#1 New York Times bestselling author J. D. Robb continues her “sexy and suspenseful” (Publishers Weekly) In Death series in this futuristic thriller in which technology and humanity collide—and a new computer virus has become the latest form of terrorism…
Reva Ewing was a former member of the Secret Service, and then a security specialist for Roarke Enterprises—until she was found standing over the dead bodies of her husband, renowned artist Blair Bissel, and her best friend. But Lieutenant Eve Dallas believes there was more to the killing than jealous rage—all of Bissel’s computer files were deliberately corrupted.
To Roarke, it’s the computer attack that poses the real threat. He and Reva have been under a code-red government contract to develop a program that would shield against techno-terrorists. But this deadly new breed of hackers isn’t afraid to kill to protect their secret—and it’s up to Lieutenant Eve Dallas to shut them down before the nightmare can spread to the whole country.
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.
Date of Birth:1950
Place of Birth:Silver Spring, Maryland
Read an Excerpt
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever.
Marriage is a desperate thing.
KILLING WAS TOO GOOD FOR HIM.
Death was an end, even a release. He’d go to hell, there was no question in her mind, and there he would suffer eternal torment. She wanted that for him—eventually. But for the time being, she wanted him to suffer where she could watch.
Lying, cheating son of a bitch! She wanted him to snivel and beg and plead and slither on his belly like the gutter rat he was. She wanted him to bleed from the ears, to scream like a girl. She wanted to twist his adulterous dick into knots while he shrieked for the mercy she’d never give.
She wanted to pound her fists into his beautiful liar’s face until it was a pulpy, pustulated mass of blood and bone.
Then and only then, the dickless, faceless bastard could die. A slow, withering, agonizing death.
Nobody, nobody cheated on Reva Ewing.
She had to pull over and stop the car in the breakdown lane of the Queensboro Bridge until she calmed down enough to trust herself to continue. Because someone had cheated on Reva Ewing. The man she’d loved, the man she’d married, the man she’d believed in utterly was, even now, making love to another woman.
Touching another woman, tasting her, using that skilled deceiver’s mouth, those clever cheating hands to drive another woman wild.
And not just any other woman. A friend. Someone else she’d loved and trusted, believed in, counted on.
It wasn’t just infuriating. It wasn’t just painful to know her husband and her friend were having an affair, and right under her oblivious nose. It was embarrassing to discover herself a cliché. The deceived wife, the clueless dolt who accepted and believed the adulterer every time he said he had to work late, or had a dinner meeting with a client, or was zipping out of town for a few days to nail down, or hand deliver, a commission.
Worse, Reva thought now as traffic whizzed by her car, that she of all people had been so easily duped. She was a goddamn security expert. She’d spent five years in the Secret Service and had guarded a president before going into the private sector. Where were her instincts, her eyes, her ears?
How could Blair have been coming home to her, night after night, fresh from another woman and she not know?
Because she’d loved him, Reva admitted. Because she’d been happy, deliriously happy to believe a man like Blair—with his sophistication and amazing looks—had loved and wanted her.
He was so handsome, so talented, so smart. The elegant bohemian with his dark silky hair and emerald green eyes. She’d been sunk, she thought now, the minute he’d turned those eyes on her, the instant he’d sent her that killer smile. And six months later, they’d been married and living in the big, secluded house in Queens.
Two years, she thought, two years she’d given him everything she had, shared every piece of herself with him, and had loved him with every cell of her body. And all the while he’d been playing her for a fool.
Well, now he’d pay. She dashed the tears from her cheeks, dug deep again for her anger. Now, Blair Bissel was going to find out just what she was made of.
She pulled back into traffic, and drove at a rapid clip to Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
The husband-stealing bitch, as Reva now thought of her former friend, Felicity Kade, lived in a lovely converted brownstone near the north corner of Central Park. Instead of reminding herself of all the time she’d spent inside, at parties, casual evenings, at Felicity’s famed Sunday brunches, Reva concentrated on the security.
It was good. Felicity collected art and guarded that collection like a dog guarded his meaty bone. The fact was, Reva had met her three years before when she’d helped design and install Felicity’s security system.
It would take an expert to gain entrance, and even then, there were backups and fail-safes that would foil all but the crème de la crème of burglars.
But when a woman made her living, her very good living, looking for chinks in security, she could always find one. She’d come armed, with two jammers, a beefed-up personal palm computer, an illegal police master code, and a stunner she intended to slap right against Blair’s cheating balls.
After that, well, she wasn’t quite sure what she’d do. She’d just play the rest by ear.
She hefted her bag of tools, shoved the stunner in her back pocket, and marched through the balmy September evening toward the front entrance.
She keyed in the first jammer as she walked, knowing she’d have thirty seconds only once she’d locked it on the exterior panel. Numbers began to flash on her handheld, and her heart began to race as she counted off the time.
Three seconds before the alarm was set to trip, the first code scanned onto her jammer. She let out the breath she’d held, glanced up at the dark windows.
“Just keep doing what you’re doing up there, you pair of slime,” she muttered as she set the second jammer. “I only need a few more minutes here. Then we’ll really party.”
She heard the whiz of a car on the street behind her, and cursed softly as it braked. A quick look back and she spotted a cab at the curb, and the laughing couple in evening clothes who climbed out. Reva edged closer to the door, deeper in the shadows. With a minidrill she removed the side of the palm plate, noting that Felicity’s house droid kept even the screws spotless.
Interfacing her PPC with a hair-thin wire, she keyed in a bypass code, waited the sweaty seconds for it to clear. Meticulously, she replaced the panel, then used the second jammer on the voice box.
It took longer to clone, a full two minutes, but she felt a frisson of excitement work through her fury when the last voice entry played back.
Reva’s lips twisted in a sneer as her false friend’s voice murmured the password. Reva had only to key in the cloned security numbers, then use her tools to lift the last, manual lock.
She slipped inside, closed the door, and out of habit reset the security.
Prepared for the house droid to appear, to request her business, she held her stunner at the ready. He’d recognize her, of course, and that would give her just enough time to fry his circuits and clear her way.
But the house stayed silent, and no droid stepped into the foyer. So, they’d shut him down for the night, she thought grimly. So they could have a little more privacy.
She could smell the roses Felicity always kept on the table in the foyer—pink roses, replaced weekly. There was a low light burning beside the vase, but Reva didn’t need it. She knew her way, and walked directly to the stairs to climb to the second floor. To the bedroom.
When she reached the landing she saw all she needed to bring her rage back in full force. Tossed carelessly over the rail was Blair’s light leather jacket. It was the one she’d given him for his birthday the previous spring. The one he’d hooked carelessly with his fingers over his shoulder just that morning when he’d kissed his loving wife good-bye, and told her how much he’d miss her, told her as he’d nuzzled her neck how much he hated having to take even this quick out-of-town trip.
Reva lifted the jacket, brought it to her face. She could smell him on it, and the scent of him nearly tore her grief through her anger.
