Dark in death, p.28
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       Dark in Death, p.28
 

         Part #46 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  “Will you let me know when you get her? I’ll sure sleep better when you do.”

  “I’ll let you know. Do you need transpo?”

  “No, no thanks. Thanks, Detective Yancy.”

  “Back at you, bro.”

  “I know it’s whack timing and all, but, man, it’s like the ult meeting you, Jake.”

  “Another back at you.” Jake shook his hand and Brad walked off grinning.

  “Gotta book. Again, good work, Yancy,” Eve said.

  “Nice meeting you,” Jake added to Yancy.

  “I’ll go with whack timing, the ult, and add ‘Night Run’ still bangs all the bells.”

  “Appreciate it.” Jake had to stretch his long legs to keep up with Eve’s. “What do you do now?”

  “The job. Sorry,” she said quickly. “You were a big help, more than usual, so we got this likeness nailed fast.”

  “There’s another life on the line? That wasn’t bullshit to make Brad feel better—because it did. The idea that he helped, I mean.”

  “He did help, and no, it’s not bullshit. You’re in line on helping save that life, too.”

  Nadine came clicking along in her high-heeled boots before Eve reached the glide. “I got hung up,” she began. “And you were fast. Don’t tell me you got her. You got her?”

  “You said don’t tell you.” Eve hopped on the glide.

  Nadine reversed course, hopped on behind her. “Let me see her.”

  “No.”

  “Goddamn it, Dallas!”

  “You can’t broadcast the sketch unless the commander gives that a green. And he’s not going to give it a green at this time.”

  “If I broadcast it, odds are somebody’s seen her, can lead you to her.”

  “Odds are shorter she rabbits. If I don’t have her in the box or a cage within thirty-six, that’s another story.”

  “It’s my story.”

  “My case.”

  “Your case, my story. They’re not opposed. I damn well helped you get this far this fast.”

  “You’ll get your story when I close my case.”

  “Jesus, you guys are sexy. Sorry,” Jake said without a hint of remorse when they both blasted him with stares. “Thinking out loud. But facts are facts. Sexy is sexy. Do you ever go at each other like that when you’re, you know, more … casually attired?”

  “Don’t respond,” Nadine said. “It only encourages him.”

  “Run with what you’ve got,” Eve advised, “and within thirty-six”—less, she thought, less—“you’ll have the rest.”

  With that, she vaulted over the side of the glide, dropped down two feet, and bolted.

  Nadine hissed after her.

  Jake grinned. “I like her.”

  Eve double-timed it into Homicide.

  “We’ve got a face,” she snapped at Peabody as she continued straight into her office.

  She pulled up the file Yancy sent, programmed for facial recognition, then printed out hard copies.

  When Peabody hustled in, Eve slapped the sketch on her board.

  “That’s her? She looks …”

  “Harmless,” Eve finished. “Part of her arsenal, looking harmless. Being so bland she can morph into anyone. A ‘fader,’ Jake said, and that’s just right. She can fade into the characters she chooses. And right now she’s got some rich woman in her crosshairs. We are not going to let her take that shot.”

  “McNab tagged me, said they’re working on a search for you, and have a first pass.”

  “Where is it?”

  “They’re refining it. He says it’s too broad, and they’re working on narrowing it.”

  “How fast will she move?” Pacing the confines of her office, Eve kept that face in her line of vision. “That’s the question. She won’t be in the system, so the facial match may take longer. She won’t have done anything up until now to get noticed. Maybe we’ll find some mental, emotional treatments in her medicals when we nail her down, but that’s no given. Nothing to stand out.”

  “She’s a good seamstress. Better than good.”

  “Yeah, you do that alone. And to make a living, you do it for other people who get to wear what you make, or alter, right? Do they notice you? Do they give you a second thought—like the line chef in a restaurant who’s sweating it out to make the meal you order? Behind the scenes, under the radar. Writing, now, you get your name out there. Bullshit Book by A. E. Strongbow. You get recognition, praise, maybe some fame and fortune. Here I fucking am. It’s her turn, god-damn it. Finally her turn.”

