Conspiracy in death, p.29
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.29

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

  She released her in disgust, started to walk away. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a blur of movement. She ducked, spun, and felt the pipe whistle by her head and ruffle her hair.

  "I was wrong," she said in a voice gone dangerously cold. "You're not a fucking disgrace. You're just crazy."

  Bowers bared her teeth as she swung the pipe again. Eve leaped out of reach, then went in hard. She caught a glancing blow on the shoulder, used the pain and the momentum to push her body into Bowers. They went down in a tangled heap.

  Her hand closed over the pipe again, wrenched, twisted, and once again heaved it aside. She had her weapon out, her eyes glittering, as she used it to jerk up Bowers's chin.

  "And you're finished." Breath ragged, she shoved Bowers over, yanked her arms behind her back, and fumbled in her pocket for restraints. "You're under arrest for assault with a deadly, you piss-faced, brainless bitch."

  Even as she started to smile, she found herself in the dark again, straddling a bloody mess. Her hands thickly coated with gore.

  Shock, horror, and a bright, silver fear slammed into her as she scrambled back. "Jesus. Jesus Christ, no. I didn't do this. I couldn't do this."

  When she covered her face with her bloody hands, Mira closed her eyes. "That's enough. End program." Sick at heart, she watched Eve's body twitch as the session ended. And as the helmet was removed, their eyes met through the glass.

  "This phase of Testing is complete. Please exit through the marked door. I'll meet you inside."

  Her knees buckled when she pushed off the inclined bench, but she locked them straight, took a minute to even her breathing, and walked into the next area.

  Another padded bench, a chair, a long table where instruments were already neatly lined. More machines, monitors. Blank white walls.

  Mira entered. "You're entitled to a thirty-minute rest break. I suggest you take it."

  "Get it done."

  "Sit down, Eve."

  She sat on the bench, doing her best to put the last session out of her mind, to prepare for the next.

  Mira took the chair, folded her hands in her lap. "I have children I love," she began, causing a line of puzzlement to dig between Eve's brows. "I have friends who are vital to me and acquaintances and colleagues I admire and respect." Mira let out one shallow breath. "I have all those feelings for you." She leaned forward, put her hand over Eve's and squeezed hard.

  "If you were my daughter, if I had any authority over you, I would not permit you to submit to Level Three on this phase. I'm asking you, as a friend, to reconsider."

  Eve stared down at Mira's hand. "I'm sorry this is difficult for you."

  "Oh God, Eve!" Mira sprang up, turned away, and struggled to bring her whirling emotions under control. "This is a very invasive procedure. You'll be helpless, unable to defend yourself, physically, mentally, emotionally. If you fight it, as will be instinctive for you, it will put a strain on your heart. I can counter this reaction, and will."

  She turned back, already knowing it was useless. "The combination of drugs and scans I'll have to use for this level will certainly make you ill. You'll have nausea, headaches, fatigue, disorientation, dizziness, possibly a temporary loss of muscle control."

  "Sounds like a hell of a party. Look, you know I'm not going to change my mind. You've been inside it often enough to know how it works. So what's the point in scaring the shit out of both of us? Just do it."

  Resigned, Mira crossed to the table, picked up a pressure syringe she'd loaded herself. "Lie back, try to relax."

  "Sure, maybe I'll take a little nap while I'm at it." She lay back, stared at the cool blue light in the ceiling. "What's that for?"

  "Just focus on it. Just look at the light, look through the light, imagine yourself inside it, in all that cool, soft blue. This won't hurt. I need to unfasten the top of your jumpsuit."

  "Is that why you have blue chairs in your office? So people can sink into the blue?"

  "It's like water." Mira worked quickly, gently, baring Eve's shoulder, her arm. "You can slide right into the water. A little pressure now," she murmured as she injected the first drug. "It's just a calmer."

  "I hate chemicals."

  "I know. Breathe normally. I'm going to hook up the scanners, the monitors. There won't be any discomfort."

  "I'm not worried about it. Do you have my ring?" Already her head felt light, her tongue thick. "Can I have my ring back?"