To stave it off, she took one of her tools out of her bag and quietly shred the leather to ribbons. Then, tossing it on the floor, she ground her heel into it before stepping away.
Face hot with temper, she set her bag down, took the stunner back out of her pocket. As she approached the bedroom she saw the flicker of light. Candles, she could even smell them now, some spicy female perfume. And she could hear the low notes of music—something classic, like the roses, like the scent of the candles.
It was all so Felicity, she thought furiously. All so female and fragile and perfect. She’d have preferred something modern, something today and gutsy for this altercation.
Give her Mavis Freestone kicking some serious musical ass, she thought.
But then it was easy to tune out the music with the buzzing of temper and the ring of betrayal in her head. She toed the door wider with her foot, eased in.
She could see the two figures huddled together under the silk and lace of the coverlet. They’d fallen asleep, she thought bitterly. All cozy and warm and loose from sex.
Their clothes were tossed over a chair, messily, as if they’d been in a hurry to start. Seeing them, the tangle of clothes, broke her heart in hundreds of pieces.
Bracing against it, she strode to the bed, gripped the stunner in her hand. “Wake-up call, you piss-buckets.”
And whipped the silk and lace cover away.
The blood. Oh my God, the blood. The sight of it all over flesh, all over the sheets made her head spin. The sudden smell of it, of death, mixed with the scents of flowers and candles, made her gag and stumble back.
She screamed once, shocking herself into action. Sucking in air to scream again, she lunged forward.
Something, someone, slipped out of the shadows. She caught the movement, and another smell—harsh, medicinal. It filled her throat, her lungs.
She turned, to flee or defend she wasn’t sure, and fought to swim through air that had gone to water around her. But the power had drained out of her limbs, numbing them seconds before her eyes rolled back in her head.
And she collapsed in a heap beside the dead who had betrayed her.
1 LIEUTENANT EVE DALLAS, one of New York’s top cops, sprawled naked with the blood beating in her ears and her heart pounding like an airjack. She managed to wheeze in a breath, then gave it up.
Who needed air when the system was revving from the aftermath of truly spectacular sex?
Beneath her, her husband lay warm and hard and still. The only movement was the knock of his heart against hers. Until he lifted one of those amazing hands and cruised it along her spine, from nape to butt.
“You want me to move,” she mumbled, “you’re out of luck.”
“I’d say my luck’s in.”
She smiled in the dark. She loved hearing his voice, the way Ireland shimmered through it. “Pretty good welcome home, especially since you were gone less than forty-eight hours.”
“It certainly put a nice cap on a short trip to Florence.”
“I didn’t ask, did you stop off in Ireland to see your—” She hesitated just a beat. It was still so odd to think of Roarke with family. “Your family?”
“I did, yes. Had a nice few hours.” He continued to stroke that hand, up and down, up and down her back so that her heartbeat slowed and her eyes began to droop. “It’s very strange, isn’t it?”
“I guess it will be, for a while yet.”
“And how’s the new detective?”
Eve snuggled in, thinking of her former aide and how she was handling her recent promotion. “Peabody’s good. Still finding her rhythm. We had a family dispute gone sour. Two brothers mixing it up over inherited property. Knocked the shit out of each other before one of them takes a header down the steps and breaks his stupid neck. So the other brother tries to mock it up like a bungled burglary. Tosses all this stuff they were fighting over in a blanket, hauls it out to his car, shoves it in the trunk. Like we’re not going to look there.”
The derision in her tone had him chuckling. Eve rolled off and stretched.
“Anyway, it was pretty much connect the big, pulsing red dots, so I put Peabody on as primary. After she started breathing again, she did fine. Sweepers were already sucking up evidence, but she takes this jerk in the kitchen, sits down with him all sympathetic—used all that family business she knows so well. Had him babbling out a confession in about ten minutes. Got him on Man Two.”
“Good for her.”
“It’ll help build her confidence.” She stretched again. “We could use a few more walks in the meadow like that one after the summer we put in.”
“You might take a few days off. We could walk in a real meadow.”
“Give me a couple of weeks with her. I want to make sure she finds her feet before I let her solo.”
“That’s a date, then. Oh, your . . . enthusiastic welcome, while much appreciated, drove this right out of my mind.” He got out of bed, calling for the lights at ten percent.
In their subtle glow, she could watch him step off the wide platform where the bed stood, move toward the small bag he’d taken with him. Watching him move, graceful as some lean, elegant cat, gave her such pleasure.
Was that kind of grace innate, she wondered, or had he learned it dodging cops and picking pockets as a child on the streets of Dublin? However it had come to him, it had served him well, as that clever boy, and as the clever man who’d built an empire out of guts and guile and a wily kind of genius.
When he turned, and she saw his face in that shadowed light, it blew straight through her. The staggering love, the breathless wonder that he should be hers—that anything so beautiful should be hers.
He looked like a work of art, one carved by some brilliant sorcerer. The keen bones of his face, the generous mouth that was sensual magic. Those eyes, that wild Celtic blue, that could still make her throat ache when they looked at her. And that miraculous canvas was framed by black silk that swept nearly to his shoulders, and continually made her fingers itch to touch it.
They’d been married more than a year, and there were times, unexpected times, when just looking at him could stop her heart.
He came back to sit beside her, cupped her chin in his hand, brushed his thumb over the little dent in its center. “Darling Eve, so still and quiet in the dark.” He touched his lips to her brow. “I’ve brought you a present.”
She blinked, and immediately edged back. It made him smile, this habitual reaction of hers to gifts. Just as the uneasy look she gave the long, narrow box in his hand made him grin.
“It won’t bite you,” he promised.
“You weren’t even gone two days. There has to be some sort of time requirement for bringing back presents.”
“I missed you after two minutes.”
“You’re saying that to soften me up.”
“Doesn’t make it less true. Open the box, Eve, then say: ‘Thank you, Roarke.’ ”
She rolled her eyes, but she opened the box.
It was a bracelet, a kind of cuff with a pattern of minute diamond shapes etched into the gold to give it sparkle. In the center was a stone—and as it was bloodred, she assumed it was a ruby—big as her thumb and smooth to the touch.
It looked old, and important, in that priceless antique way that made her stomach jitter.
“You forgot the thank-you part.”
“Roarke,” she said again. “You’re going to tell me this once belonged to some Italian countess or—”
“Princess,” he supplied, and took the bracelet from her to slip it onto her wrist. “Sixteenth century. Now it belongs to a queen.”
“Okay, that was laying it on a bit thick. Looks good on you, though.”
“It’d look good on a tree stump.” She wasn’t much on glitters, despite the fact that the man heaped them on her at every opportunity. But this one had . . . something, she thought as she lifted her arm and turned her wrist so the stone and etching caught and scattered light. “What if I lose it, or break it?”