  Eve swung around, drilled a finger into Strongbow’s face. “How does she gain access to the rich woman? In the book, the greedy son argues with the rich mother, ends up shoving her. She falls down the stairs, breaks her neck. He manages to pin it on his sister because said sister had a public tiff with the dead mother just that afternoon. How does she get into the house?”

  “Disguises herself as the son?”

  Eve shook her head. “Rich people have security. She can’t get through that pretending to be a member of the household. Security, staff.”

  “Delivery person,” Peabody considered. “Part of a cleaning crew, newly hired staff.”

  Eve held up a finger. “What does she do well? Sews. Rich women hire seamstresses, right? They can have them come to their home—more private, more convenient. She’s been in New York long enough to have established herself in that line of work. Has to pay the bills, and she thinks ahead. She needs a rich woman to kill.”

  “Leonardo.” Peabody shrugged. “It’s a long shot, but we have a direct line to a top designer. Rich women, such as yourself, use top designers.”

  “I’m not rich. Roarke’s rich. Leonardo’s an angle. Let’s see if we can contact him, show him the sketch. Maybe it’ll ring. If not, he has plenty of contacts of his own in the business. Somebody he knows might recognize her.”

  “I’ll tag him.” Peabody looked at the sketch again. “She doesn’t stand out. Her work might, but …”

  “Try it. I’m going to set an alert on the search and go up to harass Feeney on his.”

  She can’t wait long, Eve thought as she headed up to EDD. The last chapter didn’t go as she’d written. She knew she had a cop on her heels. Up until now Strongbow had hidden in plain sight, and it worked for her. But under the crazy, she had a brain, and had to know the plot had twisted on her.

  So, no, she wouldn’t wait long.

  Eve walked into the colorful circus of EDD. She took a quick moment to look through the dancing, prancing e-geeks to see McNab hard at work at his station.

  Hard at work, she judged, as his shoulders bopped, his fingers snapped, and his head did a kind of jive that had his multitude of ear-hoops glinting.

  She dived for the sanity of Feeney’s office.

  He leaned on the side of his desk in his shit-brown suit. He had what might’ve been a coffee stain on his shit-brown tie, but it was hard to tell.

  His face, like his suit, looked comfortably baggy. She figured he’d had a recent trip to his barber, as his silver-threaded ginger hair sprang out to about half of its known capacity.

  He shifted his basset hound eyes from his screen to her face.

  “No point pushing us, kid. We’re working it.”

  “I’ve got a face.”

  “Got a name and location to go with it?”

  “Not yet.”

  “We’ll get her. Problem on this end?” He flicked a finger at the screen. “Her writing samples hit dead average, even some below in some of them. So we’ve got a hell of a lot of maybes.”

  Eve glanced at the screen, saw words, phrases skimming by, along with figures that looked like code, and numbers that looked like math.

  Altogether, it looked impossible. Which was why she wasn’t trying to do the damn search herself.

  “Average or just below is what she is, with a couple of exceptions. She can tailor, and she can kill.”

  She showed Feeney the printout of the sketch
.

  “You got forty to forty-five, white, brown and brown. No distinguishing anything. If she’s not in the system for a bump or two, you’re going to be awhile on facial.”

  “Yeah, I got that. Hides in plain sight. A fader. That’s the best term for her. Jake called her a fader.”

  “Jake? You got a new man in your division?”

  “No.” Eve frowned at the sketch, trying to see more. “Jake Kincade. Nadine’s tangling with him.”

  “Didn’t know she had a …” Feeney straightened, shoved a finger at Eve. “Jake Kincade? Avenue fucking A?”

  “Yeah, she met him at the Garden during the assault. I guess they hit it off.”

  Feeney jabbed a finger again, this time made sharp contact. “You had Jake fucking Kincade in the house?”

  “Yeah. He’d seen—”

  “In. The. House. Jake Kincade. And you don’t think to tag your old pal, your old partner? The one who pulled you off street duty and into Homicide?”

  His eyes looked a little fierce, a little wild. Eve eased back a step before she got poked again. “No. I was kind of busy trying to get the face of a serial killer so I could, you know, discourage her from killing the next person on her list. Anyway, how was I supposed to know you’d want to meet him?”

  Now Feeney stepped back—almost reeled back—slapped a hand to his heart. “Do you even know me at all? What did I have playing when I trained you on stakeouts?”

