Conspiracy in death, p.33
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.33

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

  She sprang out of the car, raced for the elevator. "They don't know she's talked to me. She's smart enough to keep that to herself, maybe to play dumb if anybody tries to pump her. But they might have gotten something out of Jan before they killed her. They've got to know by now she has data on the calls, asked questions, made accusations."

  She watched the numbers light above the door, willed them to hurry.

  "They'd wait until the floor was quiet, until the change of shifts, most likely."

  "We won't be too late," she promised herself, and sprang out of the elevator the moment the doors opened.

  "Miss!" A nurse came scrambling around the desk as Eve rushed by. "Miss, you're required to check in at the desk. You're not authorized." Racing after them, she dragged out her beeper and called security.

  "Where's the uniform assigned to this door?" Eve demanded, shoving and finding the door itself secured.

  "I don't know." Grim-faced, the nurse moved over to block them from the door. "This is a family or authorized personnel only area."

  "Unlock this door."

  "I will not. I've called security. The patient in this room is not to be disturbed as per doctor's orders. I'll have to ask you to leave."

  "Go ahead and ask." Rearing back, Eve broke the door open with two vicious kicks. Her clutch piece seemed to leap into her hand as she ran through. "Oh God, goddamn."

  The bed was empty.

  The nurse sputtered when Eve whirled on her, grabbed her by the collar of her pale peach uniform smock. "Where's Louise?"

  "I—I don't know. She's supposed to be here. She was logged out as not to disturb when I came on shift twenty minutes ago."

  "Eve. Here's your uniform."

  Roarke was crouched on the other side of the bed, testing the unconscious cop's pulse. "He's alive, sedated heavily I'd say."

  "Which doctor logged her as not to be disturbed?"

  "Her attending. Dr. Waverly."

  "Do something for that uniform," she ordered the nurse. "Cops will be here in ten minutes. I want you to order this building sealed, all exits."

  "I don't have the authority."

  "Do it!" Eve repeated. She spun on her heel. "Organ wing, best guess. We'll have to separate when we get there. We can't cover the whole wing in time unless we do."

  "We'll find her." They hit the elevator together. He pried open the plate, flipped some controls. "We're now straight express. Brace yourself."

  She didn't even have the breath to curse. The speed pressed her into the corner, made her eyes tear and her heart thunder. She had a moment to pray he'd remembered to engage the brakes when they jerked to a stop that had her stumbling hard into him.

  "Some ride. Here, take my piece."

  "Thanks, Lieutenant, but I have my own." His face was cold and set as he drew out a sleek nine-millimeter. A weapon, like all handguns, that had been banned decades earlier.

  "Shit," was all she had time to say.

  "I'll go east, you take the west side."

  "Don't fire that weapon unless—" she began, but he was out and gone.

  She got her bearings and moved down the corridor, sweeping with her weapon as she came to a turn or a door. She fought the urge to rush. Each new area had to be carefully searched before she moved to the next.

  She gazed up to the cameras scanning. It would be a miracle, she knew, if she came across her objective without being expected. And she knew she was being led when doors that should have been locked gave way as she approached.

  "Okay, you son of a bitch," she whispered. "You want a one-on-one? So do I."

  She made another turn, faced double doors fashioned of heavy, opaque glass. There was a palm plate, a cornea scanner, timed locks. A computerized voice activated as she stepped forward.

  Warning. This is a secured area. Authorized Level Five personnel only. Hazardous biological material contained within. Warning. Anti-contamination suits required. No entry without authorization.

  The doors slid smoothly open.

  "I guess I've just been authorized."

  "Your tenacity is admirable, Lieutenant. Please, come in."

  Waverly had removed his lab coat. He was dressed as if for an elegant evening engagement in a perfectly cut dark suit with a silk tie. His gold caduceus glinted in the bright lights.

  He smiled charmingly and held a pressure syringe against the pulse in Louise's throat. Eve's heart bumped once, hard against her ribs. Then she saw the gentle rise and fall of Louise's breasts.