“That would be a shame. But until you do, I enjoy seeing it on you. If it makes you feel any better, my aunt Sinead seemed equally flustered by the necklace I bought her.”
“She struck me as a sensible woman.”
He tugged a lock of Eve’s hair. “The women in my life are sensible, enough to indulge me as giving them gifts brings me such pleasure.”
“That’s a slick way to box it in. It’s beautiful.” And she had to admit, at least privately, that she liked the way it slid fluidly over her skin. “I can’t wear this to work.”
“I don’t suppose so. Then again, I like the way it looks on you now. When you’re wearing nothing else.”
“Don’t get any ideas, ace. I’m on shift in—six hours,” she calculated after a glance at the time.
Because she recognized the gleam in his eye, she narrowed her own. But the token protest she intended to give was interrupted by the bedside ’link.
“That’s your signal.” She nodded toward the ’link, then rolled off the bed. “At least when somebody calls you at two in the morning, nobody’s dead.”
She wandered off into the bathroom as she heard him block video, and answer.
She took her time, then as an afterthought snagged the robe off the back of the door in case he’d reinstated the video on the ’link.
She was belting it as she went back in, and saw he was up and at his closet. “Who was it?”
“You’ve got to go now? At two in the morning?” His tone, just the way he’d said his admin’s name, had the skin on her neck prickling. “What is it?”
“Eve.” He pulled out a shirt to go with the trousers he’d hastily put on. “I need a favor. A very large favor.”
Not from his wife, she thought. But from his cop. “What is it?”
“One of my employees.” He dragged on the shirt, but his eyes stayed on Eve. “She’s in trouble. Considerable trouble. Someone is dead, after all.”
“One of your employees kill someone, Roarke?”
“No.” Since she continued to stand where she was, he moved to her closet, took out clothes. “She’s confused and panicked, and Caro says somewhat incoherent. These are not traits one associates with Reva. She works in Security. Design and installation, primarily. She’s solid as stone. She was with the Secret Service for a number of years, and isn’t a woman who shakes easily.”
“You’re not telling me what happened.”
“She found her husband and her friend in bed at the friend’s apartment. Dead. Already dead, Eve.”
“And finding two dead bodies, she contacted your administrative assistant instead of the police.”
“No.” He pushed the clothes he’d chosen into Eve’s hands. “She contacted her mother.”
Eve stared at him, cursed softly, then began to dress. “I have to call this in.”
“I’m asking you to wait, until you see for yourself, until you talk to Reva.” He laid his hands on hers, held them there until she looked back at him again. “Eve, I’m asking you, please, wait that long. You don’t have to call in what you haven’t seen with your own eyes. I know this woman. I’ve known her mother more than a dozen years, and trust her to the level I trust very few. They need your help. I need it.”
She picked up her weapon harness, strapped it on. “Then let’s get there. Fast.”
It was a clear night with the heaviness that had dogged the summer of 2059 lightening toward the crispness of the coming fall. Traffic was light, and the short drive required little skill or concentration on Roarke’s part. He judged by his wife’s silence that she’d closed in. She asked no questions as she wanted no more information, nothing that would influence her from her own impressions of what she would see and hear and feel.
Her narrow, angular face was set, the long golden brown eyes cop flat. Unreadable even to him. The wide mouth that had been hot and soft against his only a short time before was firm and tight-lipped.
He parked on the street, in an illegal spot, and flicked the ON DUTY light in her vehicle before she could do so herself.
She said nothing, but stepped onto the sidewalk and stood, tall and lanky, her shaggy brown hair still mussed from love-making.
He crossed to her, gently combed his own fingers through her hair to order it, as well as he could. “Thank you for this.”
“You don’t want to thank me yet. Prime digs,” she commented with a nod toward the brownstone. Before she could mount the steps, the door opened.
There was Caro, her shiny white hair like a silvery halo around her head. Without that, Eve might not have recognized Roarke’s dignified and efficient admin in the pale woman wearing a smart red jacket over blue cotton pajamas.
“Thank God. Thank God. Thank you for coming so quickly.” She reached out with a visibly trembling hand and gripped Roarke’s. “I didn’t know quite what to do.”
“You did just right,” Roarke told her, and drew her in.
Eve heard her stifle a sob, let go with a sigh. “Reva—she’s not well, not well at all. I have her in the living area. I didn’t go upstairs.”
Caro eased away from Roarke, straightened her shoulders. “I didn’t think I should. I haven’t touched anything, Lieutenant, except a glass out of the kitchen. I got Reva a glass of water, but I only touched the glass, and the bottle. Oh, and the handle of the friggie. I—”
“It’s all right. Why don’t you go sit with your daughter? Roarke, stay with them.”
“You’ll be all right with Reva for a few minutes, won’t you?” he asked Caro. “I’ll go with the lieutenant.” Ignoring the flash of irritation over Eve’s face, he gave Caro’s shoulder a comforting rub. “I won’t be long.”
“She said—Reva said it was horrible. And now she just sits there, and doesn’t say anything at all.”
“Keep her quiet,” Eve advised. “Keep her down here.” She started upstairs. She glanced at the leather jacket, ripped to shreds and tossed into a heap on the floor. “Did she tell you which room?”
“No. Just that Reva found them in the bed.”
Eve glanced at the room on the right, another on the left. Then she scented the blood. She continued down the hall, stopped at the doorway.
The two bodies were turned on their sides, facing each other. As if they were telling secrets. Blood stained the sheets, the pillows, the lacy cover that was tangled on the floor.
It stained the hilt and blade of the knife jabbed viciously into the mattress.
She saw a black bag near the door, a high-end stunner on the floor near the left side of the bed, a disordered pile of clothes heaped on a chair. Candles, still lit and wafting fragrance. Music still playing in soft, sexy notes.
“This is no walk in the meadow,” she murmured. “Double homicide. I have to call it in.”
“Will you stand as primary?”
“I’ll stand,” she agreed. “But if your friend did this, that’s not going to be a favor.”
He stepped back while Eve drew out her communicator.
“I need you to take Caro in another room,” she told him when she was finished. “Not the kitchen,” she added with another glance at the knife. “There must be a den or a library or something like that down there. Try not to touch anything. I need to question—what was it? Reva?”
“Reva Ewing, yes.”
“I need to question her, and I don’t want you or her mother around when I do. You want to help her,” she said before he could speak, “let’s keep this as much by the book as we can from this point. You said she’s security.”
“Since she’s one of yours I don’t have to ask if she’s good.”
“She is. Very good.”
“And he was her husband?”
Roarke looked back at the bed. “He was. Blair Bissel, an artist of some debatable talent. Works—worked in metal. That’s one of his, I believe.” He gestured toward a tall, seemingly jumbled series of metal tubes and blocks that stood in the corner of the room.
“And people pay for that?” She shook her head. “Takes all kinds. I’m going to ask you more about her later, but I want to get to her first, then take a closer look at the scene here. How long have they had marital problems?” Eve asked as she started down the hall again.
