Fantasy in Death (In Death Series #30)

Fantasy in Death (In Death Series #30)

by J. D. Robb
Fantasy in Death (In Death Series #30)

Fantasy in Death (In Death Series #30)

by J. D. Robb

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In this thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling In Death series, it's game over for the criminals who cross Lieutenant Eve Dallas as she investigates the murder of a virtual reality wunderkind.

Bart Minnock, founder of the computer gaming giant U-Play, is found in his locked private playroom, in a pool of blood, his head separated from his body. Despite his violent end, Eve can’t find anyone—girlfriend and business partners included—who seemed to have a problem with the enthusiastic, high-spirited millionaire.

Of course gaming, like any business, has its fierce rivalries and dirty tricks—as Eve’s husband, Roarke, one of U-Play’s competitors, knows well. But Minnock was not naïve, and he knew how to fight back in the real world as well as the virtual one.

Eve and her team are about to enter the next level of police work, in a world where fantasy is the ultimate seduction—and the price of defeat is death...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425235898
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/27/2010
Series: In Death (Eve Dallas) Series
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 29,339
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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

Read an Excerpt

Lieutenant Eve Dallas badged the shell-shocked doorman and breezed by. The sun and sultry heat left over from the night’s storms boosted her mood. At her side, her partner, Peabody, wilted.

“A couple months ago all you did was bitch about the cold. Now you bitch about the heat. Never satisfied.”

Peabody, her dark hair pulled back in a stubby tail, continued to bitch. “Why can’t they regulate the temperature?”

“Who are they?”

“The weather people. We must have the technology. Why not give us at least a couple weeks of steady mid-seventies? It’s not too much to ask. You could get Roarke to work on it.”

“Oh yeah, I’ll tell him to get on that, right after he buys up the last ten percent of the universe.” Eve rocked back on her heels as they took the elevator up, and thought of her husband of almost two years.

Actually, he probably could figure something. “If you want regulated temps, get a job where you work inside with climate control.”

“June’s supposed to be daisies and wafty breezes.” Peabody waved a hand in the air. “Instead we’re getting thunder boomers and humiture to kill."

“I like the boomers.”

Peabody’s dark eyes narrowed as she studied Eve’s angular face. “You probably had lots of sex last night. You’re almost perky.”

“Shut up. I’m never perky.”

“Almost. You’re verging on perk.”

“You’re verging on a boot up the ass.”

“That’s better anyway.”

Amused despite herself, Eve straightened her long, lean frame, then strode out the elevator when the doors whisked open.

The uniforms in the hallway came to attention. “Lieutenant.”

“Officer. What have we got?”

“Victim’s Bart Minnock, the U-Play guy.”

“You play what?”

“U-Play, sir, it’s the comp and holo-game company. The girlfriend found him this morning. He stood her up last night, she says, and she came to read him the riot act. House droid let her in, and when she got here he was locked in his holo-room, got the droid to open it up.” The uniform paused. “I think you’re going to want to see for yourself.”

“Where’s the girlfriend?”

“CeeCee Rove. We’ve got her inside, and an officer’s with her. Got the droid on hold.”

“We’ll take the scene first.” She stepped inside, scanned. What she could see of the first level struck her as a clubhouse for a very rich, very indulgent adolescent boy.

Bright, primary colors with more cushion than structure, walls of screens, games, and more games, toys—heavy on the war toys. Not a living area so much as a big playroom. She supposed, given his profession, it fit.

“Third floor, LT. There’s an elevator.”

“We’ll take the stairs.”

“It’s like a personal fun park,” Peabody commented as they started up. “McNab would weep with joy and envy,” she added, thinking of her main man. “I’ve got to say, it’s pretty frosty.”

“He might live like a kid, but he had very grown-up security on the door.” She detoured on the second level long enough to determine the master bedroom was another playground, the guest rooms equipped for plenty of entertainment. He kept a home office that reminded her of a small version of Roarke’s home computer lab, but with more fanciful touches.

