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Conspiracy in Death (In Death Series #8)

Conspiracy in Death (In Death Series #8)

by J. D. Robb

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In a future where human nature remains as predictable as death, a killer plays God and puts innocent lives in the palm of his hand in this novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling In Death series.

With the precision of a surgeon, a serial killer preys on the most vulnerable souls of the world’s city streets. The first victim: a sidewalk sleeper, found dead in New York City.  No bruises, no signs of struggle. Just a laser-perfect, fist-sized hole where his heart had once been. Lieutenant Eve Dallas is assigned to investigate. But in the heat of a cat-and-mouse game with the killer, Dallas’s job is suddenly on the line. Now her hands are tied...between a struggle for justice—and a fight for her career...

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101203705
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/01/1999
Series: In Death (Eve Dallas) Series , #8
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 6,683
File size: 622 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

J. D. Robb is the pseudonym for a #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 200 novels, including the bestselling In Death series. There are more than 500 million copies of her books in print.


Keedysville, Maryland

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Silver Spring, Maryland

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Table of Contents


chapter one

chapter two

chapter three

chapter four

chapter five

chapter six

chapter seven

chapter eight

chapter nine

chapter ten

chapter eleven

chapter twelve

chapter thirteen

chapter fourteen

chapter fifteen

chapter sixteen

chapter seventeen

chapter eighteen

chapter nineteen

chapter twenty

chapter twenty-one

chapter twenty-two

All men think all men mortal but themselves.
Edward Young

Let us hob-and-nob with Death.


In my hands is power. The power to heal or to destroy. To grant life or to cause death. I revere this gift, have honed it over time to an art as magnificent and awesome as any painting in the Louvre.

I am art, I am science. In all the ways that matter, I am God.

God must be ruthless and far-sighted. God studies his creations and selects. The best of these creations must be cherished, protected, sustained. Greatness rewards perfection.

Yet even the flawed have purpose.

A wise God experiments, considers, uses what comes into His hands and forges wonders. Yes, often without mercy, often with a violence the ordinary condemn.

We who hold power cannot be distracted by the condemnations of the ordinary, by the petty and pitiful laws of simple men. They are blind, their minds are closed with fear—fear of pain, fear of death. They are too limited to comprehend that death can be conquered.

I have nearly done so.

If my work was discovered, they, with their foolish laws and attitudes, would damn me.

When my work is complete, they will worship me.

chapter one

For some, death wasn’t the enemy. Life was a much less merciful opponent. For the ghosts who drifted through the nights like shadows, the funky-junkies with their pale pink eyes, the chemi-heads with their jittery hands, life was simply a mindless trip that circled from one fix to the next with the arcs between a misery.

The trip itself was most often full of pain and despair, and occasionally terror.

For the poor and displaced in the bowels of New York City in the icy dawn of 2059, the pain, the despair, the terror were constant companions. For the mental defectives and physically flawed who slipped through society’s cracks, the city was simply another kind of prison.

There were social programs, of course. It was, after all, an enlightened time. So the politicians claimed, with the Liberal Party shouting for elaborate new shelters, educational and medical facilities, training and rehabilitation centers, without actually detailing a plan for how such programs would be funded. The Conservative Party gleefully cut the budgets of what programs were already in place, then made staunch speeches on the quality of life and family.

Still, shelters were available for those who qualified and could stomach the thin and sticky hand of charity. Training and assistance programs were offered for those who could keep sane long enough to wind their way through the endless tangled miles of bureaucratic red tape that all too often strangled the intended recipients before saving them.

And as always, children went hungry, women sold their bodies, and men killed for a handful of credits.

However enlightened the times, human nature remained as predictable as death.

For the sidewalk sleepers, January in New York brought vicious nights with a cold that could rarely be fought back with a bottle of brew or a few scavenged illegals. Some gave in and shuffled into the shelters to snore on lumpy cots under thin blankets or eat the watery soup and tasteless soy loaves served by bright-eyed sociology students. Others held out, too lost or too stubborn to give up their square of turf.

And many slipped from life to death during those bitter nights.

The city had killed them, but no one called it homicide.


As Lieutenant Eve Dallas drove downtown in the shivering dawn, she tapped her fingers restlessly on the wheel. The routine death of a sidewalk sleeper in the Bowery shouldn’t have been her problem. It was a matter for what the department often called Homicide-Lite—the stiff scoopers who patrolled known areas of homeless villages to separate living from dead and take the used-up bodies to the morgue for examination, identification, and disposal.

It was a mundane and ugly little job most usually done by those who either still had hopes of joining the more elite Homicide unit or those who had given up on such a miracle. Homicide was called to the scene only when the death was clearly suspicious or violent.

And, Eve thought, if she hadn’t been on top of the rotation for such calls on this miserable morning, she’d still be in her nice warm bed with her nice warm husband.

“Probably some jittery rookie hoping for a serial killer,” she muttered.

Beside her, Peabody yawned hugely. “I’m really just extra weight here.” From under her ruler-straight dark bangs, she sent Eve a hopeful look. “You could just drop me off at the closest transpo stop and I can be back home and in bed in ten minutes.”

“If I suffer, you suffer.”

“That makes me feel so . . . loved, Dallas.”

Eve snorted and shot Peabody a grin. No one, she thought, was sturdier, no one was more dependable, than her aide. Even with the rudely early call, Peabody was pressed and polished in her winter-weight uniform, the buttons gleaming, the hard black cop shoes shined. In her square face framed by her dark bowl-cut hair, her eyes might have been a little sleepy, but they would see what Eve needed her to see.

“Didn’t you have some big deal last night?” Peabody asked her.

“Yeah, in East Washington. Roarke had this dinner/ dance thing for some fancy charity. Save the moles or something. Enough food to feed every sidewalk sleeper on the Lower East Side for a year.”

“Gee, that’s tough on you. I bet you had to get all dressed up in some beautiful gown, shuttle down on Roarke’s private transpo, and choke down champagne.”

Eve only lifted a brow at Peabody’s dust-dry tone. “Yeah, that’s about it.” They both knew the glamorous side of Eve’s life since Roarke had come into it was both a puzzlement and a frustration to her. “And then I had to dance with Roarke. A lot.”

“Was he wearing a tux?” Peabody had seen Roarke in a tux. The image of it was etched in her mind like acid on glass.

“Oh yeah.” Until, Eve mused, they’d gotten home and she’d ripped it off of him. He looked every bit as good out of a tux as in one.

“Man.” Peabody closed her eyes, indulged herself with a visualization technique she’d learned at her Free-Ager parents’ knees. “Man,” she repeated.

“You know, a lot of women would get pissed off at having their husband star in their aide’s purient little fantasies.”