“I wasn’t aware they had any.”
“Well, they’re over now. Keep Caro tucked away,” she ordered, then walked to the living area to get her first look at Reva Ewing.
Caro sat with her arm around a woman in her early thirties. She had dark hair, cut short in a style nearly as careless as Eve’s. She looked to have a small, compact body, the athletic sort that showed off well in the black T-shirt and jeans she wore.
Her skin was icy white, her eyes a kind of sooty gray that was nearly black with shock. Her lips were colorless, a bit on the thin side. As Eve stepped closer, those eyes flicked up, stared blindly. They were red-rimmed and puffy, and showed none of the sharp intelligence Eve assumed she owned.
“Ms. Ewing, I’m Lieutenant Dallas.”
She continued to stare, but there was a faint movement of her head, as much shudder as nod.
“I need to ask you some questions. Your mother’s going to go with Roarke while we talk.”
“Oh, couldn’t I stay with her?” Caro’s arm tightened on Reva’s shoulders. “I won’t interfere, I promise, but—”
“Caro.” Roarke moved to stand beside her, reached down and took her hand. “It’s better this way.” Gently, he drew Caro to her feet. “Better for Reva. You can trust Eve.”
“Yes, I know. It’s just . . .” She looked back as Roarke led her from the room. “I’ll be right here. Reva, I’m right here.”
“Ms. Ewing.” Eve sat across from her, set her recorder on the table between them. And saw Reva’s gaze fix on it. “I’m going to record this. I’m going to read you your rights, then ask you some questions. Do you understand?”
“Blair’s dead. I saw. They’re dead. Blair and Felicity.”
“Ms. Ewing, you have the right to remain silent.” Eve walked through the revised Miranda, and Reva closed her eyes.
“Oh God, oh God. It’s real. It’s not some horrible dream. It’s real.”
“Tell me what happened here tonight.”
“I don’t know.” A tear dribbled down her cheek. “I don’t know what happened.”
“Was your husband sexually involved with Felicity?”
“I don’t understand it. I don’t understand. I thought he loved me.” Her eyes locked on Eve’s. “I didn’t believe it at first. How could I? Blair and Felicity. My husband and my friend. But then I could see it, could see all the signs I missed, all the clues, all the mistakes—those little mistakes they both made.”
“How long have you known?”
“Just tonight. Just tonight.” Her breath shuddered in and out as she used a balled fist to wipe at the tears on her cheeks. “He was supposed to be out of town until tomorrow. A client, a new commission. But he was here, with her. I came, and I saw . . .”
“You came here tonight to confront them?”
“I was so angry. They’d made a fool out of me, and I was so angry. They broke my heart, and I was so sad. Then they were dead. All that blood. All the blood.”
“Did you kill them, Reva?”
“No!” Her whole body jerked at the question. “No, no, no! I wanted to hurt them. I wanted them to pay. But I didn’t . . . I couldn’t have. I don’t know what happened.”
“Tell me what you do know.”
“I drove over. We have a house in Queens. Blair wanted a house, and he didn’t want to live in Manhattan where we both worked. Someplace private and away, that’s what he said. Someplace just ours.”
Her voice broke on the words so that she covered her face with her hands. “I’m sorry. It all seems impossible. It seems I’ll wake up any minute and none of this will have happened.”
There was some blood on her shirt. None on her hands, on her arms, her face. Eve noted it down among her observations and waited for Reva to compose herself and go on.
“I was furious, and I knew just what I wanted to do. I’d designed the security here, so I knew how to get in. I broke in.”
She dashed a tear off her cheek. “I didn’t want to give them time to prepare, so I broke in, and I went upstairs, to her bedroom.”
“Did you have a weapon?”
“No . . . Well, I had a stunner. My SS issue, reconfigured. It won’t go over minimum power, so I can carry it with a civilian license. I was . . .” She heaved a breath. “I was going to give him a jolt with it. On the balls.”
“And did you?”
“No.” She covered her face with her hands. “I can’t remember clearly. It’s like this smear over my brain.”
“You tear up the leather jacket?”
“Yeah.” She sighed now. “I saw it hanging over the rail. I gave him that goddamn jacket, and seeing it just made me crazy. I took out my minidrill and went to work on it. Petty, I know it was petty, but I was so angry.”
“Doesn’t seem petty to me,” Eve said, keeping her tone mild and just a little sympathetic. “Husband’s cheating on you with your pal, you’d want to get some of your own back.”
“That’s the way I felt. Then I saw them in the bed, together. And I saw them—dead. The blood. I’ve never seen so much blood. She screamed—no, no, I screamed. I must’ve screamed.”
She rubbed a hand over her throat, as if she could still feel the sound ripping through it. “Then I passed out—I think. I smelled something. The blood, but something. Something else, and I passed out. I don’t know how long.”
She reached for the glass of water, drank deeply. “I woke up, and I felt fuzzy and sick and strange. Then I saw them, on the bed. I saw them again and I crawled out. I couldn’t seem to stand up, so I crawled out, to the bathroom and got sick. I called my mother. I don’t know why exactly. I should’ve called the police, but I called Mom. I wasn’t thinking straight.”
“Did you come here tonight with the intention of killing your husband and your friend?”
“No. I came here with the intention of pitching a royal fit. Lieutenant, I’m going to be sick again. I need to—”
She clutched her stomach, then sprang up and ran. Eve was on her heels when Reva flung open a door and dived into a powder room. Dropping to her knees, she was hideously ill.
“Burns,” she managed, and gratefully took the damp cloth Eve offered. “Burns my throat.”
“You take any illegals tonight, Reva?”
“I don’t do illegals.” She mopped the cloth over her face. “Believe me, you’re raised by Caro, screened by the Secret Service, then Roarke, you don’t screw around.” Exhaustion in every line of her body, she leaned back against the wall. “Lieutenant, I’ve never killed anyone. I carried a weapon when I stood for the President, and once took a hit for her. I’ve got a temper, and when I’m riding on it, I can be rash. Whoever did that to Blair, to Felicity, wasn’t rash. They had to be crazy. Fucking out of their minds. I couldn’t have done it. I couldn’t have.”
Eve crouched down so they were eye-to-eye. “Why do you sound like you’re trying to convince yourself of that, Reva, as much as me?”
Her lips trembled, her eyes swam with fresh tears. “Because I can’t remember. I just can’t remember.” She covered her face with her hands, and wept.
Eve left her long enough to get Caro. “I want you to sit with her,” Eve instructed. “I’m going to put a guard with you momentarily. That’s procedure.”
“Are you arresting her?”
“I haven’t made that determination. She’s cooperating, and that’s going to help. It’d be best if you bring her in here, keep her in this room until I come back.”
“All right. Thank you.”
“I’ve got to get my field kit out of the car.”
“I’ll get it.” Roarke walked out with her. “What do you think?”