  Still breathing, she thought, and she intended to keep it that way.

  "You got sloppy in the end, Doc."

  "I don't think so. Just a few loose ends needing to be tied off and snipped. I suggest you put down your weapon, Lieutenant, unless you want me to administer this very fast-acting, very lethal medication to our young friend here."

  "Is that the same stuff you used on Friend and Wo?"

  "As it happens, Hans treated Tia. But, yes. It's painless and efficient. The drug of choice for discriminating self-terminators. She'll be dead in less than three minutes. Now, put down your weapon."

  "You kill her, you've got no shield."

  "You won't let me kill her." He smiled again. "You can't. A woman who risks her life for dead derelicts will swallow her pride for the life of an innocent. I've made quite a study of you in the past couple of weeks, Lieutenant—or should I say former Lieutenant Dallas."

  "You saw to that, too." She would count on her wits now, Eve thought, as she laid the gun on the counter beside her. And on Roarke.

  "You made that simple, all in all. Or Bowers did. Close doors and secure," he ordered, and she heard them snick together at her back, locking her in. Locking backup out.

  "Did she work with you?"

  "Only indirectly. Move away from your weapon, slowly, to the left. Very good. You have a good mind, and we won't be disturbed in here for some time. I'm happy to cooperate and fill in the blanks for you. It seems only fair, under the circumstances."

  To brag, she realized. He needed to brag. Arrogance, God complex. "I don't have too many blanks yet to fill. But I'm interested in how you roped Bowers in."

  "She walked into it. Or you did. She turned out to be a handy tool to get rid of you, since threats didn't do the job, and bribery seemed absurd, considering both your record and your financial situation. You cost this area of the Drake a very expensive security droid."

  "Well, you've got more."

  "Several. One is even now dealing with your husband." The flash in her eyes delighted him. "Ah, that concerns you, I see. I've never been a believer in true love, but the two of you do make a lovely couple. Did."

  Roarke was armed, she reminded herself. And he was good. "Roarke isn't easy to deal with."

  "He doesn't trouble me overmuch." The arrogance seeped through as Waverly shrugged. "Now, the two of you together were an irritant, but…well, you were asking about Bowers. It simply fell into place. She was a paranoid violent tendency that slipped through the system and ended up in uniform. There are others, you know."

  "It happens."

  "Every day. You being assigned to the investigation on—what was his name?"

  "Petrinsky. Snooks."

  "Yes, yes, that's right. Rosswell was supposed to be assigned to that matter, but there was some slipup in dispatch."

  "How long have you owned him?"

  "Oh, only a few months. If all had gone according to plan, the entire business would have been filed and forgotten."

  "Who've you got in the ME's department?"

  "Just a mid-level clerk with an affection for pharmaceuticals." He smiled slowly, winningly. "It's a simple matter to find the right person with the right weakness."

  "You killed Snooks for nothing. You failed with him."

  "A disappointment to us. His heart didn't respond. But there must be failures in any serious search for progress, just as there are obstacles to be overcome. You've been quite an obstacle. It was clear very quickly that you'd dig hard and
deep and uncomfortably close. We had this problem in Chicago, but we handled it quite easily. You weren't so quickly dispatched, so it took other means. A little cooperation from Rosswell, a bit of ruffling of Bowers's feathers, false data planted, then, of course, we arranged for both of you to meet on another murder scene. She reacted very much as predicted, and while you were admirably controlled, it was enough."

  "So you had her killed, knowing procedure would require my suspension and an investigation."

  "It seemed that had solved our little problem, and with Senator Waylan putting pressure on the mayor, we'd have time to finish. We were so very close to complete success."

  "Organ regeneration."

  "Exactly." He all but beamed at her. "You have filled in blanks. I told the others you would."

  "Yeah, I've filled them. Friend screwed up your cushy circle with his artificial implants, knocked away your funding." She hooked her thumbs in her pockets, moved a little closer. "You'd have been pretty young then, maybe just getting your toehold. Must've pissed you off."