“But you’re bigger than that, Lieutenant. I like that about you.”

Eve grunted, rolled her stiff shoulders. It was her own fault that lust had gotten the better of her and she’d only managed three hours of sleep. Duty was duty, and she was on it.

Now she scanned the crumbling buildings, the littered streets. The scars, the warts, the tumors that sliced or bulged over concrete and steel.

Steam whooshed up from a grate, shot out from the busy half-life of movement and commerce under the streets. Driving through it was like slicing through fog on a dirty river.

Her home, since Roarke, was a world apart from this. She lived with polished wood, gleaming crystal, the scent of candles and hothouse flowers. Of wealth.

But she knew what it was to come from such places as this. Knew how much the same they were—city by city—in smells, in routines, in hopelessness.

The streets were nearly empty. Few of the residents of this nasty little sector ventured out early. The dealers and street whores would have finished the night’s business, would have crawled back into their flops before sunrise. Merchants brave enough to run the shops and stores had yet to uncode their riot bars from the doors and windows. Glide-cart vendors desperate enough to hawk this turf would carry hand zappers and work in pairs.

She spotted the black and white patrol car, scowled at the half-assed job the officers on scene had done with securing the area.

“Why the hell didn’t they finish running the sensors, for Christ’s sake? Get me out of bed at five in the damn morning, and they don’t even have the scene secured? No wonder they’re scoopers. Idiots.”

Peabody said nothing as Eve braked hard behind the black and white and slammed out of the vehicle. The idiots, she thought with some sympathy, were in for an expert dressing down.

By the time Peabody climbed out of the car, Eve had already crossed the sidewalk, with long, purposeful strides, heading for the two uniforms who huddled miserably in the wind.

She watched the two officers’ shoulders snap straight. The lieutenant had that effect on other cops, Peabody mused as she retrieved the field kit from the vehicle. She brought you to attention.

It wasn’t just the way she looked, Peabody decided, with that long, rangy body, the simple and often disordered cap of brown hair that showed hints of blonde, hints of red, hints, Peabody thought, of everything. There were the eyes, all cop, and the color of good Irish whiskey, the little dent in the firm chin below a full mouth that could go hard as stone.

Peabody found it a strong and arresting face, partially, she decided, because Eve had no vanity whatsoever.

Although the way she looked might gain a uniform’s attention, it was what she so clearly was that had them snapping straight.

She was the best damn cop Peabody had ever known. Pure cop, the kind you’d go through a door with without hesitation. The kind you knew would stand for the dead and for the living.

And the kind, Peabody mused as she walked close enough to hear the end of Eve’s blistering lecture, who kicked whatever ass needed kicking.

“Now to review,” Eve said coolly. “You call in a homicide, you drag my butt out of bed, you damn well have the scene secured and have your report ready for me when I get here. You don’t stand here like a couple of morons sucking your thumbs. You’re cops, for God’s sake. Act like cops.”

“Yes, sir, Lieutenant.” This came in a wavery voice from the youngest of the team. He was hardly more than a boy, and the only reason Eve had pulled her verbal punch. His partner, however, wasn’t a rookie, and she earned one of Eve’s frigid stares.

“Yes, sir,” she said between her teeth. And the lively resentment in the tone had Eve angling her head.

“Do you have a problem, Officer . . . Bowers?”

“No, sir.”

Her face was the color of aged cherry wood, with her eyes a striking contrast of pale, pale blue. She kept her dark hair short under her regulation cap. There was a button missing on her standard-issue coat and her shoes were dull and scuffed. Eve could have poked her about it but decided being stuck in a miserable job was some excuse not to buff up for the day.

“Good.” Eve merely nodded, but the warning in her eyes was clear. She shifted her gaze to the partner and felt a little stir of sympathy. He was pale as a sheet, shaky, and so fresh from the academy she could all but smell it on him.

“Officer Trueheart, my aide will show you the proper way to secure a scene. See that you pay attention.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Peabody.” At the single word, her field kit was in her hand. “Show me what we’ve got here, Bowers.”

“Indigent. Male Caucasian. Goes by the name of Snooks. This is his crib.”

She gestured to a rather cleverly rigged shelter comprised of a packing crate cheerfully painted with stars and flowers and topped by the dented lid of an old recycling bin. There was a moth-eaten blanket across the entrance and a hand-drawn sign that simply said Snooks strung over it.

“He inside?”

“Yeah, part of the beat is to give a quick eye check on the cribs looking for stiffs to scoop. Snooks is pretty stiff,” she said at what Eve realized after a moment was an attempt at humor.

“I bet. My, what a pleasant aroma,” she muttered as she moved closer and the wind could no longer blow the stench aside.

“That’s what tipped me. It always stinks. All these people smell like sweat and garbage and worse, but a stiff has another layer.”

Eve knew the layer all too well. Sweet, sickly. And here, sneaking under the miasma of urine and sour flesh was the smell of death, and she noted with a faint frown, the bright metallic hint of blood.

“Somebody stick him?” She nearly sighed as she opened her kit to take out the can of Seal-It. “What the hell for? These sleepers don’t have anything worth stealing.”

For the first time, Bowers allowed a thin smile to curve her lips. But her eyes were cold and hard, with bitterness riding in them. “Somebody stole something from him, all right.” Pleased with herself, she stepped back. She hoped to God the tight-assed lieutenant got a nice hard shock at what she’d see behind the tattered curtain.

“You call the ME?” Eve asked as she clear-coated her hands and boots.

“First on scene’s discretion,” Bowers said primly, with the malice still bright in her eyes. “I opted to leave that decision to Homicide.”

“For God’s sake, is he dead or not?” Disgusted, Eve moved forward, bending a bit to sweep back the curtain.

It was always a shock, not the hard one Bowers had hoped for. Eve had seen too much too often for that. But what one human could do to another was never routine for her. And the pity that stirred underneath and through the cop was something the woman beside her would never feel and never understand.

“Poor bastard,” she said quietly and crouched to do a visual exam.

Bowers had been right about one thing. Snooks was very, very dead. He was hardly more than a sack of bones and wild, straggly hair. Both his eyes and his mouth gaped, and she could see he hadn’t kept more than half of his teeth. His type rarely took advantage of the health and dental programs.

His eyes had already filmed over and were a dull mud brown. She judged him to be somewhere around the century mark, and even without murder, he’d never have attained the average twenty more years decent nutrition and medical science could have given him.

She noted, too, that his boots, while cracked and scarred, had plenty of wear left in them, as did the blanket that had been tossed to the side of the box. He had some trinkets as well. A wide-eyed doll’s head, a penlight in the shape of a frog, a broken cup he’d filled with carefully made paper flowers. And the walls were covered with more paper shapes. Trees, dogs, angels, and his favored stars and flowers.

