Dark in death, p.34
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       Dark in Death, p.34
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         Part #46 of In Death series by J. D. Robb
“How did you select Pryor Carridine’s surrogate for sacrifice?”

  “It’s basic research to a serious writer. To write, you have to experience. I learned that. I’ll admit Blaine DeLano taught me that. I risked everything to come to New York, to give up the ordinary, the comfortable, and strive.”

  “Your mother’s shop in Wilmington,” Eve prompted.

  “My mother.” Smith sneered. “She was no mother to me. Did she ever encourage me to be more? No, it was always, ‘Control your temper, Ann. Stop daydreaming, Ann.’ She wanted me to sew for the rest of my life! ‘Make a good living,’ she’d say. And never, never believed in my dreams. A hobby. She called my writing a hobby!”

  “She left her shop, her business, in your hands.”

  “I didn’t want it. It only paid the bills, only trapped me inside the ordinary. Doing the ordinary while I wrote? I barely slept for months. Months. Years. It blurs.”

  “You left the business, came to New York.”

  “Blaine told me to.”

  “She told you to come to New York?” Eve qualified.

  “Yes, yes. She encouraged me to dream, and that’s the same thing. I loved her for that. I believed in her, I thought she believed in me, so I risked everything. I worked for hours to pay the rent while my mind wrote and wrote and wrote.”

  The hard light in her eyes softened as she pressed both hands to her heart. “Coming home to take those scenes, those characters, out of my head and putting them on the page were the happiest hours of my life. I often wrote through the night, then went back to Dobb’s or took a side job so I could support my true art.

  “You can’t know the joy, the thrill, the satisfaction in the soul of finishing a book, that labor of sweat and blood and love.”

  The rage snapped back. “And what did she do when I sent her that labor of sweat and blood and love? She rejected me.”

  “That stung.”

  “It cut me to the quick. I was so angry, so disillusioned, so wounded. She was my mentor, my friend, my teacher, and she put lawyers between us? Agents and lawyers prevented her from reading my book? I tried to understand, to forgive. I tried. And then …”

  She lived in it now, Eve noted. Smith lived in that murky world where reality and fiction blurred. And while she did, she had to tell her story.

  “Sudden Dark,” Eve prompted. “You read Sudden Dark.”

  “And I saw what she’d done, how she’d used and betrayed me. I trusted her and she murdered that trust. She killed my innocence. She crushed my dreams.”

  “She had to pay.”

  “She had to pay. She had to see. See me as I now saw her. The evil in her, the selfish, calculating evil in her. She used Deann Dark to destroy me. I would use Deann Dark to destroy her, and to show her, to show everyone duped by her how it should be done. How a real writer creates.”

  “Starting with Rosie Kent.”

  “Pryor Carridine,” Smith corrected.

  “Pryor Carridine.” Eve nodded. “Tell me about her—as you wrote her.”

  “I knew as soon as I saw her. Young, rebellious, foolish. Trading her body for money and thrills. There were others, and I could have rewritten them, made them work and work well. But she was so perfect. She inspired me. I watched her. I did my research. I wrote, rewrote her scenes. I perfected them.”

  “Yeah, we’ve got those, too. From your computer.”

  “You can see how superior my vision is. DeLano’s character grieved as she killed—grieved for the life she’d learned was a lie, for the husband who’d made that life a lie. There’s your pap. My character didn’t grieve, so she didn’t make mistakes. My hands didn’t shake like Amanda’s because I wrote them steady. My heart didn’t pound in my ears as I tightened the scarf around Pryor’s neck, because I wrote the quiet and the calm. I understood from creating Evan Quint a killing should be calm and controlled, a killer must consider all details. So I did.”

  “Chanel Rylan.”

  “Amelia Benson. I had to invest there. It’s expensive to go to the vids, but the investment was necessary.”

  “You had an alternate.”

  “Of course. I wrote several alternate scenes for each character. In this case, it involved creating the scene at a play—even more expense. I may use that alternate scene in another book. It’s good work. No work is ever wasted.”

  “The reversible coat was clever.”

  “Details. DeLano skimmed over them, obviously. I enjoyed designing that coat.”

  “Your work, your seamstress skills,” Peabody qualified, “are exceptional.”

  “It steals time from the art, but it pays the bills. When my book’s published, I’ll enjoy sewing as a hobby.”

  “What was your mind-set when you jammed that ice pick into the back of Chanel Rylan’s neck?”

  “I was inside my character. Justin Werth didn’t kill only from desperation, a desperate need to see his work produced. In my character there was also greed, a stronger motivator, I believe. In my version he wasn’t hired or bribed to kill. I blended him into a stronger, slyer man by merging two inferior characters.”