“Serious about his work,” she murmured. “Lived his work.” She backtracked to the stairs and up to the officer on the door of the holo-room.

“This door was secured?”

“The girlfriend states it was, sir, and the coms shut down. The droid confirms. It had emergency bypass clearance. The log shows the victim entering, then securing the room at sixteen thirty-three. No other entry or attempted entry until nine-eighteen this morning.”

“Okay.” Both Eve and Peabody opened their field kits, sealed up.

“Record on,” she said and stepped to the doorway.

She wasn’t often surprised. She’d been a cop nearly a dozen years, and though she knew she hadn’t seen it all—you never did—she’d seen plenty.

But her long brown eyes widened briefly as she took in the scene.

“Now, this is something you don’t see every day.”

“Man. Oh, man.” Peabody sucked in a sharp breath.

“Don’t even think about booting.”

“Have to think about it.” Peabody swallowed hard. “Won’t do it.”

The body lay sprawled, arms and legs splayed in the bloody pool that spread over the floor. The head sat several feet away, the filmed eyes wide, the mouth in a gaping O.

“It must be said the victim lost his head, which is a pretty good guess for cause of death. Alone in a secured holo-room, no weapons. Interesting. Well, let’s have a look.”

She heard Peabody swallow again.

“Take the play board, see what he programmed,” she ordered. “And I want all security discs and logs, building and for this unit.”

“On that,” Peabody said, grateful for the reprieve as Eve crossed to the body.

For the record, Eve verified the fingerprints. “Victim is identified as Bart Minnock of this address, age twenty-nine.” She pulled out a pair of microgoggles. “From the on-scene exam, it appears the head was severed with a single, powerful blow. No signs of sawing or hacking.” She ignored the discreet gagging sound from Peabody’s direction. “In addition, the victim incurred a six-inch gash on his left forearm. There’s some bruising, but none of those wounds would’ve been fatal. ME to confirm. Morris is going to love this one,” she added, then rose to examine the head.

“Had to be a hell of a blade—big, sharp bastard, to decapitate this clean. A lot of force behind it. The secondary gash could’ve come from the same weapon. Glancing blow sort of thing. Defensive wound. The bruising’s pretty minor.”

She sat back on her heels, the head at her feet. “There’s nothing in here that could’ve caused these wounds. No way he could’ve cut his own head off, deliberately or by accident with what he had to work with.”

“I can’t get it to run,” Peabody told her. “The program. The disc won’t even eject without the proper security sequence. All I’ve got is the log-in time and program end time. It ran for just over thirty minutes, and ended at seventeen-eleven.”

“So he came home, came up here almost directly, programmed the game. It looks like it, and he, ran for the thirty minutes. We need an e-team and the sweepers in here. I want the ME to red-flag the tox screen. Maybe somebody slipped him something, influenced him to bypass his own security, somehow keep it off the logs. Set it up, then take the droid. I’ll take the girlfriend.”

Eve found CeeCee in the media room on the first level. A pretty blond with an explosion of curls, she sat in one of the roomy chairs. It dwarfed her, even with her legs tucked up, and her hands clasped in her lap. Her eyes—big, bright, and blue—were red-rimmed, puffy, and still carried the glassiness of shock.

Eve dismissed the officer with a nod, then crossed over to sit.

“Ms. Rove?”

“Yes. I’m supposed to stay here. Somebody took my ’link. I should tag somebody, shouldn’t I? Somebody.”

“We’ll get that back to you. I’m Lieutenant Dallas. Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

“I told somebody.” CeeCee looked around vaguely. “The other police. I’ve been thinking. Is Bart playing a joke? He does that sometimes. Plays jokes. He likes to pretend. Is this all pretend?”

“No, it’s not.” Eve took the chair facing so her gaze would be level with CeeCee’s. “You were supposed to meet him last night?”

“At my place. At eight. I made dinner. We were going to have dinner at my place because I like to cook. Well, sometimes. But he didn’t come.”

“What did you do?”