She could see no signs of struggle, no fresh bruising or superfluous cuts. Whoever had killed the old man had done so efficiently.

No, she thought, studying the fist-sized hole in his chest. Surgically. Whoever had taken Snook’s heart had very likely used a laser scalpel.

“You got your homicide, Bowers.”

Eve eased back, let the curtain fall. She felt her blood rise and her fist clench when she saw the self-satisfied smirk on the uniform’s face.

“Okay, Bowers, we don’t like each other. Just one of those things. But you’d be smart to remember I can make it a hell of a lot harder on you than you can on me.” She took a step closer, bumping the toe of her boots to the toe of Bowers’s shoes. Just to be sure her point was taken. “So be smart, Bowers, and wipe that fucking sneer off your face and keep out of my way.”

The sneer dropped away, but Bowers’s eyes shot out little bullet points of animosity. “It’s against departmental code for a superior officer to use offensive language to a uniform.”

“No kidding? Well, you be sure to put that in your report, Bowers. And you have that report done, in triplicate, and on my desk by oh ten hundred. Stand back,” she added, very quietly now.

It took ten humming seconds with their eyes warring before Bowers dropped her gaze and shifted aside.

Dismissing her, Eve turned her back and pulled out her communicator. “Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. I’ve got a homicide.”


Now why, Eve wondered, as she hunkered inside the crate to examine the body, would someone steal a so obviously used-up heart? She remembered that for a period after the Urban Wars, stolen organs had been a prize commodity on the black market. Very often, dealers hadn’t been patient enough to wait until a donor was actually dead to make the transfer, but that had been decades ago, before man-made organs had been fully perfected.

Organ donating and brokering were still popular. And she thought there was something about organ building as well, though she paid little attention to medical news and reports.

She distrusted doctors.

Some of the very rich didn’t care for the idea of a manufactured implant, she assumed. A human heart or kidney from a young accident victim could command top prices, but it had to be in prime condition. Nothing about Snooks was prime.

She wrinkled her nose against the stench, but leaned closer. When a woman detested hospitals and health centers as much as she did, the faintly sick smell of antiseptic sent the nostrils quivering.

She caught it here, just a trace, then frowning, sat back on her heels.

Her prelim exam told her the victim had died at 0:2:10, given the outside temperature through the night. She’d need the blood work and tox reports to know if there’d been drugs in his system, but she could already see that he’d been a brew guzzler.

The typical brown refillable bottle used to transport home brew was tucked in the corner, nearly empty. She found a small, almost pitiful stash of illegals. One thin, hand-rolled joint of Zoner, a couple of pink capsules that were probably Jags, and a small, filthy bag of white powder she assumed after a sniff was Grin laced with a whiff of Zeus.

There were telltale spiderwebs of broken blood vessels over his dented face, obvious signs of malnutrition, and the scabs of what was likely some unattractive skin disease. The man had been a guzzler, smoked, ate garbage, and had been nearly ready to die in his sleep.

Why kill him?

“Sir?” Eve didn’t glance back as Peabody drew back the curtain. “ME’s on scene.”

“Why take his heart?” Eve muttered. “Why surgically remove it? If it was a straight murder, wouldn’t they have roughed him up, kicked him around? If they were into mutilation, why didn’t they mutilate? This is textbook work.”

Peabody scanned the body, grimaced. “I haven’t seen any heart ops, but I’ll take your word on that.”

“Look at the wound,” Eve said impatiently. “He should have bled out, shouldn’t he? A fist-sized hole in the chest, for Christ’s sake. But they—whatever it is—clamped, closed off, the bleeders, just like they would in surgery. This one didn’t want the mess, didn’t see the point in it. No, he’s proud of his work,” she added, crab walking back through the opening, then standing to take a deep gulp of the much fresher air outside.

“He’s skilled. Had to have had some training. And I don’t think one person could have managed this alone. You send the scoopers out to canvass for witnesses?”

“Yeah.” Peabody scanned the deserted street, the broken windows, the huddle of boxes and crates deep in the alleyway across the street. “Good luck to them.”


“Morris.” Eve lifted a brow as she noted she’d hooked the top medical examiner for an on-scene. “I didn’t expect to get the cream on a sidewalk sleeper.”

Pleased, he smiled, and his lively eyes danced. He wore his hair slicked back and braided with a siren red ski cap snugged over it. His long, matching coat flapped madly in the breeze. Morris, Eve knew, was quite the snazzy dresser.

“I was available, and your sleeper sounded quite interesting. No heart?”

“Well, I didn’t find one.”

He chuckled and approached the crate. “Let’s have a look-see.”

She shivered, envying him his long, obviously warm coat. She had one—Roarke had given her a beauty for Christmas—but she resisted wearing it on the job. No way in hell was she going to get blood and assorted body fluids all over that fabulous bronze-colored cashmere.

And she thought as she crouched down yet again, she was pretty sure her new gloves were cozily tucked in the pockets of that terrific coat. Which was why her hands were currently freezing.

She stuffed them in the pockets of her leather jacket, hunched her shoulders against the bite of the wind, and watched Morris do his job.

“Beautiful work,” Morris breathed. “Absolutely beautiful.”

“He had training, right?”

“Oh yes.” Affixing microgoggles over his eyes, Morris peered into the open chest. “Yes indeed, he did. This is hardly his first surgery. Top of the line tools as well. No homemade scalpel, no clumsy rib spreaders. Our killer is one mag surgeon. Damn if I don’t envy his hands.”

“Some cults like to use body parts in their ceremonies,” Eve said half to herself. “But they generally hack and mutilate when they kill. And they like rituals, ambiance. We’ve got none of that here.”

“Doesn’t look like a religious thing. It looks like a medical one.”

“Yeah.” That corroborated her thoughts. “One person pull this off?”

“Doubt it.” Morris pulled out his bottom lip, let it snap back. “To perform a procedure this slick under these difficult conditions he’d need a very skilled assistant.”

“Any idea why they’d take his heart if it wasn’t to worship the demon of the week?”

“Not a clue,” Morris said cheerfully and gestured for her to back up. When they were outside again, he blew out a breath. “I’m surprised the old man didn’t die of asphyxiation in all that stink. But from a visual exam, my guess would be that heart would have very few miles left on it. Got your prints and DNA sample for IDing?”

“Already sealed and ready for the lab.”

“Then we’ll bag him, take him in.”

Eve nodded. “You curious enough to bump him up to the top of your stack of bodies?”

“As a matter of fact, I am.” He smiled, gestured to his team. “You should wear a hat, Dallas. It’s fucking freezing out here.”

She sneered, but she’d have given a month’s pay for a hot cup of coffee. Leaving Morris to his work, she turned to meet Bowers and Trueheart.

