In Death 12.5 - Interlude in Death (12 page)

“No, you don’t, Commander. You’ve been a cop too long. I appreciate the difficulty of your position, but Hayes is the prime suspect in two murders, in sabotage, in a conspiracy to implicate Roarke in those murders. He injured bystanders while fleeing and caused considerable property damage. He also fired his weapon at a police officer. He’s currently evading arrest.”

“There’s an explanation.”

“Yes, I believe there is. He’s picked up his father’s banner, Commander, and he’s carrying it where I don’t think you intended it to go. You told me yesterday no losses are acceptable. Did you mean it?”

“The pursuit of justice often…In the course of duty, we…” He looked helplessly at his wife. “Belle, I never meant—Reggie, Zita. Have I killed them?”

“No, no.” She went to him quickly, wrapped her arms around him. And he seemed to shrink into her. “It’s not your fault. It’s not your doing.”

“If you want justice for them, Commander, help me. Where would he go? What would he do next?”

“I don’t know. Do you think I haven’t agonized over it through the night?”

“He hasn’t slept,” Belle told her. “He won’t take his pain medication. He needs to rest.”

“I confided in him,” Skinner continued. “I shared my thoughts, my beliefs, my anger. I wanted him to carry on my mission. Not this way.” Skinner sank into a chair. “Not this way, but I beat the path. I can’t deny that. Your father killed for sport, for money, for the hell of it,” he said to Roarke. “He didn’t even know the names of the people he murdered. I look at you and see him. You grew out of him.”

“I did.” Roarke nodded. “And everything I’ve done since has been in spite of him. You can’t hate him as much as I can, Commander. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never reach my measure of it. But I can’t live on that hate. And I’m damned if I’ll die on it. Will you?”

“I’ve used it to keep me alive these past months.” Skinner looked down at his hands. “It’s ruined me. My son is a thorough man. He’ll have a back door. Someone inside who’ll help him gain access to the hotel. He’ll need it to finish what he started.”

“Assassinate Roarke?”

“No, Lieutenant. Payment would be dearer than that. It’s you he’ll aim for.” He lifted a hand to a face that had gone clammy. “To take away what his target cherishes most.”

When he hissed in pain, Eve stepped forward. “You need medical attention, Commander. You need to be in the hospital.”

“No hospitals. No health centers. Try to take him alive, Dallas. I want him to get the help he needs.”

“You have to go.” Belle stepped in. “He can’t take any more of this.”

“I’ll send Dr. Mira.” Even as Eve spoke, Skinner slumped in the chair.

“He’s unconscious.” Roarke instinctively loosened Skinner’s tie. “His breathing’s very shallow.”

“Don’t touch him! Let me—” Belle jerked back as her eyes met Roarke’s. She took a long, deep breath. “I’m sorry. Could you help me, please? Take him into his bedroom. If you’d call for Dr. Mira, Lieutenant Dallas, I’d be grateful.”

 

“H
is body’s wearing down,” Eve said once Skinner was settled in the bedroom with Mira in attendance. “Maybe it’s better all around if he goes before we take Hayes.”

“His body was already worn down,” Roarke corrected. “But he’s let go of his reason to live.”

“There’s nothing to do but leave him to Mira. The computer didn’t think Hayes would come back to the hotel. Skinner does. I’m going with Skinner. Hayes wants me, and he knows Skinner’s on borrowed time so he has to move fast.” She checked her wrist unit. “Looks like I’m going to give that damn seminar after all.”

“And make yourself a target?”

“With plenty of shield. We’ll coordinate your security people and Angelo’s and pluck him like a goose if he tries for a hit here.” She started out, pulling a borrowed communicator out of her pocket.

Then drew her weapon as she saw Hayes step out of the stairway door at the end of the corridor.

“Stop!” She pounded after him when he ducked back into the stairwell. “Get to security!” Eve shouted at Roarke. “Track him!”

Roarke shoved through the door ahead of her. The weapon in his hand was illegal. “No. You track him.”

Since cursing was a waste of time, she raced down the stairs with him. “Subject sighted,” she called through the communicator as they streaked down the stairs. “Heading down southeast stairwell, now between floors twenty-one and twenty. Moving fast. Consider subject armed and dangerous.”

She clicked the communicator off before she spoke to Roarke. “Don’t kill him. Don’t fire that thing unless there’s no choice.”

A blast hit the landing seconds before their feet. “Such as now?” Roarke commented.

But it was Eve who fired, leaning over the railing and turning the steps below into rubble. Caught in midstride, Hayes tried to swing back, bolt for the door, but his momentum skewed his balance.

He went down hard on the smoking, broken steps.

And Angelo shoved through the door, weapon gripped in both hands.

“Trying to take my collar, Dallas?”

“All yours.” Eve stepped down, onto the weapon that had flown out of Hayes’s hand. “Two people dead. For what?” she asked Hayes. “Was it worth it?”

His mouth and his leg were bleeding. He swiped at the blood on his chin while his eyes burned into hers. “No. I should’ve been more direct. I should’ve just blown you to hell right away and watched the bastard you fuck bleed over you. That would’ve been worth everything, knowing he’d live with the kind of pain his father caused. The commander could’ve died at peace knowing I’d found his justice. I wanted to give him more.”