  "I have it. As soon as we're done here, I'll give it back to you." With the skill of long practice, Mira attached the scanners to Eve's temples, her wrists, her heart. "I have it safe. Relax, Eve. Let the blue surround you."

  She was already floating, one drifting part of her mind wondering why Mira had made such a big deal out of it. It was just a painless, foolish ride.

  With a cautious eye, Mira studied the monitors. Heart rate, blood pressure, brain waves, all physical stats normal. For now. She glanced down, seeing Eve's eyes were closed, her face relaxed, her body limp. She indulged herself, brushing a hand over Eve's cheek; then, after hooking restraints to her wrists and ankles, she picked up the second syringe.

  "Can you hear me. Eve?"

  "Mmm. Yeah. Feel fine."

  "Do you trust me?"


  "Then remember I'm here with you. Count back from one hundred for me. Slowly."

  "Hundred, ninety-nine, ninety-eight, ninety-seven." As the second drug swam into her blood, her pulse jittered, her breathing hitched. "Ninety-six. God!" Her body arched, limbs jerking against the restraints as the shock rocked her system.

  "No, don't fight. Breathe. Listen to my voice. Breathe, Eve. Don't fight."

  There were thousands of hot, hungry bugs crawling over her skin, under it. Someone was choking her, and the hands were like jagged ice. Her heart fought to break out of her chest with vicious hammer blows. Terror, red and ripe, blinded her as her eyes sprang open and she realized she was restrained.

  "Don't tie me down. Jesus, don't."

  "I have to. You could hurt yourself. But I'm here. Feel my hand." She squeezed it over the tight ball of Eve's fist. "I'm right here. Slow, deep breaths, Eve. Listen to my voice. Slow, deep breaths. Lieutenant Dallas." She snapped it out when Eve continued to gasp and struggle. "I gave you an order. Cease struggling, breathe normally."

  Eve gulped in air, whooshed it out. Her arms shuddered but stopped straining.

  "Look at the light," Mira continued, adjusting the dosage, watching the monitors. "Listen to my voice. You don't need to hear anything but my voice. I'm right here. You know who I am?"

  "Mira. Dr. Mira. It hurts."

  "Only for a moment more. Your system needs to adjust. Take long, slow breaths. Watch the light. Long, slow breaths." She repeated the same directions, over and over in a quiet monotone until she saw the monitors level, watched Eve's face go lax again.

  "You're relaxed now, and all you hear is my voice. Do you still have pain?"

  "No, I don't feel anything."

  "Tell me your name."

  "Dallas, Lieutenant Eve."

  "Date of birth."

  "I don't know."

  "Place of birth."

  "I don't know."

  "City of residence?"

  "New York."

  "Marital status."

  "Married. Roarke."

  "Place of employment."

  "NYPSD. Cop Central. No…" The monitors began to blip, indicating agitation, confusion. "I was. I'm suspended. They took my badge. I'm cold now."

  "It'll pass." But Mira leaned back and ordered the temperature of the room to increase five degrees. For the next several minutes, Mira asked simple, inane questions to establish normal blood pressure, the pattern of brain waves, respiration, heart rate.

  "Was your suspension from duty warranted?"

  "It was procedure. While under investigation, I can't serve."

  "Was it warranted?"

  Eve's brow creased in confusion. "It was procedure," she repeated.
  "You're a cop down to your bones," Mira muttered.


  The simple answer nearly made Mira smile. "You have used maximum force in the line of duty, answer yes or no."


  Tricky ground now, Mira thought. She knew that once, a young, terrified girl had killed. "Have you ever, other than to protect yourself or another, taken a life?"

  The image flashed. The horrid room, the pools of blood, the knife gored to the hilt and dripping with red. Pain, so brutal the memory of it struck like lightning, made her whimper. "I had to. I had to."

  The voice was a child's and had Mira moving quickly. "Eve, stay here, and answer the question yes or no. Answer yes or no, Lieutenant, have you ever, other than to protect yourself or another, taken a life?"