Bowers clenched her teeth. She was cold, hungry, and she bitterly resented the chummy consult she’d witnessed between Eve and the chief medical examiner.

Probably fucking him, Bowers thought. She knew Eve Dallas, knew her type. Damn right she did. A woman like her only moved up the ranks because she spread her legs while she made the climb. The only reason Bowers hadn’t moved up herself was because she refused to do it on her back.

That’s the way the game’s played, that’s how. And her heart began to pound in her chest, the blood to thunder in her head. But she’d get her own, one day.

Whore, bitch. The words echoed in her brain, nearly trembled off her tongue. But she sucked them in. She was, she reminded herself, still in control.

The hate Eve read in Bowers’s pale eyes was a puzzle. It was much too vicious, she decided, to be the result of a simple and deserved dressing down by a superior officer. It gave her an odd urge to brace for attack, to slide a hand down to her weapon. Instead, she lifted her eyebrows, waited a beat. “Your report, Officer?”

“Nobody saw anything, nobody knows anything,” Bowers snapped. “That’s the way it is with these people. They stay in their holes.”

Though Eve had her eyes on Bowers, she caught the slight movement from the rookie. Following instinct, she dug in her pocket and pulled out some loose credits. “Get me some coffee, Officer Bowers.”

Disdain turned so quickly to insulted shock, Eve had to work hard to hold off a grin. “Get you coffee?”

“That’s right. I want coffee.” She grabbed Bowers’s hand, dumped the credits into it. “So does my aide. You know the neighborhood. Run over to the nearest 24/7 and get me some coffee.”

“Trueheart’s lowest rank.”

“Was I talking to Trueheart, Peabody?” Eve said pleasantly.

“No, Lieutenant. I believe you were addressing Officer Bowers.” As Peabody didn’t like the woman’s looks, either, she smiled. “I take cream and sugar. The lieutenant goes for black. I believe there’s a 24/7 one block over. Shouldn’t take you long.”

Bowers stood another moment, then turned on her heel and stalked off. Her muttered “Bitch” came clearly on the cold wind.

“Golly, Peabody, Bowers just called you a bitch.”

“I really think she meant you, sir.”

“Yeah.” Eve’s grin was fierce. “You’re probably right. So, Trueheart, spill it.”

“Sir?” His already pale face whitened even more at being directly addressed.

“What do you think? What do you know?”

“I don’t—”

When he glanced nervously at Bowers’s stiff and retreating back, Eve stepped into his line of vision. Her eyes were cool and commanding. “Forget her. You’re dealing with me now. I want your report on the canvass.”

“I . . .” His Adam’s apple bobbed. “No one in the immediate area admits to having witnessed any disturbance in the vicinity or any visitors to the victim’s crib during the time in question.”


“It’s just that—I was going to tell Bowers,” he continued in a rush, “but she cut me off.”

“Tell me,” Eve suggested.

“It’s about the Gimp? He had his crib on this side, just down from Snooks, as long as I’ve had the beat. It’s only a couple of months, but—”

“You patrol this area yesterday?” Eve interrupted.

“Yes, sir.”

“And there was a crib by Snooks’s?”

“Yes, sir, like always. Now he’s got it on the other side of the street, way at the end of the alley.”

“Did you question him?”

“No, sir. He’s zoned. We couldn’t roust him, and Bowers said it wasn’t worth the trouble, anyway, because he’s a stone drunk.”

Eve studied him thoughtfully. His color was back, pumped into his cheeks from nerves and the slap of the wind. But he had good eyes, she decided. Clear and sharp. “How long have you been out of the academy, Trueheart?”

“Three months, sir.”

“Then you can be forgiven for not being able to recognize an asshole in uniform.” She cocked her head when a flash of humor trembled on his mouth. “But I have a feeling you’ll learn. Call for a wagon and have your pal the Gimp taken down to the tank at Central. I want to talk to him when he’s sobered up. He knows you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then you stay with him, and bring him up when he’s coherent. I want you to stand in on the interview.”

“You want me to—” Trueheart’s eyes went huge and bright. “I’m assigned to Lite—Bowers is my trainer.”

“Is that how you want it, Officer?”

He hesitated, blew out a quiet breath. “No, sir, Lieutenant, it’s not.”

“Then why aren’t you following my orders?” She turned away to harass the crime scene team and left him grinning after her.

“That was really sweet,” Peabody said when they were back in their vehicle with cups of hot, horrible coffee.

“Don’t start, Peabody.”

“Come on, Dallas. You gave the guy a nice break.”

“He gave us a potential witness and it was another way to burn that idiot Bowers’s ass.” She smiled thinly. “Next chance you get, Peabody, do a run on her. I like to know everything I can about people who want to rip the skin off my face.”

“I’ll take care of it when we’re back at Central. You want hard copy?”

“Yeah. Run Trueheart, too, just for form.”

“Wouldn’t mind running him.” Peabody wiggled her eyebrows. “He’s very cute.”

Eve slanted her a look. “You’re pathetic, and you’re too old for him.”

“I can’t have more than a couple, maybe three years on him,” Peabody said with a hint of insult. “And some guys prefer a more experienced woman.”

“I thought you were still tight with Charles.”

“We date,” Peabody lifted her shoulders, still uncomfortable discussing this particular man with Eve. “But we’re not exclusive.”

Tough to be exclusive with a licensed companion, Eve thought but held her tongue. Snapping out her opinion of Peabody developing a relationship with Charles Monroe had come much too close to breaking the bond between them a few weeks before.

“You’re okay with that?” she said instead.

“That’s the way we both want it. We like each other, Dallas. We have a good time together. I wish you—” She broke off, firmly shut her mouth.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You’re thinking pretty damn loud.”

Eve set her teeth. They were not, she promised herself, going back there. “What I’m thinking,” she said evenly, “is about getting some breakfast before we start on the paperwork.”

Deliberately, Peabody rolled the stiffness out of her shoulders. “That works for me. Especially if you’re buying.”

“I bought last time.”

“I don’t think so, but I can check my records.” More cheerful, Peabody pulled out her electronic memo book and made Eve laugh.

chapter two

The best that could be said about the slop served at Cop Central’s Eatery was that it filled the hole serious hunger could dig. Between bites of what was supposed to be a spinach omelette, Peabody accessed data on her palm PC.

“Ellen Bowers,” she reported. “No middle initial. Graduated from the academy, New York branch, in ’46.”

“I was there in ’46,” Eve mused. “She’d have been right ahead of me. I don’t remember her.”

“I can’t get her academy records without authorization.”

“Don’t bother with that.” Scowling, Eve hacked at the cardboard disguised as a pancake on her plate. “She’s been on the force a dozen years and she’s scooping stiffs downtown? Wonder who else she pissed off.”

