In Death 12.5 - Interlude in Death (4 page)

For a moment Feeney looked blank. “Oh, right. Forgot we weren’t home, sweet home. The locals going to squeeze us out?”

“You weren’t,” Darcia said as she came out of the stairwell, “ever—in an official capacity—in.”

“On the contrary,” Roarke told her. “I requested the assistance of the lieutenant and her team.”

Irritation flickered across Darcia’s face, but she controlled it quickly. “As is your privilege. Lieutenant, may I have a moment of your time?” Without waiting for an answer, Darcia walked down the corridor.

“Arrogant, territorial, pushy.” Eve glared at Roarke. “You sure can pick them.”

He only smiled as his wife’s retreating back. “Yes, I certainly can.”

“Look, Angelo, you want to bust my balls over doing a visual, you’re wasting your time and mine.” Eve tugged her lapel recorder free, held it out. “I verified a homicide, at the request of the property owner. Then I stepped back. I don’t want your job, and I don’t want your case. I get my fill of walking through blood in New York.”

Darcia flipped her mane of glossy black hair. “Four months ago I was busting illegal dealers in Colombia, risking my life on a daily basis and still barely able to pay the rent on a stinking little two-room apartment. In the current climate, cops are not appreciated in my country. I like my new job.”

She opened her purse, dropped Eve’s recorder inside. “Is that job in jeopardy if I refuse to hand over this case to my employer’s wife?”

“Roarke doesn’t fight my battles, and he doesn’t fire people because they might not agree with me.”

“Good.” Darcia nodded. “I worked illegals, bunko, robbery. Twelve years. I’m a good cop. Homicide, however, is not my specialty. I don’t enjoy sharing, but I’d appreciate any help you and your associates are willing to give in this matter.”

“Fine. So what was this dance about?”

“Simply? So you and I would both be aware it
is
my case.”

“You need to be aware that earlier tonight I punched the dead man in the face.”

“Why?” Darcia asked suspiciously.

“He got in my way.”

“I see. It’ll be interesting to find out if you and I can close this matter without getting in each other’s way.”

Two hours later, for convenience’s sake, the two arms of the investigation gathered in Roarke’s on-site office.

“The victim is identified as Reginald Weeks, thirty-eight. Current residence is Atlanta, Georgia, Earth. Married, no children. Current employer, Douglas R. Skinner, Incorporated. Function, personal security.” Darcia finished, inclined her head at Eve.

“Crime scene examination of body shows massive trauma.” Eve picked up the narrative. “Cause of death, most likely, fractured skull. The left side of the head and body were severely traumatized. Victim was left-handed, and this method of attack indicates foreknowledge. Security for the stairwell and the twentieth floor were tampered with prior to and during the act. A metal bat has been taken into evidence and is presumed to be the murder weapon. Also taken into evidence a silver-plated star stud, identified as part of the hotel security team’s uniform. Chief Angelo?”

“Background data so far retrieved on Weeks show no criminal activity. He had held his current employment for two years. Prior that, he was employed by Right Arm, a firm that handles personal security and security consults for members of the Conservative Party. Prior to that he was in the military, Border Patrol, for six years.”

“This tells us he knows how to follow orders,” Eve continued. “He stepped up in my face tonight because Skinner, or one of Skinner’s arms, signaled him to do so. He laid hands on me for the same reason. He’s trained, and if he was good enough to last six years in the Border Patrol and land a job in Right Arm, he’s not the type of guy who would go into a soundproof stairwell with a stranger, even under duress. If he’d been attacked in the corridor, there’d be a sign of it. If they took him on the twentieth floor, what the hell was he doing on the twentieth floor? His room, his security briefing room, and Skinner’s suite are all on twenty-six.”

“Could’ve been meeting a woman.” Feeney stretched out his legs. “Conventionitis.”

“That’s a point,” Eve allowed. “All evidence points to this being a planned attack, but a woman could have been used as a lure. We need to verify or eliminate that. You want to track it down, Feeney?”

“Captain Feeney may assist my officers in that area of investigation.” Darcia merely lifted her eyebrows when Eve turned to her. “If he is agreeable. As I hope he will be to continuing to work with the hotel security team.”

“We’re a real agreeable group,” Eve said with a wide, wide smile.

