In Death 12.5 - Interlude in Death (3 page)

She knew when she was being played, and kept her face and tone neutral. “I haven’t thought about it.”

“If that’s true, you disappoint me. If that’s true, start thinking. Do you know, Lieutenant, how much closer you would be right now to a captaincy if you hadn’t made some ill-advised personal decisions?”

“Really?” Something began to burn inside her gut. “And how would you know the promotion potential of a homicide cop in New York?”

“I’ve made it my business to know.” His free hand balled into a fist, tapped lightly, rhythmically on the tabletop. “I have one regret, one piece of unfinished business from my active duty. One target I could never keep in my sights long enough to bring down. Between us, we could. I’ll get you those captain bars, Lieutenant. You get me Roarke.”

She looked down at her wine, slowly ran a fingertip around the rim. “Commander, you gave half a century of your life to the job. You shed blood for it. That’s the single reason I’m not going to punch you in the face for that insult.”

“Think carefully,” he said as Eve got to her feet. “Sentiment over duty is never a smart choice. I intend to bring him down. I won’t hesitate to break you to do it.”

Riding on fury, she leaned down very close, and whispered in his ear. “Try it. You’ll find out I’m no fucking nurturer.”

She stepped away, only to have one of the bodyguards move into her path. “The commander,” he said, “isn’t finished speaking with you.”

“I’m finished speaking with the commander.”

His gaze shifted from her face briefly, and he gave the faintest nod before he edged closer, clamped a hand on her arm. “You’ll want to sit down, Lieutenant, and wait until you’ve been dismissed.”

“Move your hand. Move it now, or I’m going to hurt you.”

He only tightened his grip. “Take your seat and wait for leave to go. Or you’re going to be hurt.”

She glanced back at Skinner, then into the guard’s face. “Guess again.” She used a short-arm jab to break his nose, then a quick snap kick to knock back the guard beside him as he surged forward.

By the time she’d spun around, planted, she had her hand in her bag and on her weapon. “Keep your dogs on a leash,” she said to Skinner.

She scanned the faces of cops who’d turned, who’d moved forward, to see if there was trouble coming from another direction. Deciding against it, she turned away and walked through the buzzing crowd.

She was nearly at the door when Roarke fell in step beside her, draped an arm around her shoulders. “You got blood on your dress, darling.”

“Yeah?” Still steaming, she glanced down at the small splatter. “It’s not mine.”

“I noticed.”

“I need to talk to you.”

“Um-hmm. Why don’t we go upstairs, see what the valet can do about that bloodstain? You can talk before we come down to have a drink with your friends from Central.”

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me you knew Skinner?”

Roarke keyed in the code for the private elevator to the owner’s suite. “I don’t know him.”

“He sure as hell knows you.”

“So I gathered.” He waited until they were inside the car before he pressed a kiss to her temple. “Eve, over the course of things, I’ve had a great many cops looking in my direction.”

“He’s still looking.”

“He’s welcome to. I’m a legitimate businessman. Practically a pillar. Redeemed by the love of a good woman.”

“Don’t make me hit you, too.” She strode out of the elevator, across the sumptuous living area of the suite, and directly outside onto the terrace so she could finish steaming in fresh air. “The son of a bitch. The son of a bitch wants me to help him bring you down.”

“Rather rude,” Roarke said mildly. “To broach the subject on such a short acquaintance, and at a cocktail reception. Why did he think you’d agree?”

“He dangled a captaincy in my face. Tells me he can get it for me, otherwise I’m in the back of the line because of my poor personal choices.”

“Meaning me.” Amusement fled. “Is that true? Are your chances for promotion bogged down because of us?”

“How the hell do I know?” Still flying on the insult, she rounded on him. “Do you think I care about that? You think making rank drives me?”

“No.” He walked to her, ran his hands up and down her arms. “I know what drives you. The dead drive you.” He leaned forward, rested his lips on her brow. “He miscalculated.”

“It was a stupid and senseless thing for him to do. He barely bothered to circle around much before he hit me with it. Bad strategy,” she continued. “Poor approach. He wants your ass, Roarke, and bad enough to risk censure for attempted bribery if I report the conversation—and anyone believes it. Why is that?”

“I don’t know.” And what you didn’t know, he thought, was always dangerous. “I’ll look into it. In any case, you certainly livened up the reception.”