  "Oh, it did. It took me years to establish myself enough to gather the resources, the team, the equipment to compatently continue the work we'd been doing when Friend destroyed it. I hadn't quite reached the brass ring of prominence when he and some colleagues began experimenting with melding live tissue with the artificial material. But Tia, she believed in me, in my passions. She kept me well informed."

  "Did she help you kill him?"

  "No, that I did unassisted. Friend had gotten wind of my interests, experiments. Didn't care for them. He intended to use his influence to cancel my funding—pitiful as it was—to research the regeneration of animal organs. I canceled him and his little project first."

  "But then you had to go under," she said easing forward with her eyes steady on his. "You planned to move to human organs eventually, so you covered your tracks."

  "And covered them well. Enlisted some of the very best hands and minds in the medical field. And all's well that ends well. Watch your step."

  She stopped at the foot of the gurney, laid a hand casually on the guard. "You know they've got Young. He'll roll over on you."

  "He'd die first." Waverly chuckled. "The man is obsessed with this project. He sees his name shining in medical journals for the ages. He believes I'm a god. He would bite through the artery in his own wrist before he'd betray me."

  "Maybe. I guess you couldn't count on that kind of loyalty from Wo."

  "No. She was always a risk, always on the outskirts of the project. A skilled doctor but a fairly unstable woman. She began to balk when she discovered our human samples had been…appropriated without permission."

  "She didn't expect you to kill people."

  "They're hardly people."

  "And the others?"

  "In this arena? Hans believes as I do. Colin?" He moved an elegant shoulder. "He prefers to wear blinders, to pretend not to know the full extent of the project. There are more, of course. An undertaking of this magnitude requires a large if select team."

  "Did you send the droid after Jan?"

  "You've found her already." He shook his head in admiration, and his hair gleamed like gold under the bright lab lights. "My, that was quick. Of course. She was one of those loose ends."

  "And what will Cagney say when you tell him Louise was another loose end?"

  "He won't know. It's very simple, if you know how, to dispose of a body in a health center. The crematorium is efficient and never closed. What happened to her will remain a mystery."

  In an absent gesture, Waverly stroked a hand over Louise's hair. Eve wanted to taste his blood for that alone.

  "It will likely break him," Waverly considered. "I'm sorry for it. Very sorry to have to sacrifice two fine minds, two excellent doctors, but progress, great progress, requires heavy sacrifice."

  "He'll know."

  "Oh, on some level, certainly. And he'll deny. He does his best work in denial. But he will consider himself responsible. Guilty, I suppose, by omission. He is certainly aware that experiments and research are being conducted in this and other facilities, without official sanction. He tends to look the other way easily, to call out his loyalty to the club. One doctor does not turn on another."

  "But you do."

  "My loyalty is to the project."

  "What do you hope to gain?"

  "Is that the blank you can't fill? My God, we have done it." Now his eyes sparkled, emerald green and full of power. "We can rejuvenate a human organ. Within one day, a dying heart can be treated and brought back to health. Not just health, but strength, youth, vigor." Excitement had his voice rising, deepening. "Better in some cases than it was before it was damaged. It can be all but reanimated, and that, I believe, is possible with a bit more study."

  "Bring the dead to life?"

  "The stuff of fiction, you're thinking. So were transplants once, cornea replacement, in vitro repair. This can and will be done, and very soon. We're nearly ready to go public with our discovery. A serum that, when injected directly into the damaged organ through a simple surgical procedure, will regenerate the cells, will eradicate any disease. A patient will be ambulatory within hours, and will walk out, cured, in under forty-eight. With his own heart or lungs or kidneys, not some artificial mold."

  He leaned toward her, eyes gleaming. "You still don't understand the scope. It can be done over and over again, to every organ. And from there, it's a small step to muscle, to bone, to tissue. With this beginning, we'll draw in more funding than we can possibly use to complete the work. Within two years, we will be able to remake a human being, using his own body. Life expectancy can and will double. Perhaps more. Death will essentially become obsolete."