  "No." The word came out on an explosion of breath. "No, no, no. He's hurting me. He won't stop."

  "Don't go there. Listen to my voice, look at the light. You are not to go anywhere unless I tell you. Do you understand?"

  "It's always there."

  She'd been afraid of just this. "It's not there now. No one is here but me. What is my name?"

  "He's coming back." She began to shake, to struggle. "He's drunk, but not too drunk."

  "Lieutenant Dallas, this is an official procedure sanctioned by the NYPSD. You are under suspension, but have not been terminated from service. You are obliged to follow the rules of this procedure. Do you understand your obligations?"

  "Yes. Yes. God, I don't want to be here."

  "What is my name?"

  "Mira. Oh Christ. Mira, Dr. Charlotte."

  Stay with me, Mira thought. Stay right here with me.

  "What was the nature of the case you were investigating when suspended from service?"

  "Homicide." The shuddering stopped, and the data on the monitors began to level. "Multiple."

  "Were you acquainted with an Officer Ellen Bowers?"

  "Yes. She and her trainee were first on-scene at two of the homicides. Victims Petrinsky and Spindler."

  "You had altercations with Bowers?"


  "Relate your view of those altercations."

  More images slid in and out of her brain. She lived it as she recited it. The heat, the punch of hate that had annoyed and baffled, the cold words, the vicious ones.

  "You were aware that Bowers filed complaints against you."


  "Was there validity to these complaints?"

  "I used profanity when dealing with her." Even weighed down with drugs, she sneered. It lifted Mira's troubled heart. "It's a technical breach of regulations."

  If she hadn't been sick with worry, Mira might have laughed. "Did you threaten this officer with physical harm?"

  "I'm not sure. I might have said I'd kick her ass if she kept screwing up. I thought it, anyway."

  "In her logs, she has stated that you exchanged sexual favors for advancement in the department. Is that true?"


  "Have you ever had a sexual relationship or encounter with Commander Whitney?"


  "Have you ever had a sexual relationship or encounter with Captain Feeney?"

  "Jesus. No. I don't go around fucking my friends."

  "Have you ever accepted a bribe?"


  "Have you ever falsified a report?"


  "Did you physically attack Officer Ellen Bowers?"


  "Did you cause her death?"

  "I don't know."

  Mira jerked back, shaken. "Did you kill Officer Ellen Bowers?"


  "How might you have caused her death?"

  "Someone used her to get me off, to get me out. They wanted me. She was easier."

  "You believe that a person or persons currently unknown killed Bowers in order to remove you from the investigation you were pursuing?"


  "How does that make you responsible for her death?"

  "Because I had a badge. Because it was my case. Because I let it be personal instead of seeing how they could use her. That puts her on my head."

  Mira sighed, adjusted the dose again. "Focus on the light, Eve. We're nearly done."

  • • • •

  Roarke paced the waiting area outside Mira's office. What the hell was taking so long? He should have known Eve was conning him when she'd said it wouldn't take more than a couple of hours. It was no big deal. Just as he'd known when he realized she'd gotten out of the house without telling him that morning that she hadn't wanted him here.

  Well, he was here, by God. She'd just have to deal with it.

  Four hours, he thought with another glance at his wrist unit. How the devil could some tests and questions take four hours? He should have pressed her, pushed her into explaining exactly what would be done.

  He knew something about Testing, the basic process a cop went through whenever maximum force was employed. It wasn't pleasant, but she'd gotten through it before. He understood the elemental strain of Level One, and the additional burden of truth testing.

  It was again, unpleasant, very often left the subject a little shaky for a few hours.

  She'd get through that as well.

  Why the hell weren't they done with her?

  His head came up, and his eyes went to pools of ice when Whitney walked in.

  "Roarke. I'd hoped she'd be finished by now."

  "She doesn't need to see you here when she is. You've done more than enough already, Commander."

  Whitney's eyes went blank, and the shadows under them were deep. "We all follow orders, Roarke, and procedure. Without them, there's no order."