“Normally I’d’ve been more subtle, just kneed that jerk in the balls for getting in my way. But Skinner had gone into this tango about how women shouldn’t be on the job because they’re nurturers. Tagging the balls just seemed too girly at the time.”

He laughed, drew her closer. “I love you, Eve.”

“Yeah, yeah.” But she was smiling again when she wrapped her arms around him.

 

A
s a rule, being crowded ass to ass at a table in a club where the entertainment included music that threatened the eardrums wasn’t Eve’s idea of a good time.

But when she was working off a good mad, it paid to have friends around.

The table was jammed with New York’s finest. Her butt was squeezed between Roarke’s and Feeney’s, the Electronic Detective Division captain. Feeney’s usually hangdog face was slack with amazement as he stared up at the stage.

On the other side of Roarke, Dr. Mira, elegant despite the surroundings, sipped a Brandy Alexander and watched the entertainment—a three-piece combo whose costumes were red-white-and-blue body paint doing wild, trash-rock riffs on American folk songs. Rounding out the table were Morris, the medical examiner, and Peabody.

“Wife shouldn’t’ve gone to bed.” Feeney shook his head. “You have to see it to believe it.”

“Hell of a show,” Morris agreed. His long, dark braid was threaded through with silver rope, and the lapels of his calf-length jacket sparkled with the same sheen.

For a dead doctor, Eve thought, he was a very snappy dresser.

“But Dallas here”—Morris winked at her—“was quite some warm-up act.”

“Har har,” Eve replied.

Morris smiled serenely. “Hotshot lieutenant decks legend of police lore’s bodyguards at law enforcement convention on luxury off-planet resort. You’ve got to play that all the way out.”

“Nice left jab,” Feeney commented. “Good follow-through on the kick. Skinner’s an asshole.”

“Why do you say that, Feeney?” Peabody demanded. “He’s an icon.”

“Who said icons can’t be assholes?” he tossed back. “Likes to make out like he put down the Urban Wars single-handed. Goes around talking about them like it was all about duty and romance and patriotism. What it was, was about survival. And it was ugly.”

“It’s typical for some who’ve been through combat to romanticize it,” Mira put in.

“Nothing romantic about slitting throats or seeing Fifth Avenue littered with body parts.”

“Well, that’s cheerful.” Morris pushed Feeney’s fresh glass in front of him. “Have another beer, Captain.”

“Cops don’t crow about doing the job.” Feeney glugged down his beer. “They just do it. I’da been closer, Dallas, I’da helped you take down those spine crackers of his.”

Because the wine and his mood made her sentimental, she jabbed him affectionately with her elbow. “You bet your ass. We can go find them and beat them brainless. You know, round out the evening’s entertainment.”

Roarke laid a hand on her back as one of his security people came to the table and leaned down to whisper in his ear. Humor vanished from his face as he nodded.

“Someone beat you to it,” he announced. “We have what’s left of a body on the stairway between the eighteenth and nineteenth floors.”

3

E
ve stood at the top of the stairwell. The once pristine white walls were splattered with blood and gray matter. A nasty trail of both smeared the stairs. The body was sprawled on them, faceup.

There was enough of his face and hair left for her to identify him as the man whose nose she’d broken a few hours before.

“Looks like somebody was a lot more pissed off than I was. Your man got any Seal-It?” she asked Roarke.

When Roarke passed her the small can of sealant, she coated her hands, her shoes. “I could use a recorder. Peabody, help hotel security keep the stairwells blocked off. Morris.” She tossed him the can. “With me.”

Roarke gave her his security guard’s lapel recorder. Stepped forward. Eve simply put a hand on his chest. “No civilians—whether they own the hotel or not. Just wait. Why don’t you clear Feeney to confiscate the security disks for this sector of the hotel? It’ll save time.”

She didn’t wait for an answer, but headed down the steps to the body. Crouched. “Didn’t do this with fists.” She examined his face. One side was nearly caved in, the other largely untouched. “Left arm’s crushed. Guy was left-handed. I made that at the reception. They probably went for the left side first. Disabled him.”

“Agreed. Dallas?” Morris jerked his head in the direction of the seventeenth floor. A thick metal bat coated with gore rested on a tread farther down the stairs. “That would’ve done the trick. I can consult with the local ME on the autopsy, but prelim eyeballing tells me that’s the weapon. Do you want me to dig up some evidence bags, a couple of field kits?”