“Excellent. Then you have no problem accompanying me to twenty-six to inform the victim’s employer of his death.”

“Not a one. Peabody. My aide goes with me,” Eve said before Darcia could speak. “Non-negotiable. Peabody,” Eve said again, gesturing as she walked out of the room and left Darcia assigning her officers to different tasks. “I want your recorder on when we talk to Skinner.”

“Yes, sir.”

“If I get hung up, I need you to wheedle an update out of the local ME. If you can’t open him up, tag Morris and have him use the good buddy, same field approach.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I want to find the uniform that star came from. We need to check recyclers, the valet, outside cleaning sources. Get chummy with the home team. I want to know the minute the sweepers and crime scene units reports are in. I’m betting there’s going to be traces of Seal-It on that bat, and nobody’s blood but the victim’s on the scene. Fucking ambush,” she grumbled, and turned as Darcia came out.

Darcia said nothing until she’d called for the elevator and stepped inside. “Do you have a history with Douglas Skinner, Lieutenant?”

“No. Not until tonight.”

“My information is that he specifically called you to his table to speak with you privately. You, apparently, had words of disagreement, and when the victim attempted to prevent you from leaving the table, you struck him. Would this be accurate?”

“It would.”

“What were those words of disagreement between you and Douglas Skinner?”

“Am I a suspect in this case or a consultant?”

“You’re a consultant, and as such I would appreciate any and all data.”

“I’ll think about it.” Eve stepped out on twenty-six.

“If you have nothing to hide.”

“I’m a cop,” Eve reminded her. “That line doesn’t work on me.” She rang the bell, waited. She watched the security light blink to green, kept her face blank while she and her companions were scanned. Moments later, Skinner opened the door himself.

“Lieutenant. It’s a bit late for paying calls.”

“It’s never too late for official calls. Chief Angelo, Douglas Skinner.”

“Pardon the intrusion, Commander Skinner.” Darcia’s voice was low and respectful, her face quietly sober. “We have some unfortunate news. May we come in?”

“Of course.” He stepped back. He was dressed in the long white robe provided by the hotel, and his face looked pale against it. The large living area was dimly lit and fragrant from the bouquets of roses. He ordered the lights up 10 percent, and gestured toward the sofa.

“Please, ladies, sit. Can I get you anything? Coffee, perhaps?”

“We’re not here to chat. Where were you between twenty-two hundred and midnight?”

“I don’t like your tone, Lieutenant.”

“Please, excuse us.” Darcia stepped in smoothly. “It’s been a difficult night. If I could ask you to verify your whereabouts, as a formality?”

“My wife and I came up to our suite a bit after ten. We retired early, as I have a long, busy day scheduled tomorrow. What’s happened?”

“Weeks got his brains bashed in,” Eve said.

“Weeks? Reggie?” Skinner stared at Eve. Those hard blue eyes widened, darkened, and seemed to draw a cast of gray over his skin as shock shifted into fury. “Dead? The boy is dead? Have you determined Roarke’s
whereabouts
? Or would you go so far as to cover up murder to protect him? She attacked Weeks only hours ago.” He pointed at Eve. “An unprovoked and vicious assault on one of mine because I questioned her about her alliance with a criminal. You’re a disgrace to your badge.”

“One of us is,” Eve agreed as Skinner sank into a chair.

“Commander.” Darcia stepped forward. “I know this is a shock for you. I want to assure you that the Olympus PD is actively pursuing all avenues of investigation.”

For a moment he said nothing, and the only sound was his quick, labored breathing. “I don’t know you, Chief Angelo, but I know who pays you. I have no confidence in your investigation as long as it’s bankrolled by Roarke. Now, excuse me. I have nothing more to say at this time. I need to contact Reggie’s wife and tell her she’s a widow.”

4

“W
ell, that went well.” Eve rolled her shoulders as she headed back to the elevator.

“If one doesn’t mind being accused of being a fool or a dirty cop.”

Eve punched the elevator button. “Ever hear the one about sticks and stones in Colombia?”

“I don’t like that one.” Obviously stewing, Darcia strode onto the elevator. “And I don’t like your Commander Skinner.”

“Hey, he’s not mine.”

“He implied Roarke is my puppet master. Why does he assume that, and why does he believe Roarke is responsible for Weeks’s death?”