“He can be late. It’s okay. He gets caught up. Sometimes I’m late, so it’s okay. But he didn’t come, and he didn’t answer the ’link. I tried his office, too, but Benny said he left a little after four to work at home for a bit.”


“Benny Leman. He works with Bart, and he was still there. They work late, a lot. They like to.”

“Did you come over here to find out what he was doing?”

“No. I almost did. I got pretty steamed because I went to a lot of trouble, you know? I mean I cooked, and I got wine and candles, everything.” She drew in a breath that hitched and stuttered. “And he didn’t come or let me know he’d be late. He forgets, and that’s okay, but he always answers his ’link, or remembers before it’s really late. He sets reminders. But I was pretty steamed, and it was storming. I thought, ‘I’m not going out in this.’ So I drank some wine and I ate dinner, and I went to bed. Screw it.”

She covered her face, keening a little, rocking herself while Eve stayed silent. “I just said screw it, screw you, Bart, because I’d made a really nice dinner. But this morning, I was really, really steamed because he never came or tried to reach me, and I didn’t have to be to work till ten, so I came by. I thought, okay, that’s okay, we’re going to have our first big fight because that’s no way to treat somebody. Is it?”

“No. How long have you been seeing each other?”

“Almost six months.”

“And this would’ve been your first big fight? Seriously?”

CeeCee smiled a little even as tears continued to drip. “I got a little bit steamed once in a while, but you can’t stay mad at Bart. He’s such a sweetie. But this time, I was laying it down. Leia let me in.”

“Who’s Leia?”

“Oh, his house droid. He had her designed to look like the Star Wars character. From Return of the Jedi.”


“Anyway, she said he was in the holo-room, fully secured, and had the coms down. DO NOT DISTURB. That according to her morning log, he’d been in there since about four-thirty or something the day before. So I got worried. Like maybe he’d gotten sick in there, or passed out, and I convinced her to bypass.”

“You convinced a droid?”

“Bart programmed her to listen to me after we’d been tight for a few months. Plus he’d been in over his twelve-hour limit. Then she opened the room, and . . .”

Her lips trembled; her eyes welled anew. “How can it be real? First I thought it was, and I screamed. Then I thought it was a joke, or a droid, and I almost got steamed again. Then I saw it was Bart. It was Bart. And it was horrible.”

“What did you do?”

“I think I kind of fainted. But, like, on my feet. I don’t know, for a second or a minute everything went black and swirly, and when it wasn’t, I ran.” Tears streamed down her cheeks even as she flushed. “I ran downstairs. I almost fell, but I got downstairs and I called nine-one-one. Leia made me sit down, and she made me tea. She said there’d been an accident and we had to wait for the police. That would be in her programming,I guess. But it can’t be an accident. How can it be an accident? But it has to be.”

“Do you know anyone who’d want to hurt Bart?”

“How could anyone want to hurt Bart? He’s just a big kid. A really smart big kid.”

“How about family?”

“His parents live in North Carolina. He bought them a house on the beach because they always wanted one, once U-Play took off. Oh God, oh God, his parents! Somebody has to tell them.”

“I’ll take care of that.”

“Okay, okay.” She shut her eyes tight. “Good. Because I don’t think I could. I don’t know how. I don’t know how to do any of this.”

“What about you? Old boyfriends?”

Her eyes popped open. “Oh God, no. I mean, yes, I had boyfriends before Bart, but nobody who’d . . . I never had the kind of breakup that would . . . I wasn’t seeing anybody special or regular before I hooked up with Bart.”

“How about at his business? Did he have to let anyone go recently, or reprimand anyone?”

“I don’t think so.” She swiped at her cheeks now as her brow furrowed in thought. “He never said anything to me, and he would’ve. I think. He hated confrontations, except in a game. He’d have told me if he’d had trouble with anyone at work, I really think. He’s a happy guy, you know? He makes other people happy, too. How could it happen? I don’t know how this could happen. Do you?”

“Not yet.”


Excerpted from "Fantasy in Death"
by .
Copyright © 2010 J. D. Robb.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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