Read Betrayal in Death Online

Authors: J. D. Robb

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #New York (N.Y.), #Women Sleuths, #Detective and mystery stories, #Police, #Suspense, #Mystery, #American, #Policewomen, #Crime & Thriller, #Crime & mystery, #Eve (Fictitious character), #Dallas, #Dallas; Eve (Fictitious Character), #Policewomen - New York (State) - New York - Fiction, #Eve (Fictitious character) - Fiction, #Detective and mystery stories - lcsh

Betrayal in Death

PROLOGUE

A murder was taking place.

Outside the privacy-screened windows, and some forty-six floors below death, life -- noisy, oblivious, irritable -- rushed on.

New York was at its best on fine May evenings when flowers burst out of beautification troughs along the avenues and spilled from vendors' carts. The scent of them very nearly overpowered the stink of exhaust as street and air traffic clogged both road and skyways.

Pedestrians scurried, strolled, or hopped on people glides, depending on their frame of mind. But many did so in shirtsleeves or the neon-colored T-shirts that were the season's rage in this pretty slice of spring 2059.

Glide-carts sold fizzy drinks in those same violent hues, and the steam from grilling soy dogs rose merrily into the balmy evening air.

Taking advantage of the waning light, the young danced and leaped over the public sports' courts, working up a healthy sweat with balls and hoops and pegs. In Times Square, business in the video parlors was off as customers preferred the streets for their action. But the sex shops and venues held their own.

In spring, many a fancy still turned to porn.

Airbuses carted patrons to the Sky Mall, and ad blimps cruised with their endless stream of chatter, trying to herd yet more into the shopping arenas.

Buy and be happy. And tomorrow? Buy more.

Couples dined alfresco or lingered over pre-dinner drinks, talking of plans, the lovely weather, or the minutiae of their everyday lives.

Life bustled, bloomed, and burgeoned in the city as one was taken above it.

He didn't know her name. It hardly mattered what label her mother had given her when she'd come squalling into the world. It mattered less, to him, what name she took with her when he sent her squalling out of it.

The point was, she was there. In the right place at the right time.

She'd come in to do the nightly turndown in Suite 4602. He'd waited, quite patiently, and she hadn't kept him long.

She wore the smart black uniform and fancy white apron of The Palace Hotel's housekeeping staff. Her hair was neat, as was expected of any employee of the finest hotel in the city. It was shiny brown and clipped at the nape with a simple black bar.

She was young and pretty, and that pleased him. Though he would have followed through in the intended manner if she'd been ninety and hag-faced.

But the fact that she was young, attractive enough with her dusty cheeks and dark eyes, would make the task at hand somewhat more enjoyable.

She'd rung first, of course. Twice, with a slight pause between as required. That had given him time to slip into the generous bedroom closet.

She called out as she opened the door with her passcode. "Housekeeping," in that lilting, singsong voice people of her trade used to announce themselves to rooms most usually empty.

She moved through the bedroom into the bath first, carrying fresh towels to replace those the occupant, registered as James Priory, might have used since check-in.

She sang a little as she tidied the bath, some bouncy little tune to keep herself company. Whistle while you work, he thought from his station in the closet. He could get behind that.

He waited until she came back, had heaped the used towels on the floor for later. Waited until she'd walked to the bed and had finished folding down the royal blue spread.

Took pride in her work, he noted as she carefully formed a long triangle with the bed linens at the left corner.

Well, so did he.

He moved fast. She saw only a blur out of the corner of her eye before he was on her. She screamed, loud and long, but the rooms of The Palace were soundproofed.

He wanted her to scream. It would help get him in the mood for the job to be done.

She flailed out, her hand reaching down for the beeper in her apron pocket. He simply twisted her arm back, jerking it nastily until her scream became a whimper of agony.

"We can't have that, can we?" He plucked her beeper out, tossed it aside. "You're not going to like this," he told her. "But I am, and that's what counts, after all."

He hooked an arm around her throat, lifting her off the ground -- she was a little thing, barely a hundred pounds -- until the lack of oxygen had her going limp.

He had the pressure syringe of potent downers as a backup, but wouldn't need it with such a tiny woman.

