortable with machines and samples."

  "Let's run the dates on all the murders, find out where he was."

  "I'll have to dip into his logs for that. Give me a minute."

  He began to work, paused, frowned a little. "Well, well, he's a bit more security-conscious than our Dr. Wo. We have some layers here to get through." He swiveled the chair, slid out a keyboard, and began to work manually. "Interesting. It's a lot of cover for a schedule log. What have we here?" His brow creased as he studied what looked to Eve to be random symbols on the monitor. "Clever boy," Roarke murmured. "He's got himself a fail-safe device. Sneaky bastard."

  "You can't get through it."

  "It's tricky."

  She angled her head. "Well, if you're going to let some geek beat your ass, I guess I need another partner."

  He sat back, eyes narrowed, and looked, she thought, amazingly sexy sitting bare-chested at the controls with a scowl on his magnificent face. "What is that expression you're so fond of? Ah yes, bite me. Now, stop breathing down my neck and get me some coffee. This is going to take some time."

  Snorting out a laugh, Eve strolled to the AutoChef. At his seat, Roarke rolled his shoulders, pushed up metaphorical sleeves, and began to wage his little war with the keyboard.

  Eve drank two cups of coffee while his turned stone cold and sat untouched. His curses, delivered in a low, vicious voice, became steadily more inventive. And, she observed with some fascination, more Irish.

  "Bloody buggering hell, where did he get this?" Frustration shimmered in his eyes as he pounded out a new combination of keys. "Oh no, you slippery bastard, there's a trap there. I can see that well enough. He's good. Aye, damn good; but I've nearly got him. Fuck me!" He shoved back, snarled at the monitor.

 
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