“Assigned to the one sixty-two for the last two years, spent another couple at the four-seven. Before that, assigned to Traffic. Man, she’s bounced all over, Dallas. Did time in Cop Central in Records, another stint at the two-eight—that’s Park Patrol, mostly on-foot stuff.”

Since even the small lake of syrup Eve had used to drown the pancake didn’t soften it, she gave up and switched to gut-burning coffee. “Sounds like our friend’s had trouble finding her niche or the department’s been shuffling her.”

“Authorization’s required to access transfer documents and/or personal progress reports.”

Eve considered, then shook her head. “No, it feels sticky, and we’re probably done with her, in any case.”

“I’ve got that she’s single. Never married, no kids. She’s thirty-five, parents live in Queens, three sibs. Two brothers and one sister. And, we have my personal take,” Peabody added as she set the PPC aside. “I hope we’re done with her, because she’d really, really like to hurt you.”

Eve only smiled. “That’s gotta be frustrating for her, doesn’t it? Do you have a personal take on why?”

“Not a clue except you’re you and she’s not.” Uneasy, Peabody moved her shoulders. “I’d pay attention, though. She looked like the kind who’d come at you from behind.”

“We’re not likely to run into each other on a regular basis.” Eve filed the matter, dismissed it. “Eat up. I want to go see if this sleeper of Trueheart’s knows anything.”


She decided to use an interview room, knowing the stark formality of that often loosened tongues. One look at the Gimp warned her that while he might be coherent now, thanks to a hefty dose of Sober-Up, his skinny body still jittered and his nervous eyes jumped.

A quick spin through the decontamination tank had likely chased off any parasites and had laid a thin layer of faux citrus over the stink of him.

An addict, Eve thought, with an assortment of vices that had certainly fried a good portion of his brain cells.

She brought him water, knowing most brew hounds suffered from dry mouth after decon. “How old are you, Gimp?”

“Dunno, maybe fifty.”

He looked to be a very ill-preserved eighty, but she thought he was probably close to the mark. “You got another name?”

He shrugged. They’d taken away his clothes and disposed of them. The gray smock and drawstring pants hung on him and were nearly the same color as his skin. “Dunno. I’m Gimp.”

“Okay. You know Officer Trueheart here, right?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Suddenly, the beaten face glowed with a smile as pure as a baby’s. “Hi! You slipped me some credits, said I should get some soup.”

Trueheart flushed painfully, shifted on his regulation shoes. “I guess you bought brew with it.”

“Dunno.” The smile faded as his busy eyes landed on Eve again. “Who are you? How come I have to be here? I didn’t do nothing. Somebody’s gonna take my stuff if I don’t watch out.”

“Don’t worry about your stuff, Gimp. We’ll take care of it. I’m Dallas.” She kept her voice low and easy, her face bland. Too much cop, she thought, would just spook him. “I just want to talk to you. You want something to eat?”

“Dunno. Maybe.”

“We’ll get you something hot after we talk. I’m going to turn on the recorder, so we get it all straight.”

“I didn’t do nothing.”

“Nobody thinks you did. Engage recorder,” she ordered. “Interview with witness known as the Gimp regarding case number 28913-H. Interviewer Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. Also attending, Peabody, Officer Delia, and Trueheart, Officer . . . ?” She glanced over.

“Troy.” He flushed again.

“Troy Trueheart?” Eve said with her tongue in her cheek. “Okay.” Then she pinned her gaze on the pitiful man across from her. “Subject witness is not under suspicion for any wrongdoing. This investigator appreciates his cooperation. Do you understand that, Gimp?”

“Yeah, guess. What?”

She didn’t sigh, but was momentarily afraid the detestable Bowers was right about him. “You’re not here because you’re in trouble. I appreciate you talking to me. I hear you moved your crib last night.”

He wet his cracked lips, drank. “Dunno.”

“You used to have it across the street, near Snooks. You know Snooks, don’t you, Gimp?”

“Maybe.” His hand shook, slopping water on the table. “He draws pictures. Nice pictures. I traded him some Zoner for a pretty one of a tree. He makes flowers, too. Nice.”

“I saw his flowers. They’re pretty. He was kind of a friend of yours?”

“Yeah.” His eyes filled and tears spilled over the red rims. “Maybe. Dunno.”

“Somebody hurt him, Gimp. Did you know that?”

Now he shrugged, a hard jerk of the shoulder, and began to look around the room. Tears were still rolling down his cheeks, but his eyes were glazed with confusion. “How come I have to be in here? I don’t like being inside. I want my stuff. Somebody’s for sure gonna steal my stuff.”

“Did you see who hurt him?”

“Can I keep these clothes?” Cocking his head, he began to finger the sleeve of the smock. “Am I gonna keep ’em?”

“Yeah, you can keep them.” Narrowing her eyes, she went with her gut. “How come you didn’t take his boots, Gimp? He was dead, and they were good boots.”

“I don’t steal from Snooks,” he said with some dignity. “Not even when he’s dead. You don’t steal from your bud, no way, no how. How come you think they done that to him?” Looking genuinely puzzled, he leaned forward. “How come you think they put that big hole in him?”

“I don’t know.” Eve leaned forward, too, as if they were having a quiet, personal conversation. “I keep wondering about that. Was anybody mad at him?”

“Snooks? He don’t hurt nobody. We just mind our own, that’s what. You can panhandle some if the beat droids don’t look your way. We got no fucking beggar’s license, but you can shake some credits loose if the droids aren’t around. And Snooks he sells his paper flowers sometimes, and we get some brew or some smoke and mind our own. No call to put a big hole in him, was there?”

“No, it was a bad thing they did to him. You saw them last night?”

“Dunno. Dunno what I saw. Hey!” He beamed that smile at Trueheart again. “Maybe you give me some credits again, all right? For some soup.”

Trueheart shot a glance at Eve, got her nod. “Sure, Gimp. I’ll give you some before you go. You just have to talk to the lieutenant for awhile more.”

“You liked old Snooks, right?”

“I liked him fine.” Trueheart smiled and, taking the cue from Eve, sat. “He drew nice pictures. He gave me one of his paper flowers.”

“He’d only give them to people he liked,” Gimp said brightly. “He liked you. Said so. Didn’t like that other one and me neither. She’s got mean eyes. Like to kick you in the teeth if she could.” His head bobbed up and down like a doll’s. “What you doing going around with her?”

“She’s not here now,” Trueheart said gently. “The lieutenant is. Her eyes aren’t mean.”

Gimp pouted, studied Eve’s face. “Maybe not. Cop’s though. Cop’s eyes. Cops, cops, cops.” He giggled, guzzled water, eyed Peabody. “Cops, cops, cops.” He all but sang it.

