Fame then was cheap . . .
And they have kept it since, by being dead.
Chok’d with ambition of the meaner sort.
The dead were her business. She lived with them, worked with them, studied them. She dreamed of them. And because that didn’t seem to be enough, in some deep, secret chamber of her heart, she mourned for them.
A decade as a cop had toughened her, given her a cold, clinical, and often cynical eye toward death and its many causes. It made scenes such as the one she viewed now, on a rainy night on a dark street nasty with litter, almost too usual. But still, she felt.
Murder no longer shocked, but it continued to repel.
The woman had been lovely once. Long trails of her golden hair spread out like rays on the dirty sidewalk. Her eyes, wide and still with that distressed expression death often left in them, were a deep purple against cheeks bloodlessly white and wet with rain.
She’d worn an expensive suit, the same rich color as her eyes. The jacket was neatly buttoned in contrast to the jerked-up skirt that exposed her trim thighs. Jewels glittered on her fingers, at her ears, against the sleek lapel of the jacket. A leather bag with a gold clasp lay near her outstretched fingers.
Her throat had been viciously slashed.
Lieutenant Eve Dallas crouched down beside death and studied it carefully. The sights and scents were familiar, but each time, every time, there was something new. Both victim and killer left their own imprint, their own style, and made murder personal.
The scene had already been recorded. Police sensors and the more intimate touch of the privacy screen were in place to keep the curious barricaded and to preserve the murder site. Street traffic, such as it was in this area, had been diverted. Air traffic was light at this hour of the night and caused little distraction. The backbeat from the music of the sex club across the street thrummed busily in the air, punctuated by the occasional howl from the celebrants. The colored lights from its revolving sign pulsed against the screen, splashing garish colors over the victim’s body.
Eve could have ordered it shut down for the night, but it seemed an unnecessary hassle. Even in 2058 with the gun ban, even though genetic testing often weeded out the more violent hereditary traits before they could bloom, murder happened. And it happened with enough regularity that the fun seekers across the street would be miffed at the idea of being moved along for such a minor inconvenience as death.
A uniform stood by continuing video and audio. Beside the screen a couple of forensics sweepers huddled against the driving rain and talked shop and sports. They hadn’t bothered to look at the body yet, hadn’t recognized her.
Was it worse, Eve wondered, and her eyes hardened as she watched the rain wash through blood, when you knew the victim?
She’d had only a professional relationship with Prosecuting Attorney Cicely Towers, but enough of one to have formed a strong opinion of a strong woman. A successful woman, Eve thought, a fighter, one who had pursued justice doggedly.
Had she been pursuing it here, in this miserable neighborhood?
With a sigh, Eve reached over and opened the elegant and expensive bag to corroborate her visual ID. “Cicely Towers,” she said for the recorder. “Female, age forty-five, divorced. Resides twenty-one thirty-two East Eighty-third, number Sixty-one B. No robbery. Victim still wearing jewelry. Approximately . . .” She flipped through the wallet. “Twenty in hard bills, fifty credit tokens, six credit cards left at scene. No overt signs of struggle or sexual assault.”
She looked back at the woman sprawled on the sidewalk. What the hell were you doing out here, Towers? she wondered. Here, away from the power center, away from your classy home address?
And dressed for business, she thought. Eve knew Cicely Towers’s authoritative wardrobe well, had admired it in court and at City Hall. Strong colors—always camera ready—coordinated accessories, always with a feminine touch.
Eve rose, rubbed absently at the wet knees of her jeans.
“Homicide,” she said briefly. “Bag her.”
It was no surprise to Eve that the media had caught the scent of murder and were already hunting it down before she’d reached the glossy building where Cicely Towers had lived. Several remotes and eager reporters were camped on the pristine sidewalk. The fact that it was three A.M. and raining buckets didn’t deter them. In their eyes, Eve saw the wolf gleam. The story was the prey, ratings the trophy.
She could ignore the cameras that swung in her direction, the questions shot out like stinging darts. She was almost used to the loss of her anonymity. The case she had investigated and closed during the past winter had catapulted her into the public eye. The case, she thought now as she aimed a steely glance at a reporter who had the nerve to block her path, and her relationship with Roarke.
The case had been murder. And violent death, however exciting, soon passed out of the public interest.
But Roarke was always news.
“What do you have, Lieutenant? Do you have a suspect? Is there a motive? Can you confirm that Prosecuting Attorney Towers was decapitated?”
Eve slowed her ground-eating stride briefly and swept her gaze over the huddle of soggy, feral-eyed reporters. She was wet, tired, and revolted, but she was careful. She’d learned that if you gave the media any part of yourself, it squeezed it, twisted it, and wrung it dry.