  “Music. Rock music,” she muttered when he stared holes in her. “But—”

  “And who would be my favorite rock band?”

  Mentally—she knew better than to try it physically with him staring at her—she rolled her eyes. “The Stones.”

  “That is correct. What did I try, and obviously fail, to teach you about music? About Jagger and Clapton, about Springsteen, about Kirkland, Dobbler, and Jake fucking Kincade?”

  “They, ah, rock?”

  “They are each the voice of their generation! My old man’s and his, mine, yours. Jake Kincade and Avenue A followed in the footsteps of the greats, and made their own. Have you even heard their cover of ‘Paint It Black’?”

  “Ah …”

  “But he’s in our house, and you don’t tell me.”

  “I’ll get him back.”

  “You’ll get him back.”

  “Yeah, I’ll … fix it. I’ve got to get back down, but I’ll fix it.”

  She escaped.

  “ ‘Burn It Up’ is the rock anthem of your generation!” Feeney shouted after her.

  She quickened her pace, grabbed her ’link on the fly. “Nadine, I need a favor.”

  Nadine’s feline eyes narrowed. “Really?”

  “For Feeney,” Eve corrected before she ended up trading for an appearance on Now. “A favor for Feeney.”

  She fixed it, put it away, and planned to close herself in her office and will the facial recognition to hurry the hell up.

  Peabody waylaid her in the bullpen. “Leonardo’s coming in.”

  “In? He doesn’t have to come in. Just show him the damn sketch.”

  “I did, and she didn’t pop for him, but he was just leaving his studio anyway, and said he’d come in, take another look. And maybe we can give him some details that could help. He’ll talk to his team, and spread the word.”

  “Okay, that works.”

  “Everything okay? You look hassled.”

  “Because I am. I am hassled. Did you know Feeney has a hard-on—musically speaking—for Jake Kincade?”

  “Dallas, anybody who spins rock does, and for Feeney rock’s a religion. Santiago’s sulking a little bit because you pulled Jake out before he could meet him. That on top of not getting to meet DeLano has bummed him pretty wide.”

  “We’re cops,” Eve groaned. She turned toward the slightly sulky Santiago, then lifted her arms to the rest of the bullpen. “We’re cops.”

  “Murder cops!” Baxter called out.

  “Protecting and serving,” Jenkinson added.

  “Because you could get dead,” Carmichael finished.

  Trueheart grinned. “Go, team.”

  “Jesus, I need coffee.” She started to stalk away, rethought. She could throw one of her men a bone and save herself a step. “Santiago, Carmichael, you’re going to take the sketch of my suspect to DeLano in Brooklyn.”

  Santiago visibly perked up, actually adjusted his cowboy hat. “Yeah?”

  “I want her and her family to watch for this individual, who is known to have stalked them previously. Find out if DeLano, her mother, or her daughters have seen this woman—when and where, if so. Take another copy to the daughters’ school, show it around. Issue warnings. Check in with Brooklyn PSD, leave them a sketch. Hit the neighborhood shops, restaurants, and so on. Work it. The streets, alleys, shelters, boutiques, markets, diners, LCs, sidewalk sleepers, beat droids.

  “She fades, but she’s not fucking invisible. If she scouts in that neighborhood, somebody’s seen her. Go.”

  Santiago rose. “All over it, boss.”

  “Peabody.”

  “Printing out sketches now.”

  Once again, Eve started toward her office, stopped when she heard a trill of crazed laughter.

  Bella.

  Not just Leonardo, she thought, but the whole family.

  Mavis Freestone bounced in on electric-blue airboots with two-inch sparkling soles. The boots matched the current color of her hair, worn today in masses of braids. Her open coat—blue again, with thin stripes of pink and green—revealed a deep purple skin suit.

  Beside her, Leonardo towered, copper skin, bronze tipped coils of hair, and a long leather coat the color of good port wine.

  In his arms, Bella, blond curls falling under a hat with a puppy face and long floppy ears, waved her mittened hands and shouted, “Das!”

  “Heartbreaker in training.” Baxter got up from his desk grinning, walked over to snatch her and toss her up in a way that made Bella squeal and Eve’s heart stop.