The quiet, respectful woman was gone, and in her place was a tough-eyed cop with steel in her voice. Eve began to see how Darcia Angelo had risen through twelve years in Colombia.

“One reason is Weeks annoyed me, and since I’m just a procreating, nurturing female, it would be up to my warrior, defender, penis-owning husband to follow through.”

“Ah.” Darcia sucked in her cheeks. “This is an attitude I recognize. Still, splattering a man’s brains is considerable overcompensation for such a minor infraction. A very large leap of conclusion for the commander to make. There’s more.”

“Might be. I haven’t worked it out yet. Meanwhile, Skinner seemed awfully alert for someone who’d already gone to bed. And while the lights in the living area were on low when we walked in, they were full on in the bedroom off to the right. He didn’t close the door all the way when he came out.”

“Yes, I noticed that.”

“Suite’s set up along the same basic floor plan as the one I’m in. Second bedroom off to the left. There was a light on in there, too. His wife had that door open a crack. She was listening.”

“I didn’t catch that,” Darcia mused, then glanced back when Peabody muttered.

“She missed it, too,” Eve said. “She hates that. And if Belle Skinner was eavesdropping from the second bedroom, she wasn’t snuggled up with the commander in the master, was she? No connubial bliss, which is interesting. And no alibi.”

“What motive would Skinner have for killing one of his own bodyguards?”

“Something to think about. I want to check some things out.” She stopped the elevator so both Darcia and Peabody could exit. “I’ll get back to you.”

Being willing to fall into step with Darcia Angelo didn’t mean she couldn’t make some lateral moves of her own. If she was going to wade into a murder investigation off her own turf, without her usual system and when her badge was little more than a fashion accessory, she was going to make use of whatever tools were available.

There was one particular tool she knew to be very versatile and flexible.

She was married to him.

She found Roarke, as she’d expected to, at work on the bedroom computer. He’d removed his dinner jacket, rolled up his sleeves. There was a pot of coffee beside him.

“What have you got?” She picked up his cup, gulped down half his coffee.

“Nothing that links me or any of my business dealings with Skinner. I have some interests in Atlanta, naturally.”

“Naturally.”

“Communications, electronics, entertainment. Real estate, of course.” He took the cup back from her, idly rubbed her ass with his free hand. “And during one lovely interlude previous to my association with you, a nicely profitable smuggling enterprise. Federal infractions—”

“Infractions,” she repeated.

“One could say. Nothing that bumped up against state or local authorities.”

“Then you’re missing something, because it’s personal with him. It doesn’t make any sense otherwise. You’re not a major bad guy.”

“Now you’ve hurt my feelings.”

“Why does he latch on to you?” she demanded, ignoring him. “Fifty years a cop, he’d have seen it all. And he’d have lost plenty. There are stone killers out there, pedophiles, sexual predators, cannibals, for Christ’s sake. So why are you stuck in his craw? He’s been retired from active, what, six years, and—”

“Seven.”

“Seven, then. Seven years. And he approaches me with what could be considered a bribe or blackmail, depending on your point of view, to pressure me into rolling over on you. It was arrogant and ill-conceived.”

She thought it through as she paced. “I don’t think he expected it to work. I think he expected me to tell him to fuck off. That way he could roll us into a ball together and shoot two for one.”

“He can’t touch you—or me, for that matter.”

“He can make things hot by implicating us in a homicide. And he’s laying the groundwork. He pushes my buttons in a public venue, then gets one of his monkeys to get in my face. Altercation ensues. A couple hours later, monkey has his brains splattered all over the stairway of a Roarke Enterprises hotel—and what’s this! Why it’s a clue, Sherlock, and a dandy one, too. A star stud from one of Roarke Securities uniforms, floating in the victim’s blood.”

“Not particularly subtle.”

“He doesn’t have time to be subtle. He’s in a hurry,” she continued. “I don’t know why, but he’s rushing things. Shove circumstantial evidence down the throat of the local authorities and they’ve got to pursue the possibility that the irritated husband and suspected interplanetary hoodlum ordered one of his own monkeys to teach Skinner’s a lesson.”

“You touched my wife, now I have to kill you?” Roarke’s shrug was elegant and careless. “Overdramatic, over-romanticized. Particularly since you punched him in the face before I could ride to the rescue.”

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