“The department has no comment at this time other than that the investigation into Prosecuting Attorney Towers’s death is proceeding.”
“Are you in charge of the case?”
“I’m primary,” she said shortly, then swung between the two uniforms guarding the entrance to the building.
The lobby was full of flowers: long banks and flows of fragrant, colorful blooms that made her think of spring in some exotic place—the island where she had spent three dazzling days with Roarke while she’d recovered from a bullet wound and exhaustion.
She didn’t take time to smile over the memory, as she would have under other circumstances, but flashed her badge and moved across the terra-cotta tiles to the first elevator.
There were more uniforms inside. Two were behind the lobby desk handling the computerized security, others watched the entrance, still others stood by the elevator tubes. It was more manpower than necessary, but as PA, Towers had been one of their own.
“Her apartment’s secured?” Eve asked the closest cop.
“Yes, sir. No one’s been in or out since your call at oh two ten.”
“I’ll want copies of the security discs.” She stepped into the elevator. “For the last twenty-four hours, to start.” She glanced down at the name on his uniform. “I want a detail of six, for door-to-doors beginning at seven hundred, Biggs. Floor sixty-one,” she ordered, and the elevator’s clear doors closed silently.
She stepped out into the sixty-first’s lush carpet and museum quiet. The halls were narrow, as they were in most multihabitation buildings erected within the last half century. The walls were a flawless creamy white with mirrors at rigid intervals to lend the illusion of space.
Space was no problem within the units, Eve mused. There were only three on the entire floor. She decoded the lock on 61-B using her Police and Security master card and stepped into quiet elegance.
Cicely Towers had done well for herself, Eve decided. And she liked to live well. As Eve took the pocket video from her field kit and clipped it onto her jacket, she scanned the living area. She recognized two paintings by a prominent twenty-first century artist hanging on the pale rose-toned wall above a wide U-shaped conversation area done in muted stripes of pinks and greens. It was her association with Roarke that had her identifying the paintings and the easy wealth in the simplicity of decor and selected pieces.
How much does a PA pull in per year? she wondered as the camera recorded the scene.
Everything was tidy, meticulously so. But then, Eve reflected, from what she knew of Towers, the woman had been meticulous. In her dress, in her work, in maintaining her privacy.
So, what had an elegant, smart, and meticulous woman been doing in a nasty neighborhood in the middle of a nasty night?
Eve walked through the room. The floor was white wood and shone like a mirror beneath lovely rugs that echoed the dominant colors of the room. On a table were framed holograms of children in varying stages of growth, from babyhood on through to the college years. A boy and girl, both pretty, both beaming.
Odd, Eve thought. She’d worked with Towers on countless cases over the years. Had she known the woman had children? With a shake of her head, she walked over to the small computer built into a stylish workstation in the corner of the room. Again she used her master card to engage it.
“List appointments for Cicely Towers, May two.” Eve’s lips pursed as she read the data. An hour at an upscale private health club prior to a full day in court followed by a six o’clock with a prominent defense attorney, then a dinner engagement. Eve’s brow lifted. Dinner with George Hammett.
Roarke had dealings with Hammett, Eve remembered. She’d met him now twice and knew him to be a charming and canny man who made his rather exorbitant living with transportation.
And Hammett was Cicely Towers’s final appointment of the day.
“Print,” she murmured and tucked the hard copy in her bag.
She tried the tele-link next, requesting all incoming and outgoing calls for the past forty-eight hours. It was likely she would have to dig deeper, but for now she ordered a recording of the calls, tucked the disc away, and began a long, careful search of the apartment.
By five A.M., her eyes were gritty and her head ached. The single hour’s sleep she had managed to tuck in between sex and murder was beginning to wear on her.
“According to known information,” she said wearily for the recorder, “the victim lived alone. No indication from initial investigation to the contrary. No indication that the victim left her apartment other than voluntarily, and no record of an appointment that would explain why the victim traveled to the location of the murder. Primary has secured data from her computer and tele-link for further investigation. Door-to-doors will begin at oh seven hundred and building security discs will be confiscated. Primary is leaving victim’s residence and will be en route to victim’s offices in City Hall. Lieutenant Dallas, Eve. Oh five oh eight.”
Eve switched off the audio and video, secured her field kit, and headed out.
It was past ten when she made it back to Cop Central. In concession to her hollow stomach, she zipped through the eatery, disappointed but not surprised to find most of the good stuff long gone by that hour. She settled for a soy muffin and what the eatery liked to pretend was coffee. As bad as it was, she downed everything before she settled in her office.
It was just as well, as her ’link beeped instantly.
She bit back a sigh as she stared into Whitney’s wide, grim-eyed face. “Commander.”