  "It's never obsolete, Waverly. Not as long as there are people like you. Who will you choose to remake?" she demanded. "There's not enough room, not enough resources for everybody to live forever." She watched his smile turn cagey. "It'll come down to money then, and selection."

  "Who needs more aging whores or sidewalk sleepers? We have Waylan in our pocket, and he'll push his influence in East Washington. The politicians will jump right on this. We've found a way to clean up the streets over the next generation, to employ a kind of natural selection, survival of the fittest."

  "Of your selection, your choice."

  "And why not? Who better to decide than those who've held human hearts in their hands, slid into the brain and gut? Who understands better?"

  "That's the mission," she said quietly. "To create and mold and select."

  "Admit it, Dallas, the world would be a better place without the dregs that weigh it down."

  "You're right. We just have a different definition of dregs."

  She shoved the gurney hard to the right and leaped over it.

  • • • •

  Roarke crouched at the secured door. His entire world had become that single control panel. There was a raw bruise on his cheekbone, a jagged gash in his shoulder.

  The security droid was minus his left arm and head, but it had taken entirely too much time.

  He forced his mind to stay focused, his vision to remain clear, and his hands steady. He never flinched when he heard footsteps pounding down the corridor behind him. He could recognize the slap of cheap cop shoes a mile off.

  "Jesus, Roarke, was that droid your work?"

  "She's in there." He didn't glance back at Feeney, but continued to search for the next bypass. "I know it. Give me room, don't get in my light."

  Peabody cleared her throat as the computer warning sounded again. "If you're wrong—"

  "I'm not wrong."

  • • • •

  She rammed her fist into his face and relished the sting of knuckles meeting flesh. Something ripped as she tackled him and sent them crashing onto the floor.

  He wasn't soft, and he was desperate. She tasted her own blood, felt her bones jar, saw one quick burst of stars when her head cracked against the wheels of the gurney.

  She didn't us
e the pain, she didn't need it. She used her rage. Half blind with it, she straddled him, slamming her elbow into his windpipe. He gagged, strained for air. And she twisted the syringe he'd nearly pumped into her side out of his hand.

  Wheezing, eyes huge, he went still as she tipped it against his throat. "Scared, you bastard? Different on the other end, isn't it? Move the wrong way, and you're dead. What did you say? Within three minutes? I'll just sit here and watch you die, like you watched all those people die."

  "Don't." It was a rusty croak. "I'm choking. Can't get air."

  "I could put you out of your misery." She smiled as his eyes wheeled in his head. "But it's just too damn easy. You want to live forever, Waverly? You can live forever in a fucking cage."

  She started to climb off him, sighed once. "I just have to," she muttered, and rammed one short-armed jab into his face.

  She was just pulling herself to her feet when the doors swung open. "Well." She swiped the back of her hand across her swollen mouth. "The gang's all here." Cautiously, she turned the syringe upside down. "You might want to seal this, Peabody, poison precautions, it's lethal. Hey, Roarke, you're bleeding."

  He stepped to her, gently wiped her lip with his thumb. "You, too."

  "Good thing we're in a health center, huh? Ruined that fancy coat."

  Now he grinned. "You, too."

  "Told ya. Feeney, you can interview me when you clean up this mess. Somebody ought to take a look at Louise. He must have sedated her. She slept through this whole thing. And pick up Rosswell, would you? Waverly rolled over on him."

  "It'll be a pleasure. Anybody else?"

  "Cagney and Vanderhaven, who happen to be in the city, according to Dr. Death here. There'll be more, here and there." She glanced back where Waverly lay unconscious. "He'll give it up. He's got no balls at all." She picked up her clutch piece, stuck it in her back pocket. "We're going home."

  "Good work, Dallas."

  For a moment, her eyes were absolutely bleak, then she grinned, shrugged. "Yeah. What the hell." Sliding her arm around Roarke, she walked away.

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