“I feel really bad about old Snooks,” Trueheart continued. “I bet he’d want you to tell Lieutenant Dallas what happened. He’d want it to be you who tells, because you were buds.”

Gimp paused, pulled on his earlobe. “You think?”

“I do. Why don’t you tell her what you saw last night?”

“Dunno what I saw.” Head cocked again, Gimp began to tap the sides of his fists on the table. “People coming around. Don’t see people coming around at night that way. Driving a big black car. Big fucker! Shined in the dark. They don’t say nothing.”

Eve held up a finger, indicating to Trueheart she was taking over again. “How many people, Gimp?”

“Two. Wore long black coats. Looked warm. Had masks on so all you can see over it’s the eyes. I think, Hey! It ain’t fucking Halloween.” He broke himself up, laughing delightedly. “It ain’t fucking Halloween,” he repeated, snorting, “but they got masks on and they carrying bags like for trick or treat.”

“What did the bags look like?”

“One has a nice big black one, shines, too. And the other has something else, it’s white and it makes sloshy noises when he walks with it. They go right into Snooks’s crib like they was invited or something. I don’t hear nothing but the wind, maybe I go to sleep.”

“Did they see you?” Eve asked him.

“Dunno. They got warm coats and good shoes, big car. You don’t go thinking they gonna put a big hole in Snooks?” He leaned toward her again, his homely face earnest, tears trembling again. “If you think that, you’d try to stop them maybe, or go run for the beat droid, ’cause you’re buds.”

He was crying now. Eve leaned over, laid a hand over his, despite the scabs that covered it. “You didn’t know. It’s not your fault. It’s their fault. What else did you see?”

“Dunno.” His eyes and nose dripped like faucets. “Sleep maybe. Then maybe I woke up and looked out. No car now. Was there a car there? Dunno. It’s getting light out, and I go over to see Snooks. He’ll know maybe if there was a big black car. And I see him, see that big hole in him, and the blood. His mouth’s wide open and his eyes, too. They put a big hole in him, and maybe they want to put one in me so I can’t be there. Can’t do that, no way, no how. So I have to get my stuff away from there. All my stuff right away from there. So that’s what I do, you bet, and then I drink all the rest of the brew I got and go back to sleep. I didn’t help old Snooks.”

“You’re helping him now.” Eve leaned back. “Let’s talk about the two people in the long coats some more.”

• • •

She worked him another hour, tugging him back when he wandered too far for too long. Though she didn’t slide any more information out of him, Eve didn’t consider the hour wasted. He would know her now if she had to hunt him up again. He’d remember her well enough, and remember the meeting hadn’t been unpleasant. Particularly since she ordered him in a hot meal and gave him fifty credits she knew he’d spend on brew and illegals.

He should have been in Psych, she thought, or in a halfway house. But he wouldn’t have stuck. She’d long ago accepted that you couldn’t save everyone.

“You did a good job with him, Trueheart.”

He blushed again, and while she found the trait a bit endearing, she hoped he learned to control it. The other cops would eat him alive before the bad guys had a chance for a nibble.

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate you giving me a chance to help with him.”

“You found him,” Eve said simply. “I figure you’ve got plans for yourself out of Homicide-Lite.”

This time he squared his shoulders. “I want a detective shield, when I’ve earned it.”

It was rare to find a uniform rookie without that particular aspiration, but she nodded. “You can start earning it by sticking. I could and would be willing to put in a plug for your transfer—see that you got another beat and another trainer. But I’m going to ask you to stay where you are. You’ve got good eyes, Trueheart, and I’d like you to use them on your beat until we close this case.”

He was so overwhelmed with the offer and the request, his eyes nearly popped out of his head. “I’ll stick.”

“Good. Bowers is going to give you grief over this.”

He grimaced. “I’m getting used to it.”

It was an opening to ask him more, to pump him for some details on Bowers. She let it pass, not wanting to put a rookie in the position of ratting on his own trainer. “Fine, then. Go back to your station and write your report. If you come across anything you think might apply to this case, get in touch with either me or Peabody.”

She headed to her office, already issuing orders to Peabody to have the interview disc duped. “And let’s get the rundown on known dealers in that area. We can’t absolutely rule out the illegals connection. I can’t think of a chemi-dealer who offs his deadbeat clients by surgically removing vital organs, but stranger things have happened. We’ll run known cults, too,” she continued as Peabody input the orders into her memo pad. “It feels wrong, but we’ll give it some attention.”

“I can contact Isis,” Peabody suggested, referring to a Wiccan they had dealt with on another case. “She might know if any of the black magic cults have a routine like this.”

Eve grunted, nodded, and caught the glide with Peabody beside her. “Yeah, use the connection. Let’s get that angle eliminated.”

She glanced toward the window wall where the glass tubes she avoided like poison carried cops, clerks, and civilians up and down the outside of the building. Beyond them she saw a pair of air support units scream off to the west, blasting between an advertising blimp and a commuter tram.

Inside, the pulse of the building was fast and strong. Voices, rushing feet, a crowd of bodies with jobs to do. It was a rhythm she understood. She glanced at her wrist unit, oddly pleased to see it was barely nine. She’d been on duty four hours, and the day was just getting started.

“And let’s see if we can get a real ID on the victim,” she continued when they stepped off the glide. “We got his prints and DNA sample. If Morris is into the postmortem, he should at least have an approximate age.”

“I’ll get right on it.” Peabody swung left, heading through the bullpen as Eve turned into her office. It was small, but she preferred it that way. The single window was narrow, letting in little light and entirely too much noise from air traffic. But the AutoChef worked and was stocked with Roarke’s impeccable coffee.

She ordered a mug, then sighed as the rich, strong scent of it tickled her system. Sitting down, she engaged her tele-link with the intention of harassing Morris.

“I know he’s doing a PM,” she said to the assistant who tried to block her. “I have some information for him concerning the body. Put me through.”

She leaned back in her chair, indulged herself with coffee, drummed her fingers against the mug, and waited.

“Dallas.” Morris’s face swam on-screen. “You know how I hate being interrupted when I’ve got my hands in someone’s brains.”

“I have a witness who puts two people on the scene. Big shiny car, nice shiny shoes. One carried a leather bag, the other a white bag that made—I quote—sloshy noises. Ring any bells?”

“I hear a ding,” Morris said, frowning now. “Your witness see what happened?”

“No, he’s a brewhead, slept through most of it. They were gone when he woke up, but according to the time line, he discovered the body. Would that sloshy bag be what I think it would be?”