“My office, now.”
There wasn’t time to close her mouth before the screen went blank.
The hell with it, she thought. She scrubbed her hands over her face, then through her short, choppy brown hair. There went any chance of checking her messages, of calling Roarke to let him know what she was into, or of the ten-minute catnap she’d been fantasizing about.
She rose again, worked out the kinks in her shoulders. She did take the time to remove her jacket. The leather had protected her shirt, but her jeans were still damp. Philosophically, she ignored the discomfort and gathered up what little data she had. If she was lucky, she might get another cup of cop coffee in the commander’s office.
It only took Eve about ten seconds to realize the coffee would have to wait.
Whitney wasn’t sitting behind his desk, as was his habit. He was standing, facing the single-wall window that gave him his personal view of the city he’d served and protected for more than thirty years. His hands were clasped behind his back, but the relaxed pose was negated by the white knuckles.
Eve briefly studied the broad shoulders, the grizzled dark hair, and the wide back of the man who had only months before refused the office of chief to remain in command here.
“It’s stopped raining.”
Her eyes narrowed in puzzlement before she carefully made them blank. “Yes, sir.”
“It’s a good city all in all, Dallas. It’s easy to forget that from up here, but it’s a good city all in all. I’m working to remember that right now.”
She said nothing, had nothing to say. She waited.
“I made you primary on this. Technically, Deblinsky was up, so I want to know if she gives you any flak.”
“Deblinsky’s a good cop.”
“Yes, she is. You’re better.”
Because her brows flew up, she was grateful he still had his back to her. “I appreciate your confidence, Commander.”
“You’ve earned it. I overrode procedure to put you in control for personal reasons. I need the best, someone who’ll go to the wall and over it.”
“Most of us knew PA Towers, Commander. There isn’t a cop in New York who wouldn’t go to the wall and over it to find who killed her.”
He sighed, and the deep inhalation of air rippled through his thick body before he turned. For a moment longer he said nothing, only studied the woman he’d put in charge. She was slim, deceptively so, for he had reason to know she had more stamina than was apparent in that long, slender body.
She was showing some fatigue now, in the shadows under her whiskey colored eyes, in the pallor of her bony face. He couldn’t let that worry him, not now.
“Cicely Towers was a personal friend—a close personal friend.”
“I see.” Eve wondered if she did. “I’m sorry, Commander.”
“I knew her for years. We started out together, a hotdogging cop and an eager-beaver criminal lawyer. My wife and I are godparents to her son.” He paused a moment and seemed to fight for control. “I’ve notified her children. My wife is meeting them. They’ll stay with us until after the memorial.”
He cleared his throat, pressed his lips together. “Cicely was one of my oldest friends, and above and beyond my professional respect and admiration for her, I loved her very much. My wife is devastated by this; Cicely’s children are shattered. All I could tell them was that I would do everything, anything in my power to find the person who did this to her, to give her what she worked for most of her life: justice.”
Now he did sit, not with authority but with weariness. “I’m telling you this, Dallas, so that you know up front I have no objectivity on this case. None. Because I don’t, I’m depending on you.”
“I appreciate you being frank, Commander.” She hesitated only an instant. “As a personal friend of the victim’s, it’ll be necessary to interview you as soon as possible.” She watched his eyes flicker and harden. “Your wife as well, Commander. If it’s more comfortable, I can conduct the interviews at your home rather than here.”
“I see.” He drew another breath. “That’s why you’re primary, Dallas. There aren’t many cops who’d have the nerve to zero in so directly. I’d appreciate it if you’d wait until tomorrow, perhaps even a day or two longer, to see my wife, and if you’d see her at home. I’ll set it up.”
“What have you got so far?”
“I did a recon on the victim’s residence and her office. I have files of the cases she had pending and those that she closed over the last five years. I need to cross-check names to see if anyone she sent up has been released recently, their families and associates. Particularly the violent offenders. Her batting average was very high.”
“Cicely was a tiger in the courtroom, and I never knew her to miss a detail. Until now.”
“Why was she there, Commander, in the middle of the night? Prelim autopsy puts time of death at one sixteen. It’s a rough neighborhood—shake-downs, muggings, sex joints. There’s a known chemical trading center a couple of blocks from where she was found.”
“I don’t know. She was a careful woman, but she was also . . . arrogant.” He smiled a little. “Admirably so. She’d go head to head with the worst this city’s got to offer. But to put herself in deliberate jeopardy . . . I don’t know.”
“She was trying a case, Fluentes, murder two. Strangulation of a lady friend. His lawyer’s using the passion defense, but word is Towers was going to send him away. I’m checking it out.”
“Is he on the street or in a cage?”