When he released her, and she dropped to her knees, he rubbed his hands together, smiled brilliantly.

"Music on," he ordered, and the swelling sounds of the aria from Carmen he'd already programmed into the entertainment system filled the room.

Gorgeous, he thought, drawing in breath deeply as if he could draw in the notes.

"Well now, let's get to work."

He whistled as he beat her. He hummed as he raped her. By the time he'd strangled her, he was singing.

CHAPTER ONE

In death there were many layers. Violent death added more. It was her job to sift through those layers and find cause. In cause, to meet justice.

However the act of murder was committed, in cold blood or hot, she was sworn to pursue it to its root. And serve the dead.

For tonight, Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the New York City Police and Security Department wore no badge. It, along with her service weapon and communicator, was currently tucked in an elegant, palm-sized silk purse she considered embarrassingly frivolous.

She wasn't dressed like a cop, but wore a shimmering apricot-hued gown that skimmed down her long, slim body and was sliced in a dramatic V in the back. A slender chain of diamonds hung glittering around her neck. More sparkled at ears she recently, and in a weak moment, had been persuaded to have pierced.

Still more were scattered like raindrops through her short chop of brown hair and made her feel faintly ridiculous.

However glamorous the silk and diamonds made her appear, her eyes were all cop. Tawny brown and cool, they scanned the sumptuous ballroom, skimmed over faces, bodies, and considered security.

Cameras worked into the fancy plasterwork overhead were unobtrusive, powerful, and would provide full scope. Scanners would flag any guests or staff who happened to be carrying concealeds. And among the staff, weaving their way through the chatter to offer drinks, were a half-dozen trained security personnel.

The affair was invitation only, and those invitations carried a holographic seal that was scanned at the door.

The reason for these precautions, and others, was an estimated five hundred and seventy-eight million dollars' worth of jewelry, art, and memorabilia currently on dazzling display throughout the ballroom.

Each display was craftily arranged for impact and guarded by individual sensor fields that measured motion, heat, light, and weight. If any of the guests or staff had sticky fingers and attempted to remove so much as an earring from its proper place, all exits would close and lock, alarms would sound, and a second team of guards hand-selected from an elite NYPSD task force would be ordered to the scene to join the private security.

To her cynical frame of mind, the entire deal was a foolishly elaborate temptation for too many, in too large an area, in too public a venue. But it was tough to argue with the slick setup.

Then again, slick was just what she expected from Roarke.

"Well, Lieutenant?" The question, delivered with a whiff of amusement in a voice that carried the misty air of Ireland, drew her attention to the man.

Then again, everything about Roarke drew a woman's attention.

His eyes, sinfully blue, set off a face that had been sculpted on one of God's best days. As he watched her, his poet's mouth, one that often made her want to lean in for just one quick bite, curved, one dark brow lifted, and his long fingers skimmed possessively down her bare arm.

They'd been married nearly a year, and that sort of casually intimate stroke could still trip her pulse.

"Some party," she said and turned his smile into a fast, devastating grin.

"Yes, isn't it?" With his hand still lightly on her arm, he scanned the room.

His hair was black as midnight and fell nearly to his shoulders into what she thought of as his wild Irish warrior look. Add to that the tall, tautly muscled build in elegant black-tie, and you had a hell of a package. Obviously a number of other women in the room agreed. If Eve had been the jealous type, she'd have been forced to kick some major ass just for the hot and avaricious looks aimed in her husband's direction.

"Satisfied with the security?" he asked her.

"I still think holding this business in a hotel ballroom, even your hotel ballroom, is risky. You've got hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of junk sitting around in here."

He winced a little. "Junk is not quite the descriptive phrase we hope for in our publicity efforts. Magda Lane's collection of art, jewelry, and entertainment memorabilia is arguably one of the finest to ever go to auction."

"Yeah, and she'll rake in a mint for it."

"I certainly hope so, as for handling the arrangements for security, display, and auction Roarke Industries gets a nice piece of the pie."

He was scanning the room himself, and though he was anything but a cop, he studied, measured, and watched even as his wife had.

"Her name's enough to push the bidding far above actual value. I think we're safe in predicting that twice the actual value will make up that pie by the end of things."