“Could be an organ transport sack. This is neat, professional work here, Dallas. First-rate major organ removal. I’ve got some of the blood work back. Your victim was given a nice, comfy dose of anesthesia. He never felt a thing. But if what’s left in him is any indication, the heart was next to worthless. His liver’s shot, his kidneys are a mess. His lungs are the color of a coal mine. This is not someone who bothered with anticancer vaccines or regular medical treatments. His body’s full of disease. I’d have given him six months, tops, before he’d have kicked from natural causes.”

“So they took a worthless heart,” Eve mused. “Maybe they figure on passing it off as a good one.”

“If it’s like the rest of him, a first-year med student would spot the condition.”

“They wanted it. It’s too damn much trouble to go through just to kill some sidewalk sleeper.”

Possibilities circled in her mind. Revenge, some weird cult, a black-market scam. Kicks, entertainment. Practice.

“You said it was first-rate work. How many surgeons in the city could handle it?”

“I’m a dead doctor,” Morris said with a ghost of a smile. “Live ones don’t run in the same circles. Snazziest private hospital in New York would be the Drake Center. I’d start there.”

“Thanks, Morris. I can use the final reports as soon as you can manage it.”

“Then let me get back to my brain.” With that, he ended transmission.

Eve turned to her computer, eyes narrowed. It was making a suspicious buzzing noise, one she’d reported twice to the jokers in maintenance. She leaned toward it, teeth bared in threat.

“Computer, you sack of shit, search for data on the Drake Center, medical facility, New York City.”

Working. . . .

It hiccupped, whined, and the screen flashed into an alarming red that seared the eyes.

“Default to blue screen, damn it.”

Internal error. Blue screen is unavailable. Continue search?

“I hate you.” But she adjusted her eyes. “Continue search.”

Searching. . . . The Drake Center of Medicine, located Second Avenue, New York City, established 2023 in honor of Walter C. Drake, credited with the discovery of anticancer vaccine. This is a private facility, which includes hospital and health care clinics, rated Class A by the American Medical Association, teaching and training facilities also rated Class A, as well as research and development laboratories with Class A ratings. Do you wish list of board members on all facilities?

“Yes, on screen and hard copy.”

Working. . . . Internal error.

There was a distinct increase in the buzzing noise, and the screen began to shimmer.

Please repeat command.

“I’m going to eat those maintenance assholes for lunch.”

Command does not compute. Do you wish to order lunch?

“Ha ha. No. List board members on all facilities of the Drake Center of Medicine.”

Working. . . . Health Center Board: Colin Cagney, Lucille Mendez, Tia Wo, Michael Waverly, Charlotte Mira . . .

“Dr. Mira,” Eve murmured. It was a good connection. The doctor was one of the top criminal profilers in the city and affiliated with the New York Police and Security Department. She was also a personal friend.

Eve drummed her fingers, listening to the names of the board of the teaching facilities. One or two vaguely rang a bell, but the ringing became louder when the computer reached the board of the research and development arm.

Carlotta Zemway, Roarke—

“Hold it, hold it.” Her drumming fingers curled into fists. “Roarke? Damn it, damn it, damn it, can’t he stay out of anything?”

Please rephrase question.

“Shut the hell up.” Eve pressed her fingers to her eyes; sighed. “Continue list,” she ordered as her stomach continued to sink. “Print out, then disengage.”

Internal error. Unable to comply with multiple commands at this time.

She didn’t scream, but she wanted to.

After a frustrating twenty minutes of waiting for the data to dribble out, she swung through the detectives’ bullpen and around to the stingy area where aides and adjutants were penned in cubicles the size of a drying tube.

“Peabody, I have to head out.”

“I’ve got data incoming. Do you want me to transfer it to my portable unit?”

“No, you stay here, finish the runs. I shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours. When you’re done with this, I want you to go find a hammer.”

Peabody had taken out her memo book, nearly plugged in the order, when she stopped, frowned up at Eve. “Sir? A hammer?”

“That’s right. A really big, heavy hammer. Then you take it into my office and beat that fucking useless excuse for a data spitter on my desk to dust.”

“Ah.” Because she was a wise woman, Peabody cleared her throat rather than loosen the chuckle. “As an alternate to that action, Lieutenant, I could call maintenance.”

“Fine, you do that, and you tell them that at the very first opportunity, I’m coming down there and killing all of them. Mass murder. And after they’re all dead, I’m going to kick the bodies around, dance on top of them, and sing a happy song. No jury will convict me.”

Because the idea of Eve singing and dancing anywhere made her lips twitch, Peabody bit the inside of her cheek. “I’ll inform them of your dissatisfaction with their work.”

“You do that, Peabody.” Turning on her heel, Eve shrugged into her jacket and stalked out.

It would have been more logical for her to hunt up Mira first. As a psychiatrist, a medical doctor, a criminologist, Mira would be a valuable source on the case. But Eve drove uptown to the shimmering spear of a building that was Roarke’s New York headquarters.

There were other buildings in other cities, on and off planet. Her husband had his clever fingers in too many pies to count. Rich pies, she knew, complicated pies. And at one time, very questionable pies.

She supposed it was inevitable that his name would pop up in connection with so many of her cases. But she didn’t have to like it.

She slipped her vehicle into the space Roarke had reserved for her in the multilevel garage. The first time she’d come there, not quite a year before, she hadn’t had such privileges. Nor had her voice and palm prints been programmed onto the security system of the private elevator. Before, she had entered the main lobby with its acres of tiles, its banks of flowers, its moving map and screens, and had been escorted to his offices to interrogate him over a murder.

Now the computerized voice greeted her by name, wished her well, and told her as she stepped in that Roarke would be informed of her visit.

Eve jammed her hands in her pockets, paced the car on its smooth ride to the top of the spear. She imagined he was in the middle of some megadeal or complex negotiation to buy a medium-sized planet or financially strapped country. Well, he was just going to have to hold off on making his next million until she had some answers.

When the doors whispered open, Roarke’s assistant was waiting with a polite smile. As always, she was perfectly groomed, her snow-white hair sleekly styled. “Lieutenant, how nice to see you again. Roarke’s in a meeting. He asked if you’d mind waiting in his office just a few moments.”

“Sure, fine, okay.”

“Can I get you anything while you’re waiting?” She led Eve through the glass breezeway where New York rushed by some sixty stories below. “If you haven’t had lunch, I can shift Roarke’s next appointment to accommodate you.”

The quiet deference always made her feel stupid—a flaw, Eve thought, in herself. “No, this shouldn’t take long. Thanks.”

“Just let me know if I can do anything for you.” Discreetly, she closed the doors and left Eve alone.

The office was huge, of course. Roarke liked his space. The sea of windows were tinted to cut the glare and offer a staggering view of the city. He also liked height—a fondness that Eve didn’t share. So she didn’t wander over to the window but paced the ocean of plush carpet instead.