  "Why don't I tell you what I think of your procedure?" he began, stepping forward with blood in his eye.

  The door opened. He turned quickly, an arrow of shock piercing his heart when he saw her.

  She was pale as death. Her eyes seemed to be carved deep into the skull, the irises like gold glass, the pupils huge. Mira had a supporting arm around her, and still she swayed.

  "You're not ready to get up. Your system needs more time."

  "I want out of here." She would have shaken Mira off, but was seriously afraid she'd pitch forward onto her face. She saw Roarke first, felt twin surges of frustration and relief. "What are you doing here? I told you not to come."

  "Shut the hell up." There was only one emotion pumping through him, and it was all fury. He was across the room in three quick strides, and pulling her away from Mira. "What the hell did you do to her?"

  "What she was supposed to do." Eve made the effort to stand on her own feet, though it had the nausea swimming back, the clammy sweat popping out. She would not be sick again, she promised herself. She'd already been violently ill twice and would not be sick again.

  "She needs to lie down." Mira's face was nearly as pale as Eve's, and every line of strain showed. "Her system hasn't had time to recover. Please convince her to come back and lie down so I can monitor her vitals."

  "I have to get out of here." Eve looked straight into Roarke's eyes. "I can't stay here."

  "All right. We're going."

  She let herself lean against him until she saw Whitney. Then it was instinct as much as pride that had her forcing her aching body to attention. "Sir."

  "Dallas. I regret the necessity of this procedure. Dr. Mira needs to keep you under observation until she's satisfied you're well enough to leave."

  "With respect, Commander, I'm free to go where the hell I want."

  "Jack." Mira linked her fingers together, felt useless. "She took Level Three."

  His eyes flashed, shifted back to Eve's face. "Level Three was not necessary. Damn it, it was not necessary."

  "You took my badge," Eve said quietly. "It was necessary." She forced herself straight again, praying Roarke would understand she needed to walk out under her own power. She made it to the door before the trembling started again, but she shook her head fiercely when he turne

  "No, don't, don't carry me. God, leave me something here."

  "All right, just hold on." He hooked an arm around her waist, took most of her weight. Bypassing the glide, he walked her to the elevator. "What's Level Three?"

  "Bad." Her head was pounding brutally. "Really bad. Don't hassle me. It was the only way."

  "For you," he murmured, drawing her into the crowded elevator when the doors whisked open.

  Her vision grayed at the edges. Voices from the people who jammed in with them drifted, echoed, and fell away like waves in an ocean. She lost her bearings, and herself, only dimly aware of movement, of Roarke's voice close to her ear telling her they were nearly there.

  "Okay, okay." The gray spread, closed in as he guided her to the visitor's parking area. "Mira said how this was just one of the side effects. No big deal."

  "What's one of the side effects?"

  "Shit, Roarke. Sorry. I'm gonna pass out."

  She never heard him curse as he swung her into his arms.


  She was out, unconscious or asleep, for four hours. She didn't remember getting home, being put to bed. Fortunately for all parties, she didn't remember Roarke calling in Summerset, or the butler using his medical training to examine her and prescribe rest.

  When she woke, the headache remained, but the sickness and the shakes had passed.

  "You can take a blocker."

  Still dim, she blinked her vision clear and stared at the little blue pill Roarke held out. "What?"

  "There's been enough time since your treatment for you to take a blocker. Swallow."

  "Not more drugs, Roarke, I—"

  It was as far as she got before he squeezed her jaw, popped the pill in her mouth. "Swallow."

  Scowling, she did so, more out of reflex than obedience. "I'm okay. I'm fine."

  "Sure you are. Let's go dancing."

  She squirmed into a sitting position and dearly hoped her head would stay in its proper place on her shoulders. "Did anyone see me go down?"

  "No." The hand on her jaw gentled. "Your kick-ass rep is intact."

  "That's something, anyway. Man, I'm starving."

  "Not surprising. Mira said you'd probably lost everything you'd eaten in the last twenty-four hours. I called her," he added when she frowned at him. "I wanted to know what had been done."

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