Boggling, Eve thought. Boggling. "You're figuring people will choke out half a billion for somebody else's things?"

"Conservatively and before the sentiment factors in."

"Jesus Christ." She could only shake her head. "It's just stuff. Wait." She held up a hand. "I forgot who I was talking to. The king of stuff."

"Thank you, darling." He decided not to mention he had his eye on a few bits of that stuff for himself, and his wife.

He lifted a finger. Instantly a server bearing a tray of champagne in crystal flutes was at his side. Roarke removed two, handed one to Eve. "Now, if you've finished eyeballing my security arrangements, perhaps you could enjoy yourself."

"Who says I wasn't?" But she knew she was here not as a cop, but as the wife of Roarke. That meant mingling, rubbing shoulders. And the worst of human tortures in her estimation: small talk.

Because he knew her mind as thoroughly as he knew his own, he lifted her hand, kissed it. "You're so good to me."

"And don't you forget it. Okay." She took a bracing sip of champagne. "Who do I have to talk to?"

"I think we should start with the woman of the hour. Let me introduce you to Magda. You'll like her."

"Actors," Eve muttered.

"Biases are so unattractive. In any case," he began as he led her across the room, "Magda Lane is far more than an actor. She's a legend. This marks her fiftieth year in the business, one which often chews up and spits out those who dream of it. She's outlasted every trend, every style, every change in the movie industry. It takes more than talent to do that. It takes spine."

It was as close as Eve had ever seen him to having stars in his eyes. And that made her smile. "Stuck on her, are you?"

"Absolutely. When I was a boy in Dublin, there was a particular evening where I needed a bit of a dodge off the streets. Seeing as I had several lifted wallets and other pocket paraphernalia on my person and the garda on my heels."

The wide mouth she'd forgotten to dye for the evening sneered. "Boys will be boys."

"Well, be that as it may, I happened to duck into a theater. I was eight or thereabouts and resigned myself to sitting through some costume drama I imagined would bore me senseless. And there sitting in the dark, I had my first look at Magda Lane as Pamela in Pride's Fall?'

He gestured toward the display of a sweeping white ballgown that shimmered under a firestorm of icy stones. The droid replica of the actor turned in graceful circles, dipped into delicate curtsies, fluttered a sparkling white fan.

"How the hell did she walk around in that?" Eve wondered. "Looks like it weighs a ton."

He had to laugh. It was so Eve to see the inconvenience rather than the glamour. "Nearly thirty pounds of costume, I'm told. I said she had spine. In any case, she was wearing that the first time I saw her on screen. And for an hour I forgot where I was, who I was, that I was hungry or that I'd likely get a fist in the face when I got home if the wallets weren't plump enough. She drew me out of myself. That's a powerful thing."

He avoided interruption by simply aiming a smile or wave in the direction of those who called him. "I went back and saw Pride's Fall four times that summer, and paid for it. Well, paid the fee once anyway. After, whenever I needed to be drawn out of myself, I went to the movies."

She was holding his hand now, well able to visualize the boy he'd been, sitting in the dark, transported away by the images flickering on screen.

At the age of eight he'd discovered another world outside the misery and violence of the one he lived in.

And at eight, she thought, Eve Dallas had been born to a young girl too broken to remember anything that had come before.

Wasn't it almost the same thing?

Eve recognized the actor. Roarke didn't really go to the movies these days -- unless you counted his private theaters -- but he had copies on disc of thousands of them. She'd watched more screen in the past year with him than she had in the previous thirty.

Magda Lane wore red. Screaming siren red that painted a stunning and voluptuous body like a work of art. At sixty-three she was just dipping into middle age. From what Eve could see, she was approaching it with a snarl. This was nobody's matron.

Her hair was the color of ripening wheat and tumbled to her bare shoulders in snaking spirals. Her lips, full and lush as her body, were painted the same bold red as her gown. Skin, pale as milk, was unlined and highlighted by a beauty mark just at the outer point of one slashing eyebrow.

Beneath those contrastingly dark brows were eyes of fierce and brilliant green. They landed on Eve coolly, a female to female measuring, then shifted to Roarke and warmed like suns.

She was surrounded by people, and simply shot them a careless smile, then stepped out of the circle, hands outstretched.