  “The screenwriter and the boyfriend.” Eve nodded. “So the killer became, in your version, both.”

  “Yes. He knew, in my version, the part his lover and Amelia Benson competed for was a star-maker. It would make her not only famous but rich, and he’d benefit. So I imbued him with a kind of glee when he killed her.”

  “Which, embodying his character, you felt. You felt glee.”

  “Of course.”

  “And then?”

  “Then, much smarter than the original character, I slipped out before Amelia’s companion returned to her seat. You know about the vet clinic.”

  “Yes.”

  “I liked writing that part.” She smiled a little. “It was a kind of comic relief. The cheap clone ’link, the breathless voice babbling about the injured dog. I imagined the dog as a young German shepherd mix. I don’t know why, it simply came to me. I named him Prince in my head.”

  “Of course you did.”

  “In any case, it went exactly as written. The recorded communication, the companion going out to take the emergency tag. When Ame-lia was dead, I slipped out, reversed the coat, put on the hat, and so forth, and sat in the back of the other theater. I knew it would let out shortly and I could, as written, just walk out with the others. It’s all written out.”

  “Yeah. Indulge me. Loxie Flash.”

  “I had three choices for Bliss Cather. I disliked the one who became her the most, so it was satisfying to have her come into the club, as I hoped. I did initially plan for more time, more research, but I had to write you in.”

  “Me?”

  “Another inspiration. When I saw you do that interview, I realized the story had taken a turn. Now it had an element of cat and mouse.”

  As Smith leaned forward, her eyes actually danced. “But who was the cat, who was the mouse? You’d find out when your chapter came. I knew to keep up the pace, I had to move more quickly, take that risk. There are eight books, after all. And the author, before you.”

  “You didn’t have as much time to plan.”

  “I’d done my research. And then Glazier came in. It was a sign, it was a bonus.”

  The sallow skin flushed with pleasure, pride.

  “It was perfect. I had to rewrite my rewrite afterward to include him, but it made the scene so much stronger. And the chase,” she added. “That was unexpected. A good writer knows when to let the characters take over—it acknowledges they’re alive. I enjoyed the chase. I hadn’t known how it would feel. Running through the cold and the dark,” Smith murmured, caught up, caught in. “The sidewalk slick with ice as I ran with my pounding heart, my pumping blood, the soft, warm fur of the mink around me like a lover’s embrace. Streetlights, headlights, the rush and grind of traffic like music from another world. But only one thought echoing, echoing in my head. Escape. Escape.”

  “You didn’t want to get caught.”
/>
  “Of course not.”

  “But here you are.” Eve sat back again. “Caught. You bungled your attempt on Felicity Lomare. Rushed it, didn’t do that research. She knocked you out, Ann. You had sharps to her throat, but she knocked you cold. She had the guts, she had the skills.”

  The first tears sparkled, and spoke of self-pity.

  “I would’ve written myself out of it. I didn’t have time! You weren’t supposed to be there.”

  “That’s called a plot twist,” Peabody commented. “A good writer knows how to work them.”

  “You ruined the pacing, the arc. I was still working on scenes with you.”

  “Yeah, I read them, too.” Sitting back, amusement on her face, Eve laughed.

  “You’d lure me into an abandoned warehouse, where I go in alone, without backup, without notifying anyone I’m pursuing a lead on a serial killer. Then you get the drop on me and kill me with my own weapon. Seriously? You think that plays?”

  On those flushed cheeks two bright red flags burned through. “It’s a first draft.”

  “Right. Well, you’ll have plenty of time for a second draft, or however many it takes. You’ll have the rest of your life. Ann Elizabeth Smith, you’ve confessed to the murders of Rosie Kent, Chanel Rylan, and Loxie Flash. You’ve confessed to the attempted murder of Felicity Lomare. Evidence supports you further planned and plotted several other murders, including that of a police officer.”

  “I haven’t finished polishing those scenes. I haven’t finished the structure of the plotting on all of them.”

  “Uh-huh.” Eve rose. “You might want to think about writing scenes that take place in a maximum security prison, likely off-planet.”

  “I don’t want to go off-planet. I want to stay in New York. I want my writing tools. I want my sewing tools.”

  “I don’t recall any of those options included in your rights and obligations. You’re a stone-cold killer, Ann. My partner and I? Our art is taking down stone-cold killers, and we sure as hell stand up for our art. You are hereby down. Officers will come shortly to escort you back to your cage. Get used to the view.”

  “I don’t like this scene! I’m going to rewrite it.”

  “You do that.” Eve paused at the door. “Why ‘Strongbow’?”

  “A strong bow is a lethal weapon.”

  Eve raised her eyebrows. “That’s it? Huh. Dallas and Peabody exiting. Interview end.”