“I’m not thinking anything until I secure and examine the scene.”
“Lieutenant, you’re always thinking.”
“Let me do my job. You want to help? Direct my partner and the CSU upstairs when they arrive. Until then, you need to back off or you’ll just muck up the works.”
“Tell me one thing. Should I advise Reva to contact a lawyer?”
“You put me in a hell of a fix.” She snatched the field kit from him. “I’m a cop. Let me go be a cop. You figure out the rest. Goddamn it to hell and back again.”
She stomped upstairs. Breaking open the kit, she yanked out a can of Seal-It and coated her hands and boots. Then, fixing a recorder on her lapel, she re-entered the crime scene and got to work.
She’d progressed to the bodies themselves when she heard the creak of a floorboard. She whirled, ready to snap at the intruder, and bit back the oath when she spotted Peabody.
She was going to have to get used to her former aide’s lack of clomping. The new detective no longer wore the hard-soled cop shoes of uniform, but cushy airsneaks that were all but soundless. And just, in Eve’s opinion, a little spooky.
She had them, apparently, in every color of the rainbow, including the mustard yellow she wore now to match her jacket. Despite them, and the straight-legged black pants and scoop-necked top, she managed to look pressed and polished and coplike.
Her square face was sober and concerned, and framed by her standard ’do, the straight bowl cut that seemed to suit her dark hair.
“It’s insult on injury to buy it naked,” Peabody said.
“And embarrassing on top of it to buy it naked with another woman’s husband, or a woman not your wife.”
“Is that what we’ve got? Dispatch wasn’t big on details.”
“I didn’t give them details. Dead guy is Roarke’s admin’s son-in-law, and right at the moment, her daughter’s prime suspect.”
Peabody looked at the bed. “Looks like a messy situation just got messier.”
“Take the scene first, then I’ll fill you in on the players. “Stunner.” She lifted the sealed weapon. “Suspect claims—”
“What? What?” Eve’s free hand slammed onto the butt of her weapon.
“That.” Reaching out, Peabody danced her fingers delicately over the bracelet on Eve’s wrist. “It’s mag. I mean mondo mag, Dallas.”
Mortified, Eve shoved the cuff under the sleeve of her jacket. She’d forgotten she was wearing the bracelet. “Maybe we could concentrate on the scene of the crime rather than my accessories.”
“Sure, but that is some ultimate accessory. Is that big fat red stone a ruby?”
“Okay, okay.” But she was going to get a closer look, when Dallas wasn’t paying attention. “Where were you?”
“Just playing around with evidence, amusing myself at a crime scene.”
Peabody rolled her eyes. “Jeez, beat me with a stick.”
“First chance,” Eve agreed. “To continue. The suspect claims that she brought a stunner with her, a reconfigured one that meets civilian licensee requirements. This is not a reconfigured stunner, but a military issue with full capabilities.”
“Succinct, as always.”
“That’s inscrutable detective-speak.”
“Said weapon, which I’ve already tested for prints, has suspect’s, and only suspect’s prints, all over it. As does the murder weapon.” Eve gestured to another sealed bag, and the bloody knife within. “The carry bag over there holds electronic jammers and burglar tools, also loaded with Reva Ewing’s prints.”
“Is she security savvy?”
“Works in that capacity for Roarke Enterprises, and is a former member of the Secret Service.”
“From the setup, it appears that the suspect broke in, found her husband noodling strange, and hacked away.”
But she moved closer to the bed, the bodies. “No defensive wounds on either vic, no signs of struggle. Somebody starts hacking away, most people tend to object, at least a little.”
“Hard to when you’re stunned first.”
With a fingertip, Eve indicated the small red dots between Blair’s shoulder blades, the matching ones between Felicity’s breasts.
“Him on the back, her on the front,” Peabody noted.
“Yeah. I’d say they were in the middle of noodling strange. Killer walks in behind, zaps him first, shoves him aside and zaps her before she can more than peep. They were unconscious, or at least incapacitated when the hacking began.”
“Serious overkill,” Peabody commented. “There must be a dozen wounds on each of them.”
“Eighteen for him, fourteen for her.”
“I’ll say. No heart wounds, which is interesting. Makes more blood if you don’t hit the heart.”
She studied the way it spread over the sheets, the light spatter on the shade of the lamp beside the bed. Nasty work, she thought. Very nasty, very messy.
“Also interesting that none of the holes in them struck the points where the stunner left the burn marks. Suspect has some blood on her clothes—not much, considering, but some. Hands and arms are clean.”
“She’d have to wash up after something like this.”
“You’d think. You’d think if she did, she’d have gotten rid of the shirt, too. But people dumb down a lot of times after they hack a couple people to death.”
“Her mother’s here,” Peabody pointed out.
“Yeah. So maybe her mother washed her up some, but Caro strikes me as more careful than that. Time of death is one-twelve A.M. We’ll have EDD check the security, see if we can determine when she bypassed and entered. I need you to check the kitchen, see if the murder weapon came from the premises, or if it was brought on scene.”
She paused a moment. “You see what’s left of the leather bomber jacket on the floor down there?”
“Yeah. Looked like nice material.”
“I want it tagged, too. Ewing says she tore it up with her minidrill. Let’s see if that matches.”
“Huh. Why’d she use a drill if she had a knife. Ripping away with a knife’s got to be more satisfying and efficient.”
“Yeah, there’s a question. We’ll also run both vics, see if we can find anyone who’d want them dead besides the betrayed wife.”
Hissing a breath out between her teeth, Peabody looked back at the bodies. “If it’s what it looks like, she’ll make diminished capacity in a walk.”
“Let’s find out what it is, not what it looks like.”
2 “NO. NO, I didn’t wash her hands or face.” Caro sat, eyes level, face composed. But her hands were knotted together in her lap, as if she used them as a rope to anchor her body to the chair.
“I tried to touch as little as possible, and just keep her calm until you got here.”
“Caro.” Eve kept her gaze focused on the woman’s face, and tried to ignore the fact—and the small kernel of resentment in her belly—that Roarke remained in the room. At Caro’s request. “There’s a master bath upstairs, off the main bedroom. There are indications, though the sink was wiped down, that someone washed blood away.”
“I didn’t go upstairs. I give you my word.”
Because she did, because Eve believed her, she realized Caro didn’t understand the implications of her statement. But from the change in Roarke’s posture, the subtle shifting to alert, Eve knew he did.
Because he remained silent, that kernel of resentment shrank a bit.
“There’s blood on Reva’s clothes,” Eve said.
“Yes, I know. I saw . . .” And the understanding dawned in her eyes, followed instantly by a barely controlled panic. “Lieutenant, if Reva—if she used the washroom, it would’ve been while she was in shock. Not to try to cover anything up. You have to believe that. She was in shock.”
Sick, certainly, Eve thought. Her prints were on the bowl and rim of the toilet. Just as they’d be if she’d held on while being violently ill. But not in the master bath. The evidence of her illness was in the bath down the hall from the bedroom.