“Did you give Weeks or Vinter a choice?” Eve demanded. “Did you tell them they were going to die for the cause?”

“Command isn’t required to explain. They honored their fathers, as I honor mine. There’s no other choice.”

“You signaled Weeks to move in on me, and he didn’t have a clue what it was going to cost him. You had Vinter sabotage the cameras, and when she realized why, you killed her.”

“They were necessary losses. Justice requires payment. You were going to be my last gift to him. You in a cage,” he said to Roarke. “You in a coffin.” He smiled at Eve when he said it. “Why aren’t you giving your seminar, Lieutenant? Why the hell aren’t you where you’re scheduled to be?”

“I had a conflict of…” She shot to her feet. “Oh, God. Peabody.”

She charged through the door and out into the corridor. “What floor? What floor?”

“This way.” Roarke grabbed her hand, pulled her toward the elevator. “Down to four,” he said. “We’ll head left. Second door on the right takes us behind the stage area.”

“Explosives. He likes explosives.” She dragged out her communicator again as she willed the elevator to hurry. “She’s turned hers off. Son of a bitch! Any officer, any officer, clear Conference Room D immediately. Clear the area of all personnel. Possible explosive device. Alert Explosive Division. Clear that area now!”

She was through the door and streaking to the left.

I sent her there, was all she could think. And I smirked about it.

Oh, God, please.

There was a roaring in her ears that was either her own rush of blood, the noise of the audience, or the shouted orders to clear.

But she spotted Peabody standing behind the podium and leaped the three steps on the side of the stage. Leaped again the minute her feet hit the ground and, hitting her aide mid-body, shot them both into the air and into a bruised and tangled heap on the floor.

She sucked in her breath, then lost it again as Roarke landed on top of her.

The explosion rang in her ears, sent the floor under her shaking. She felt the mean heat of it spew over her like a wave that sent the three of them rolling in one ball toward the far edge of the stage.

Debris rained over them, some of it flaming. Dimly she heard running feet, shouts, and the sizzling hiss of a fire.

For the second time in two days, she was drenched with the spray of overhead sprinklers.

“Are you all right?” Roarke said in her ear.

“Yeah, yeah. Peabody.” Coughing, eyes stinging with smoke, Eve eased back, saw her aide’s pale face, glassy eyes. “You okay?”

“Think so.” She blinked. “’Cept you’ve got two heads, Dallas, and one of them’s Roarke’s. It’s the prettiest. And I think you’ve really gained some weight.” She smiled vaguely and passed out.

“Got herself a nice concussion,” Eve decided, then turned her head so her nose bumped Roarke’s. “You are pretty, though. Now get the hell off me. This is seriously undignified.”

“Absolutely, Lieutenant.”

While the med-techs tended to Peabody, and the Explosives Division cordoned off the scene, Eve sat outside the conference room and drank the coffee some unnamed and beloved soul had handed her.

She was soaked to the skin, filthy, had a few cuts, a medley of bruises. She figured her ears might stop ringing by Christmas.

But all in all, she felt just fine.

“You’re going to have a few repairs on this dump of yours,” she told Roarke.

“Just can’t take you anywhere, can I?”

She smiled, then got to her feet as Darcia approached. “Hayes is in custody. He’s waived his right to attorney. My opinion, he’ll end up in a facility for violent offenders, mental defectives. He’s not going to serve time in a standard cage. He’s warped. If it’s any consolation, he was very disappointed to hear you aren’t splattered all over what’s left of that stage in there.”

“Can’t always get what you want.”

“Hell of a way to skate out of giving a workshop, though. Have to hand it to you.”

“Whatever works.”

Sobering, Darcia turned. “We beat interplanetary deadline. Thanks.”

“I won’t say anytime.”

“I’ll have a full report for your files by the end of the day,” she said to Roarke. “I hope your next visit is less…complicated,” she added.

“It was an experience watching you in action, Chief Angelo. I’m confident Olympus is in good hands.”

“Count on it. You know, Dallas, you look like you could use a nice resort vacation.” She shot out that brilliant smile. “See you around.”

“She’s got a smart mouth. I’ve got to admire that. I’m going to check on Peabody,” she began, then stopped when she saw Mira coming toward her.

“He’s gone,” Mira said simply. “He had time to say goodbye to his wife, and to ask me to tell you that he was wrong. Blood doesn’t always tell. I witnessed the termination. He left life with courage and dignity. He asked me if you would stand in the way of his departmental service and burial.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I told him that blood doesn’t always tell. Character does. I’m going back to his wife now.”

“Tell her I’m sorry for her loss, and that law enforcement has lost one of its great heroes today.”

Mira leaned over to kiss Eve’s cheek, smiling when Eve squirmed. “You have a good heart.”

“And clear vision,” Roarke added when Mira walked away.

“Clear vision?”

“To see through the dreck and the shadows to the core of the man.”

“Nobody gets through life without fucking up. He gave fifty years to the badge. It wasn’t all what it should’ve been, but it was fifty years. Anyway.” She shook off sentiment. “I’ve got to check on Peabody.”

Roarke took her hand, kissed it. “We’ll go check on Peabody. Then we’ll talk about that nice resort vacation.”

In a pig’s eye, she thought. She was going home as soon as humanly possible. The streets of New York were resort enough for her.

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