  “She’s completely bent,” Peabody commented. “Do you really think she’ll get maximum security, off-planet?”

  “I think the tenor of ‘completely bent’ depends on Mira’s and the other headshrinkers’ opinions. I lean toward her getting that max security, but likely in a ward for mental defectives. Either way, she’s down and she’s done.”

  She glanced down as Roarke stepped out of Observation.

  “Get her taken to her cage, then go on home. I’ll write it up.”

  “I can give you a hand with it.”

  “I’ve got it. Find McNab, he’s probably lurking around here somewhere.” Even as she spoke McNab came out of Observation with Callendar. The two of them looked like the headliners for a carnival.

  “Didn’t want to miss the big finish,” McNab said.

  “And that chick is whoa,” Callendar added, making her eyes jiggle in her head.

  “She’s all that and a side of fries. Thanks for your help, both of you, in bringing her down. Peabody, get her gone, then get gone yourself.”

  “You off?” McNab tapped his fingertips to Peabody’s. “I could use some libations, some chow, maybe some tunes. You in, Callendar?”

  “You had me at libations. We can wait for you, Dallas. Do a victory lap with brews.”

  “That’s okay, go ahead. I’ve got ends to tie yet.”

  “Sucks being the boss.”

  Eve glanced back at the Interview door. “Not tonight it doesn’t.”

  She walked toward her office with Roarke. “It can suck otherwise, because I’m going to be about another hour writing and wrapping this up. I can meet you at home.”

  “Why don’t I have dinner with my wife in her office while she works? It can be pizza.”

  “You had me at pizza.”

  “I always have you at pizza.”

  In her office, she dropped into her chair, let him program it. “She’s fucked-up crazy, but there’s a lot of sly in there. Sly and smart in there, too. I don’t know if legal crazy wins or not.”

  “She’d added you to her list. You knew she would.”

  “I knew she’d never get that far. Plus you should read the scene. A boneheaded first-day rookie wouldn’t walk into the situation she dreamed up for my untimely death.”

  “And still she managed to kill three people.”

  “And still,” Eve agreed with a look at her board. “I don’t think she’d have taken Lomare, even without our arrival on the scene. That’s not a woman who gets pushed down the stairs.”

  “I tend to agree with you.” He set the pizza on her desk, sat on the edge of it, and took a slice.

  “Did you get this tube of Pepsi from my AC?”

  “You generally prefer it, when you can’t have wine, with pizza.”

  “Why didn’t I know I have Pepsi in there? Do you know the bullshit I get at Vending?”

  “I do, which is why you have Pepsi in there.”

  She cracked the tube, drank deep. “Sometimes I sort of like the challenge.”

  He knew that, too.

  “Well then, now you have a choice, depending on your mood. You pushed the right button when you challenged her to defend her work. At that point, and from that point forward, she wanted to confess.”

  “Not confess so much as tell the stories, brag about them, hype her work and brilliance—which amounts to the same.” She bit into pizza, took a moment to acknowledge and enjoy her own little victory lap.

  Roarke, a cold tube of Pepsi, and pizza.

  “You know, if we really wanted to stick it to offenders, they would never again taste the amazement of the pie.”

  Smiling, Roarke brushed his fingers over her hair. “That seems very harsh.”

  “Okay, not all offenses—sliding scale. But murder? Pizza’s off the menu for life. It could be a deterrent. Anyway, I’m eating this slice, then I’m giving Nadine the heads-up. She earned it. And I’ll contact DeLano, tell her it’s closed up. And Rylan’s roommate, our cooperative bartender, the kick-ass former counterintel agent, the skanks.”

  “Why don’t I contact Felicity for you? She gave me her contact info.”

  “She wanted contact with you, ace, full contact. That was clear.”

  He smiled again, danced his fingers up Eve’s arm. “Was it then?”

  Eve mulled as she finished the slice. “I could take her. She’s wily and tough, but I could take her if she moved on you.”

  “My money’s on you. But I might place a small side bet on her.”

  Eve guzzled more Pepsi. “I can take her, so, yeah, go ahead and let her know. She’ll tag Berkle, put her mind to rest. Okay, one hour, the rest of this pizza, then home.”

  “And there, I can take you.”

  She glanced at him, decided she could eat another slice while making the calls. “Want to lay a bet on who takes who first?”

  “Either way, I win.” He leaned over, kissed her. “Good work, Lieutenant.”

  “Yeah, all in all.”

  All in all, she thought again as, with a slice in one hand, she swiveled her chair around to finish the job.

  And close the book.

 


 

  J. D. Robb, Dark in Death

  (Series: In Death # 46)

 

 


 

 
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