  “Jesus, Baxter.”

  “She’s a cutie.” He set her down.

  She toddled straight over to hug Eve’s legs, then try to climb up them.

  Left with little choice, Eve hauled her up. Bella planted a wet, sticky kiss on her cheek, bounced, babbled, with blue eyes dancing. And ended with a question. “Ork?”

  “He’s not here.”

  “Aw. Ove Ork.”

  “Right. Listen, I appreciate you coming in.”

  “We were close by,” Leonardo told her. “Anything I can do to help.”

  “Probability’s high she’s working as a seamstress or a tailor. Most likely out of Brooklyn, but she may commute. Peabody says she’s good. Really good.”

  “Design and execution,” Peabody confirmed. “Hey, Bellamina, want to come with me?”

  Bella blew Peabody a kiss, but curled into Eve. “Das.”

  “Let’s take it into my office.” Because Eve couldn’t quite get her head around standing in the bullpen holding a kid.

  “Sure. Hey, Jenkinson.” Mavis beamed at him. “That tie is the total ult.”

  “Don’t encourage him,” Eve mumbled and led the way.

  “I’m running facial recognition,” she began. “And we’ve got a couple other angles. Since you’re in the business, maybe you know somebody who knows something. If she’s as good as Peabody says, maybe she works for a top outlet or designer. We need to—”

  As they stepped into the office, Bella gasped. She pointed at the board. “Ow!”

  “Oh shit.”

  Leonardo grabbed Bella, turned her face into his shoulder. He went pale and glassy-eyed himself even when he deliberately looked away from the board.

  Moving fast, Eve snatched up her coat, tossed it over the board to cover the crime scene photos.

  “Sorry. Shit, sorry.”

  “Shit,” Bella echoed against her father’s broad shoulder.

  “And again, sorry.”

  “Hey, Bellissima.” Cool and calm, Mavis to
ok her from Leonardo and gestured toward the sketch of Eve done by a young survivor. “Who is that?”

  “Das!” Ow forgotten, Bella threw back her head, gave her big belly laugh. “Das!”

  Remembering how Leonardo reacted to the sight of blood and violence, and there’d been plenty of it on the board, Eve pulled out her desk chair.

  “Thanks. I don’t know how you do what you do. I don’t know how anybody does.”

  “Got any of Mira’s tea in the AC?” Mavis asked.

  “Yeah. Give me a second.”

  “I’ll get it. Hey, Bella, let’s make Daddy some tea. Just think happy thoughts, moonpie.”

  She managed them, Eve thought. Her friend, the former grifter, the woman who changed her hair color more often than some changed their socks, the music-vid star and walking rainbow, handled the big man and the little girl as naturally, as smoothly, as if she’d trained for it all her life.

  With Bella on her hip, she set the tea on the desk, leaned down to kiss Leonardo’s cheek. “We’re going to sit on the floor here, and play with our blocks.”

  “Das!”

  “Dallas has to work, my baby doll, but we get to play.”

  She sat on the floor, pulled a bag of colorful blocks out of the enormous pink-and-green handbag.

  “Okay then. Here’s the deal.” Eve leaned on the desk, brought Leonardo’s attention to her. “She’s about forty, and she relocated from Delaware about two years ago. She’d live alone, on a budget. She’d be unlikely to socialize or make an impression. With her work, yeah, but not otherwise. Not the sort that draws attention, more slides into the background. She writes. She’s probably a reader. She’s going to seem harmless. She’s going to have her own professional machine at home. She’s likely to do side work.”

  “A lot of tailors do side work. Off the books. I did myself when I was just getting started.”

  “Did you go to clients’ homes?”

  “Once you establish a relationship? That’s usually what you do. If you have a place, they might come to you, but usually, you’re offering them the convenience. A fitting, alterations of something they already have, sometimes an original design.”

  “How do they find you?”

  “Word of mouth.” He sipped tea and seemed to relax again. “If you’re working in a shop—department store, boutique—you’d slip them a card, let them know you’d be happy to come to them for a job. Big or small. If you’re working for another tailor, you’d have to be really careful about that—some will fire you on the spot. If she doesn’t socialize, it’s harder. It might be she gets side work from having a customer approach her.”

 
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