While the blood traces were in the master bath.
“How did you enter the premises, Caro?”
“How did I . . . oh.” She brushed a hand over her face like a woman brushing absently at a cobweb. “The door, the front door was unlocked. It was open a little.”
“Yes. Yes, the lock light was green, then I saw it wasn’t quite closed, so I just pushed it open and came in.”
“And what was the situation when you entered?”
“Reva was sitting on the floor, in the foyer. Sitting there, in a ball, shaking. She was barely coherent.”
“But she’d been coherent enough when she contacted you for you to understand Blair and Felicity were dead, and she—your daughter—was in trouble.”
“Yes. That is, I understood she needed me, and that Blair—Blair and Felicity—were dead. She said: ‘Mom. Mom, they’re dead. Someone’s killed them.’ She was crying, and her voice was hollow and strange. She said she didn’t know what to do, what should she do. I asked where she was, and she told me. I can’t remember exactly what she said, or I said. But it’s on my ’link at home. You’ll hear for yourself.” Her voice tightened a little.
“Yes, we will.”
“I realize that Reva, then I, should have contacted the police immediately.”
Caro smoothed a hand over the knees of her pajama pants, then simply stared at them as if she’d just realized what she was wearing.
Her cheeks went a little pink, then she sighed. “I can only tell you that both of us, both of us were . . . we weren’t thinking clearly, and only thought to contact the person we each trusted most.”
“Were you aware that your son-in-law was unfaithful?”
“No. No, I was not.” The words snapped out, with anger just behind them. “And before you ask, I knew Felicity quite well, or thought I did,” Caro amended. “I considered her one of Reva’s closest friends, almost a sister. She was often in my home, as I was often in hers.”
“Was she, Felicity, involved with other men?”
“She had a very active social life, and leaned toward artists.” Her mouth went grim as her thoughts veered, obviously, to her son-in-law. “She used to joke that she wasn’t ready to settle on any one style or era—in men or in her art collection. She was, I thought, a clever woman, with a great deal of style and humor. Reva is often so serious and focused on her work. I thought . . . I believed Felicity was a good friend for her, someone who brought out her more frivolous side.”
“Who was Felicity seeing now?”
“I’m not sure. There was a man a few weeks ago. We were all here for one of her Sunday brunches. He was a painter, I think.” She closed her eyes as if to focus. “Yes, a painter. His name was Fredo. She introduced him as Fredo, and he struck me as very dramatic, very foreign and intense. But a few weeks before that, there was another. Thin and pale and brooding. And before that . . .”
She shrugged a shoulder. “She enjoyed men, and from all appearance didn’t develop relationships with any beyond the surface.”
“Is there anyone else who might have had the access codes for this residence?”
“I don’t know of anyone. Felicity was very strict about her security. She wouldn’t employ any staff and kept only droids for domestic work. She used to say people couldn’t be trusted because they always trusted the wrong people. I remember once I told her I found that very sad, and she laughed, and reminded me if it wasn’t true, my daughter wouldn’t have a job.”
Eve saw Peabody come to the doorway, and rose. “Thank you. I’ll need to talk to you again, and I need your permission, on record, to take your home ’links in for examination.”
“You have it, and whatever else you need to clear this up. I want you to know how much I appreciate you handling this personally. I know you’ll find the truth. Can I go to Reva now?”
“It would be better if you waited here, for a little while longer.” She shot a glance at Roarke, so that he understood she meant for him to do the same.
In the hallway, she nodded a go-ahead to Peabody.
“Sweepers got blood out of the bathroom drain upstairs, and Ewing’s print on the bowl, though it had been wiped pretty carefully. The murder weapon doesn’t match the kitchen cutlery here. There’s a pretty fancy set, and nothing appears to be missing.”
She consulted her notes. “Reactivated the house droid. It was shut down at twenty-one-thirty. Prior to that time, it records that Felicity was at home with a companion. She’d programmed the droid not to give names or details. We’ll need to take it in to override.”
“See to it, then. Any blood traces in the second bath upstairs?”
“None. Just Ewing’s prints on the toilet.”
“Okay. Let’s give Ewing a second pass.”
They moved together into the living area where a uniform baby-sat Reva. The minute Eve stepped in, Reva surged to her feet.
“Lieutenant. I’d like to speak with you. Privately.”
Eve gestured for the uniform to leave the room, and spoke without looking at Peabody. “This is my partner, Detective Peabody. What would you like to speak with us about, Ms. Ewing?”
Reva hesitated, then, when Eve sat, let out a resigned breath. “It’s just that my head’s clearing up, and I’ve realized what sort of jam I’m in. And the sort of jam I’ve put my mother in. She only came because I was hysterical. I don’t want any of the mess that’s on me to rub off on her.”
“Don’t worry about your mother. No one’s looking to hurt her in this.”
“Okay.” Reva gave a short nod. “Okay, then.”
“You said when you pulled back the covers, you saw the bodies, the blood.”
“Yes. I saw they were dead. I knew they were dead. Had to be.”
“Where was the knife?”
“The murder weapon. Where was it?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t see a knife. Just Blair and Felicity.”
“Peabody, would you show Ms. Ewing the weapon we’ve taken into evidence.”
Peabody drew out the sealed knife, walked over to show it to Reva. “Do you recognize this knife, Ms. Ewing?”
Reva stared at the smeared blade, the smeared handle, then lifted her gaze, full of stunned confusion, to Eve’s. “It’s Blair’s. It’s one of the set he bought last year, when he decided we should both take cooking classes. I told him to go right ahead, but I’d stick with the AutoChef or take-out. He actually took the classes, and did some cooking now and then. This looks like one of his kitchen knives.”
“Did you bring it with you tonight, Reva? Were you so angry that you put it in your bag, maybe to threaten them, to scare them?”
“No.” She took a step back from it. “No, I didn’t bring it.”
This time Eve held out an evidence bag. “Is this your stunner?”
“No.” Reva’s fingers curled into her palms. “That’s a recent military model. Mine’s over six years old, a reconfigured Secret Service make. That doesn’t belong to me. I’ve never seen it before.”
“Both this and the knife were used on the victims. Both this and the knife have your fingerprints on them.”
“This is crazy.”
“The violence of the stabbings would have resulted in considerable blood spatter. On your hands, your arms, your face, as well as your clothes.”
Dully now, Reva looked down at her hands, rubbed them gently together. “I know there’s blood on my shirt. I don’t know . . . Maybe I touched something up there. I don’t remember. But I didn’t kill them. I never touched that knife, that stunner. There’s no blood on my hands.”
“There’s blood in the bathroom drain, and your fingerprints are on the sink.”
“You think I washed my hands? You think I tried to clean up, cover up, then called my mother?”