"My God, but you're gorgeous."

Roarke took her hands, kissed both. "I was about to say the same. You're stunning, Magda. As ever."

"Yes, but that's my job. You were just born that way. Lucky bastard. And this must be your wife."

"Yes. Eve, Magda Lane."

"Lieutenant Eve Dallas." Magda's voice was like fog, low and full of secrets. "I've been looking forward to meeting you. I was devastated I couldn't make the wedding last year."

"It seems to have stuck anyway."

Magda's brows rose, then the eyes beneath them began to glitter with appreciation. "Yes, it has. Go away, Roarke. I want to acquaint myself with your lovely and fascinating wife. And you're too much of a distraction."

Magda waved him away with one slim hand. Light shot off the diamond on her ring finger like the tail of a comet before she tucked her arm companionably through Eve's.

"Now, let's find someplace where a dozen people won't insist on speaking to us. Nothing more tedious than idle conversation, is there? Of course, you're thinking that's just what you're about to be trapped into with me, but I'll assure you I don't intend to make our conversation idle. Shall I start off by telling you one of my own regrets is that your ridiculously attractive husband is young enough to be my son?"

Eve found herself sitting at a table in the back corner of the ballroom. "I don't see why that would have stopped either of you."

Laughing delightedly Magda snagged fresh flutes of champagne, then shooed the server away. "My own fault. I made a rule never to take a lover more than twenty years older or younger. Stuck with it, too. More's the pity. But..." She paused to sip, studying Eve. "It isn't Roarke I want to talk about, but you. You're exactly what I thought he'd fall for when his time came around."

Eve choked on her wine, blinked. "You're the first person who's ever said that" She struggled with herself a moment, then gave up. "Why do you say it?"

"You're quite attractive, but he wouldn't have been blinded by your looks. You find that amusing," Magda noted, nodding in approval. "Good. A nice sense of humor's essential when dealing with any man, but particularly one of Roarke's nature."

They were solid looks though, Magda mused. Neither glamorous nor staggering, but solid with good bones, clear eyes, and an interesting dent in the center of a strong chin.

"Your looks might have attracted him, but they didn't snare him. I wondered about that as Roarke has an interest, and an affection, for beauty. So I, having some interest and affection of my own in the man, followed the media on you."

Eve angled her head, a kind of challenge. "Do I pass?"

Amused, Magda ran one scarlet-tipped finger around the rim of her flute, then lifted it to equally bold lips, and sipped. "You're a smart, determined woman who doesn't merely stand on her own feet but uses them to boot whatever asses need booting. You're a physical woman with brains, and a look in your eyes when you glance around an event like this that says: 'What a bunch of nonsense. Haven't we all got something better to do?'"

Intrigued, Eve studied Magda in turn. More here, she realized, than some fluff piece who liked to play make-believe. "Are you a shrink or an actor?"

"Either profession requires solid elements of both." She paused again, sipped again. "My guess is you didn't -- don't -- give a hang about his money. That would have intrigued him. I can't see you falling at his feet either. If you had, he'd likely have scooped you up and played with you awhile. But he wouldn't have kept you."

"I'm not one of his damn toys."

"No, you're not." This time Magda lifted her glass in a toast. "He's madly in love with you, and it's lovely to see. Now, tell me about being a policewoman. I've never played one. I have played women who go outside the law to protect what's theirs, but never one who works within it to protect others. Is it exciting?"

"It's a job. It has its ups and downs like any."

"I doubt like any. You solve murders. We... civilians, I suppose you'd say, can't help but find the process, including the murder, fascinating."

"That's because you're not the one who's dead."

"Exactly." Magda threw back her magnificent head and roared with laughter. "Oh, I like you! I'm so glad. You don't want to talk about your work, I understand. People from outside think mine is exciting, glamorous. When what it is... is a job, with its ups and downs like any."

"I've seen a lot of your work. I think Roarke has everything you've done on disc. I like the one where you're a scheming conwoman who falls for her mark. It's fun."

"Bait and Switch. Yes, it was. Chase Conner was my leading man in that, and I fell for him, too. It was also fun, while it lasted. I'm auctioning off the costume I wore in the cocktail party scene."

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