The trinkets in the room were clever and unique. The furnishings sleek and comfortable, in rich shades of topaz and emerald. She knew the ebony slab of desk was just one more power center for a man who exuded power like breath.

Efficiency, elegance, power. He never lacked for any of them.

And when, ten minutes later, he came in through a side door, it was so easy to see why.

He could still stop her heart. Just the look of him: that glorious face, as perfectly sculpted as a Renaissance statue, was highlighted by eyes impossibly blue and a mouth designed to make a woman crave it on hers; his black hair fell nearly to his shoulders, adding just a touch of the rogue; and she knew just how strong and sleek that body was, now elegantly clad in a tailored black suit.

“Lieutenant.” Ireland whispered, silky and romantic, in his voice. “An unexpected pleasure.”

She wasn’t aware she was frowning or that she often did when swamped with the heady combination of love and lust he caused in her. “I need to talk to you.”

His brow lifted as he crossed to her. “About?”


“Ah.” He had already taken her hands in his, was already leaning down for a long, slow kiss of greeting. “Am I under arrest?”

“Your name popped up during a data search. What are you doing on the board of the Drake Center’s R and D unit?”

“Being an upstanding citizen. Being married to a cop does that to a man.” He ran his hands up her arms to her shoulders, felt the tension there, and sighed. “Eve, I’m on all sorts of tedious boards and committees. Who’s dead?”

“A sidewalk sleeper named Snooks.”

“I don’t believe we were acquainted. Sit down; tell me what this has to do with me being on the board of the Drake Center.”

“Possibly nothing, but I have to start somewhere.” Still, she didn’t sit but roamed the room.

Roarke watched her, the restless, nervous energy that seemed to spark visibly around her. And knowing her, he understood all that energy was already focused on finding justice for the dead.

It was only one of the reasons she fascinated him.

“The victim’s heart had been surgically removed while he was in his crib down in the Bowery,” she told him. “The ME claims the procedure required a top-flight surgeon, and the Drake was my first pass.”

“Good choice. It’s the best in the city, and likely the best on the East Coast.” Considering, Roarke leaned back against his desk. “They took his heart?”

“That’s right. He was a brewhead, an addict. His body was worn down. Morris says the heart was no good anyway. The guy would’ve been dead in six months.” She stopped pacing and faced him, tucking her thumbs in his front pockets. “What do you know about organ trading on the black market?”

“It wasn’t something I dabbled in, even in my more . . . flexible days,” he added with a faint smile. “But the advances in man-made organs, the supply still available from accidental deaths, the strides in health care and organ building all have cut the market for street organs down to nothing. That area peaked about thirty years ago.”

“How much for a heart off the street?” she demanded.

“I really don’t know.” His brow winged up, and a smile ghosted around that sexy poet’s mouth. “Do you want me to find out?”

“I can find out myself.” She began to pace again. “What do you do on that board?”

“I’m an adviser. My own R and D department has a medical arm that cooperates and assists Drake’s. We have a contract with the center. We supply medical equipment, machines, computers.” He smiled again. “Artificial organs. Drake’s R and D deals primarily with pharmaceuticals, prostheses, chemicals. We both manufacture replacement organs.”

“You make hearts?”

“Among other things. We don’t deal in live tissue.”

“Who’s the best surgeon on staff?”

“Colin Cagney is the chief of staff. You’ve met him,” Roarke added.

She only grunted. How could she remember all the people she’d met in some social arena since Roarke came into her life? “Wonder if he makes—what did they call them—home calls?”

“House calls,” Roarke corrected with a hint of a smile. “I can’t quite see the distinguished Dr. Cagney performing illegal surgery in a sidewalk sleeper’s crib.”

“Maybe I’ll have a different vision once I meet him again.” She let out a deep sigh and tunneled her fingers through her hair. “Sorry to interrupt your day.”

“Interrupt it a bit longer,” he suggested and indulged himself by crossing to her and rubbing his thumb over her full bottom lip. “Have lunch with me.”

“Can’t. I’ve got more legwork.” But the light friction on her lip made it curve. “So, what were you buying?”

“Australia,” he said then laughed when she gaped at him. “Just a small piece of it.” Delighted with her reaction, he yanked her close for a quick, hard kiss. “Christ, I adore you, Eve.”

“Yeah, well. Good.” It continually left her hot and loose to hear it. To know it. “I gotta go.”

“Would you like me to see what I can find out about organ research at Drake?”

“That’s my job, and I know how to do it. It’d be really nice if you didn’t get mixed up in this one. Just . . . go buy the rest of Australia or something. I’ll see you at home.”

“Lieutenant?” He turned to his desk, opened a drawer. Knowing how she worked, he tossed her an energy bar. “Your lunch, I imagine.”

It made her grin as she tucked it in her pocket. “Thanks.”

When she closed the door behind her, he glanced at his wrist unit. Twenty minutes before his next meeting, Roarke calculated. Time enough.

He took a seat at his computer, smiled a little as he thought of his wife, then called up data on the Drake Center.

chapter three

Eve discovered it was just as well she hadn’t gone after Mira first. The doctor was out. She shot off a quick E-mail requesting a case consult the following day, then headed down to Drake.

It was one of those block-stretching buildings she’d seen hundreds of times and never paid attention to. Before Roarke, that is. Since then, he had dragged, strong-armed, or carried her into their emergency treatment centers a number of times. When, she thought now, she’d have been perfectly fine with a first aid kit and a nap.

She hated hospitals. The fact that she was going into this one as a cop and not a patient didn’t seem to make a difference.

The original building was an old and distinguished brownstone that had been lovingly, and she imagined expensively, preserved. Structures sheer and white speared up from it, out from it, joined together by the shimmering tubes of breezeways, the circling ring of glides that glinted silver.

There were juts of white that formed what she supposed might be restaurants, gift shops, or other areas where staff or visitors or patients might be allowed to gather and enjoy the view. And delude themselves that they weren’t in a structure full of the sick and suffering.

Because her vehicle’s computer was more reliable than her office unit, she was able to access some general data. The Drake Center was more of a city within a city than a health center. It contained training facilities, teaching facilities, labs, trauma units, surgeries, patient rooms and suites, a variety of staff lounges, and visitor waiting areas as one would expect from a medical center.

But in addition, it held a dozen restaurants—two of which were rated five star—fifteen chapels, an elegant little hotel for the family and friends of patients who wished to remain close by, a small, exclusive shopping arcade, three theaters, and five full-service salons.

There were numerous roving maps and information centers to assist visitors in finding their way to their sector of choice. Trams ran from key parking areas to various entryways, and the slick glass tubes sparkled in the thin winter sunlight as they slid up and down the sides of the mammoth white structure like water.

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