Eve could tell that Reva’s head was clearing, and her temper was coming back along with her coherency. Those dark eyes were hot, and her teeth clamped together as her color came up. “What the hell do you think I am? You think I’d rip my husband and my friend to pieces, to goddamn pieces because they made a fool out of me? And if I did, I wouldn’t have the fucking sense to get rid of the murder weapon and cover myself? For God’s sake, they were dead. They were dead when I got here.”
She pushed out of her chair as she spat out the words, and the anger so alive on her face pushed her to whirl around the room. “What the hell is going on? What the hell is this?”
“Why did you come here tonight, Reva?”
“To confront them, to shout and yell and maybe to knee Blair in the balls. To slap Felicity in that gorgeous, lying face. To break something and create one hell of an ugly scene.”
“Because I only found out tonight, goddamn it.”
“How? How did you find out?”
Reva stopped, stared at Eve as if trying to understand some odd, half-remembered language. “The package. Oh Jesus, the photographs and the receipts. There was a package delivered to my house. I was already in bed. It was early, just after eleven, but I was bored and went to bed. I heard the bell from the gate. It irritated me. I couldn’t think who’d be coming by at eleven, but I went down. There was a package left at the gate. I went out and got it.”
“Did you see anyone?”
“No. Just the package, and being a suspicious sort, I ran a scanner over it. I didn’t expect a boomer,” she said with a wry smile, “but, it’s habit. I got the all-clear and brought it in. I thought it was from Blair. An I-already-miss-you present. He did that sort of thing—silly, romantic . . .”
She trailed off, struggled as her eyes went shiny with tears. “I just figured it was from him, and I opened it up. There were photographs, a lot of surveillance-type shots of Blair with Felicity. Intimate, unmistakable sort of photos of the two of them, and copies of receipts from hotels and restaurants. Shit.”
She pressed her fingers to her lips. “Receipts for jewelry and lingerie he’d bought—and not for me. All from an account I didn’t know he had. And there were two discs—one of ’link calls between them, one of e-mail text they’d exchanged. Love calls, love letters—very intimate and graphic.”
“There was nothing to indicate who’d send these things to you.”
“No, and I didn’t look or even wonder at the time. I was too shocked and angry and hurt. The last transmission on the disc was the two of them talking about how they were going to have two days together, right here in her place while I thought he was out of town. They laughed at me,” she murmured. “Had a good laugh over how oblivious I was to what was going on right under my nose. Some security expert who couldn’t even keep tabs on her own husband.”
She sat again, heavily. “This doesn’t make sense. It’s just crazy. Who would kill them, and set me up to take the fall?”
“Where’s the package?” Eve asked her.
“In my ride. I brought it with me in case I softened up on the way over, though there wasn’t much chance of it. It’s in the passenger seat where I could see it.”
Reva waited until Peabody walked outside to retrieve the package. “It doesn’t make me look any less guilty. I get proof my husband’s diddling my best friend, find out they have a rendezvous tonight, and I come over here, armed and ready. I walked right into this. I don’t know how or why I was set up. I don’t know why you’d believe me when I tell you I was set up. But that’s the truth.”
“I’m going to have to take you in. I’m going to have to charge you. The charge is going to be Murder in the First, two counts.” She watched Reva’s color drain. “I don’t know you,” Eve continued, “but I know your mother, and I know Roarke. Neither of them are pushovers. They both believe in you, so here’s what I’m going to tell you. Off record. Get a lawyer. Get a damn good fleet of lawyers. And don’t lie to me. Don’t lie to me about anything I might ask you. Those lawyers are good enough, they’ll have you out on bond first thing in the morning. Stay clean, stay straight, and stay available to me. You hide something, I’ll find it, and that’ll piss me off.”
“I’ve got nothing to hide.”
“You might think of something. If and when you do, think again. I want you to volunteer for a Truth Test, third level. It’s hell, it’s intrusive, and it can be painful, but if you’ve got nothing to hide and you’re being straight with me, you’ll pass it. A third level will weigh heavy on your side.”
She closed her eyes, breathed deep. “I can handle third level.”
Eve smiled thinly. “Don’t go in with a chip on your shoulder. I’ve been there, and it’s going to flatten you. I can get a warrant to search your house, your office, your vehicles, everything. But if you give me permission to do so, on record, that’s going to weigh, too.”
“I’m putting a hell of a lot in your hands, Dallas.”
“It’s in them anyway.”
She took Reva in, booked her. Due to the hour she could opt, without breaking procedure, to continue their interview until morning. But she still had work, and she still had Roarke.
She walked through the bull pen in Homicide where the scatter of detectives on graveyard shift yawned their way through the last couple of hours of work. As she expected, Roarke waited in her office.
“I need to speak with you,” he began.
“Figured. Don’t speak until I have coffee.” She went directly to the AutoChef, programmed a double serving, strong and black.
He stood where he was, only turned to stare out of her miserly window at the fitful predawn traffic. As she drank, she could all but see impatience and outrage snaking out of his skin like lightning bolts.
“I arranged it so Caro could have fifteen minutes with her. That’s the best I can do. Then you need to take Caro out of here, take her home, settle her down. You’ll know how.”
“She’s out of her mind with worry.”
“I expect she is.”
“You expect?” He turned around then, slowly. Slowly enough for her to understand his temper was on its shortest, thinnest leash. “You’ve just booked her only child for two first-degree murders. You have her daughter in a cage.”
“And did you think because you’re fond of them, and I of you, I’d just let her waltz into the night when I have her prints all over a murder weapon? When I have her on the scene of a double murder and the victims just happen to be her husband and her pal, both naked in bed? When she fucking admits she broke in after learning he was sticking it to her good pal Felicity?”
She took a deep gulp of the coffee, gestured toward him with the cup. “Hey, maybe I should’ve pulled the religious cop routine, and nudged her out the door with the advice to go forth and sin no more.”
“She didn’t kill anyone. It’s obvious Reva was set up, and that whoever killed them marked her for it, planned it out and left her twisting in the wind.”
“I happen to agree with you.”
“And locking her up only gives whoever did this time and opportunity to—what?”
“I said I agree with you, about the setup. But not with what you didn’t quite finish saying there.” She drank more coffee, slower this time, letting it slide deliciously into her system. “I’m not giving whoever did this the time and opportunity to get away. I’m giving them the time and opportunity to think they’ll get away—and keeping Reva safe in the meantime. And following the pesky little letter of the law while I’m at it. I’m doing my job, so get off my back.”
He sat because he was suddenly tired, and because he, too, was sick with worry over the mother, the daughter. Both of whom he considered his responsibility. “You believed her.”
“Yeah, I believed her. And I believe my own eyes.”
“I’m sorry. I seem to be a little dull this morning. What did your own eyes tell you?”
“That it was too staged. The scene. Like a vid set. Viciously murdered naked couple, knife—from the prime suspect’s own kitchen, sticking out of the mattress. Blood in the bathroom drain, suspect’s print on the sink—one little spot she just happened to miss on the wipe-down. Her prints all over the weapons, just in case the investigating officer needs to be led by the fucking nose.”