She started to speak, then hissed out a breath. The smell of death was in her nostrils, and it was too familiar. “Not our territory. We’ve got to go through station police. Goddamn it.”

“There are ways to get around that, with your man owning the place.”

“Maybe.” She poked a sealed finger in a blood pool, nudged something metal and silver. And she recognized the star worn on the epaulets of hotel security.

“Who would be stupid enough to beat a man to death in a hotel full of cops?” Morris wondered.

She shook her head, got to her feet. “Let’s get the ball rolling on this.” When she reached the top of the steps, she scanned the hallway. If she’d been in New York, she would now give the body a thorough examination, establish time of death, gather data and trace evidence from the scene. She’d call her crime scene unit, the sweepers, and send out a team to do door-to-doors.

But she wasn’t in New York.

“Has your security notified station police?” she asked Roarke.

“They’re on their way.”

“Good. Fine. We’ll keep the area secure and offer any and all assistance.” Deliberately, she switched off her recorder. “I don’t have any authority here. Technically, I shouldn’t have entered the crime scene area. I had a previous altercation with the victim, and that makes it stickier.”

“I own this hotel, and I hold primary interest in this station. I can request the assistance of any law enforcement agent.”

“Yeah, so we’ve got that clear.” She looked at him. “One of your security uniforms is missing a star. It’s down there, covered with body fluid.”

“If one of my people is responsible, you’ll have my full cooperation in identifying and apprehending him.”

She nodded again. “So we’ve got that clear, too. What’s your security setup for this sector?”

“Full-range cameras—corridors, elevators, and stairwells. Full soundproofing. Feeney’s getting the disks.”

“He’ll have to hand them to station police. When it’s homicide, they have a maximum of seventy-two hours before they’re obliged to turn the investigation over to ILE. Since ILE has people on-site, they’d be wise to turn it over now.”

“Is that what you want?”

“It’s not a matter of what I want. Look, it’s not my case.”

He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the blood smear from her hand. “Isn’t it?”

Then he turned as the chief of police stepped off the elevator.

Eve hadn’t been expecting a statuesque brunette in a tiny black dress with enough hair to stuff a mattress. As she clipped down the hall on towering high heels, Eve heard Morris’s reverent opinion.

“Hubba-hubba.”

“Jeez, try for dignity,” Eve scolded.

The brunette stopped, took a quick scan. “Roarke,” she said in a voice that evoked images of hot desert nights.

“Chief. Lieutenant Dallas, NYPSD. Dr. Morris, NYC Medical Examiner.”

“Yes. Darcia Angelo. Chief of Olympus Police. Excuse my appearance. I was at one of the welcome events. I’m told we have a possible homicide.”

“Verified homicide,” Eve told her. “Victim’s male, Caucasian, thirty-five to forty. Bludgeoned. The weapon, a metal bat, was left on scene. Preliminary visual exam indicates he’s been dead under two hours.”

“There’s been a prelim exam?” Darcia asked. Coldly.

“Yes.”

“Well, we won’t quibble about that. I’ll verify personally before my team gets here.”

“Messy down there.” Coolly, Eve handed over the can of Seal-It.

“Thanks.” Darcia stepped out of her evening shoes. Eve couldn’t fault her for it. She did the same thing herself, when she remembered. When she’d finished, she handed the can back to Eve. Darcia took a small recorder out of her purse, clipped it where the fabric of her dress dipped to hug her breasts.

Morris let out a long sigh as she walked into the stairwell. “Where do you find them?” he asked Roarke. “And how can I get one of my very own?”

Before Eve could snarl at him, Feeney hurried down the hall. “Got a snag with the disks,” he announced. “Stairway cams were overridden for a fifty-minute period. You got nothing but static there, and static for two sixty-second intervals on the twentieth-floor corridor. Somebody knew what they were doing,” he added. “It’s a complex system, with a fail-safe backup plan. It took a pro—with access.”

“With that time frame there had to be at least two people involved,” Eve stated. “Premeditated, not impulse, not crime of passion.”

“You got an ID on the victim? I can run a background check.”

“Police chief’s on scene,” Eve said flatly.

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