“And you certainly don’t. Should I apologize for doubting you?”
“You get a free one, seeing as it’s five in the morning and we’ve put in a long night.” She felt generous enough to give him the coffee, and program another mug for herself. “Classy frame job for the most part, though. Whoever did it had to know your girl—what she does for a living, how she reacts. Had to be dead sure she’d rush over to her pal’s house with blood in her eye. That she’d bypass security. Might have figured she’d just beat on the door first, but that she wouldn’t turn around and slink off home when nobody answered. But they missed a few.”
“If she’d walked in with a big, nasty knife in her hand, she wouldn’t have dug into her bag of tricks for a minidrill to go at the jacket. If she washed up, why’d she use the other upstairs bath to get sick? Why leave her prints there? How come there’s no blood in her hair? Spatter hits the lamp, some of the wall, and to do what she did, she’d have been right on top of them, but there’s no spatter in her hair. She wash that, too? Then why didn’t the sweepers find any of her hair in the bathroom drains?
“You’re very thorough.”
“That’s why they pay me the big bucks. Whoever did this knows her, Roarke, and the victims. Wanted one or the other of them dead, maybe both. Or maybe just want Reva Ewing doing life in a cage. That’s a puzzler.”
She sat on the corner of her desk sipping her coffee. “I’m going to turn her life inside out, and do the same job on the victims. At least one of them is the key. Whoever did it surveilled the vics, got the photos, the discs. Good quality. And they got into the house as slick as Reva did, so security’s no problem for them. Had a military-style stunner. I need it analyzed yet, but I’m betting it’s no black market knockoff. They think the cop’s going to step into that scene and gobble all that shit right up, then go eat a fricking doughnut.”
“Not my cop.”
“Not any cop in this division or that cop deserves a boot up the ass,” Eve said with feeling. “When something looks that perfect on the surface, it never is down below. Whoever set this up was just a little too creative. Maybe he figured she’d run. That when she woke up, she’d panic and run. But she didn’t. I’m having the medicals go over her, see if she was knocked out, or given a dose of something that knocked her out. She doesn’t strike me as the fainting type.”
“I wouldn’t think so.”
Still sipping, she looked at him over the rim of her mug. “You’re going to get in my face on this again?”
“I am, yes.” He touched her arm, ran his hand down it, then let her go. “Both Caro and Reva are important to me. I’ll ask you to let me help. If you refuse, I’ll go around you. I’ll be sorry for it, but I’ll do it. Caro isn’t just an employee to me, Eve. She’s asked me for help, and she’s never asked me for anything before. Not once in all the years she’s been with me. I can’t step aside on this, not even for you.”
She took another contemplative sip. “If you could step aside on this, even for me, you wouldn’t be the man I fell for in the first place, would you?”
He set his coffee down, stepped over to frame her face in his hands. “Remember this moment, won’t you, the next time you’re furious with me? And I’ll do the same.” He lowered his head to press his lips to her forehead.
“I’ll send you my files on both Caro and Reva, which contain considerable personal data. And I’ll get you more.”
“That’s a good start.”
“Caro asked me to do so.” He eased back. “I would’ve done it anyway, but it’s easier all around that she asked. You’ll find, in your dealings with her, she is scrupulous.”
“How’d she get that way working for you?”
He grinned now. “A paradox, isn’t it? You’ll call Feeney in?”
“I’m going to need ace EDD men, so yeah, it’ll be Feeney—and he’ll bring in McNab.”
“I could help with the electronics.”
“If Feeney wants you, he can have you. I’ll clear it with the commander. But you know it’s going to be touchy, your connection to the suspect. If I don’t convince Commander Whitney this is a frame, he’s not going to go along, even unofficially.”
“My money’s on you.”
“Let’s take it a step at a time. Get Caro home.”
“I will. I’m going to clear my calendar as much as possible until this is finished.”
“You paying for the lawyers?”
“She won’t let me.” A shadow of annoyance rippled over his face. “Neither of them will budge in that particular area.”
“One more. Did you and Reva ever tango?”
“Do you mean were we ever lovers? No.”
“Good. Slightly less sticky that way. Clear out,” she ordered. “I’ve got to round up my partner and drive to Queens.”
“Could I ask a question first?”
“Make it snappy.”
“If you’d walked into that scene tonight, and there’d been no connection, would you have looked at it the same way?”
“There was no connection when I walked onto the scene,” she told him. “That’s how I could see it for what it was. I couldn’t take you in with me, not literally, not in my head. You’d’ve done the same.”
“I like to think so.”
“You would have. You know how to be cold when you have to be. I mean that in a good way.”
“I believe you do,” he said with a half laugh.
“I did let you in a minute after I stepped out of it.”
“I thought: If Roarke had set this up, nobody would’ve seen the frame. Whoever did it should’ve taken lessons.”
This time he did laugh, and she was pleased to see some of the worry warm out of his eyes. “Well now, that is high praise.”
“Just calling them as I see them, and another reason I’ve agreed to use you. I want to find out the how and why of a classy frame, I might as well make use of somebody who’d know the hows and whys. Start thinking about what Reva’s working on for you—or what she has been working on, or will be.”
“I already am.”
“See, just one more reason. You’re going to want a bodyguard for Caro, just in case. She’d prefer private to a cop.”
“It’s already done.”
“And the reasons just keep on ticking. Beat it.”
“Since you ask so nice.” He kissed her first, a soft touch of mouth to mouth. “Get something decent to eat,” he called out as he left.
And though her gaze went to the ceiling tile where she was currently hiding her candy stash, she didn’t think that was quite what he had in mind.
3 SHE WAS EXPECTING a midlevel suburban house. The Ewing-Bissel place was several steps up from mid. It was a very contemporary streamlined white box on box behind a recycled-stone riot fence. Lots of one-way glass and sharp angles.
The entrance area was that same recycled stone, tinted a strong red. There were ornamental trees and shrubs growing out of large pots and several odd metal sculptures she attributed to Blair Bissel.
But it struck her as cold, and more pretentious than gingerbread and gilt.
“Ewing knows her security,” Peabody commented after they’d dealt with the layers of it just to get through the riot wall. “Fancy digs, too, if you go for this kind of thing.”
“Uh-uh.” Peabody grimaced as they walked over the red stone lawn. “This kind of design makes me think of a prison, and I can’t quite figure out if it keeps people in, or keeps them out. And the art.”
She stopped to study a squat metal shape with eight spindly legs and an elongated triangular head, lined with sparkling teeth.
“We’ve got a lot of artists in the family,” Peabody went on. “A couple who work primarily in metals, and some of the stuff’s odd. But it’s . . . interesting odd and usually kind of fun or poignant.”
“Yeah, really. But this, I guess it’s a cross between a watchdog and a spider. It’s creepy, and a little mean. And what about that?”