“On the street. First violent offense, bail was dead low. Being it was murder, he was required to wear a homing bracelet, but that doesn’t mean diddly if he knew anything about electronics. Would she have met with him?”
“Absolutely not. It would corrupt her case to meet a defendant out of the courtroom.” Thinking of Cicely, remembering Cicely, Whitney shook his head. “That she’d never risk. But he could have used other means to lure her there.”
“Like I said, I’m checking it out. She had a dinner appointment last night with George Hammett. Do you know him?”
“Socially. They saw each other occasionally. Nothing serious, according to my wife. She was always trying to find the perfect man for Cicely.”
“Commander, it’s best if I ask now, off the record. Were you sexually involved with the victim?”
A muscle in his cheek jerked, but his eyes stayed level. “No, I wasn’t. We had a friendship, and that friendship was very valuable. In essence, she was family. You wouldn’t understand family, Dallas.”
“No.” Her voice was flat. “I suppose not.”
“I’m sorry for that.” Squeezing his eyes shut, Whitney rubbed his hands over his face. “That was uncalled for, and unfair. And your question was relevant.” He dropped his hands. “You’ve never lost anyone close to you, have you, Dallas?”
“Not that I remember.”
“It shreds you to pieces,” he murmured.
She supposed it would. In the decade she had known Whitney, she had seen him furious, impatient, even coldly cruel. But she had never seen him devastated.
If that was what being close, and losing, did to a strong man, Eve supposed she was better off as she was. She had no family to lose, and only vague, ugly flashes of her childhood. Her life as it was now had begun when she was eight years old and had been found, battered and abandoned, in Texas. What had happened before that day didn’t matter. She told herself constantly that it didn’t matter. She had made herself into what she was, who she was. For friendship she had precious few she cared enough for, trusted enough in. As for more than friendship, there was Roarke. He had whittled away at her until she’d given him more. Enough more to frighten her at odd moments—frighten her because she knew he wouldn’t be satisfied until he had all.
If she gave him all, then lost him, would she be in shreds?
Rather than dwell on it, Eve dosed herself with coffee and the remains of a candy bar she unearthed in her desk. The prospect of lunch was a fantasy right up there with spending a week in the tropics. She sipped and munched while she scanned the final autopsy report on her monitor.
The time of death remained as issued in the prelim. The cause, a severed jugular and the resulting loss of blood and oxygen. The victim had enjoyed a meal of sea scallops and wild greens, wine, real coffee, and fresh fruit with whipped cream. Ingestion estimated at five hours before death.
The call had come in quickly. Cicely Towers had been dead only ten minutes before a cab driver, brave or desperate enough to work the neighborhood, had spotted the body and reported it. The first cruiser had arrived three minutes later.
Her killer had moved fast, Eve mused. Then again, it was easy to fade in a neighborhood like that, to slip into a car, a doorway, a club. There would have been blood; the jugular gushed and sprayed. But the rain would have been an asset, washing it from the murderer’s hands.
She would have to comb the neighborhood, ask questions that were unlikely to receive any sort of viable answers. Still, bribes often worked where procedure or threats wouldn’t.
She was studying the police photo of Cicely Towers with her necklace of blood when her ’link beeped.
A face flashed on her screen, young, beaming, and sly. “Lieutenant, what’s the word?”
Eve didn’t swear, though she wanted to. Her opinion of reporters wasn’t terribly high, but C. J. Morse was on the lowest end of her scale. “You don’t want to hear the word I’ve got for you, Morse.”
His round face split with a smile. “Come on, Dallas, the public’s right to know. Remember?”
“I’ve got nothing for you.”
“Nothing? You want me to go on air saying that Lieutenant Eve Dallas, the finest of New York’s finest, has come up empty in the investigation of the murder of one of the city’s most respected, most prominent, and most visible public figures? I could do that, Dallas,” he said, clicking his tongue. “I could, but it wouldn’t look good for you.”
“And you figure that matters to me.” Her smile was thin and laser sharp, and her finger hovered over the disconnect. “You figure wrong.”
“Maybe not to you personally, but it would reflect on the department.” His girlishly long lashes fluttered. “On Commander Whitney for pulling strings to put you on as primary. And there’s the backwash on Roarke.”
Her finger twitched, then curled into her palm. “Cicely Towers’s murder is a priority with the department, with Commander Whitney, and with me.”
“I’ll quote you.”
Fucking little bastard. “And my work with the department has nothing to do with Roarke.”
“Hey, brown-eyes, anything that touches you, touches Roarke now, and vice versa. And you know, the fact that your man had business dealings with the recently deceased, her ex-husband, and her current escort ties it up real pretty.”
Her hands balled into fists of frustration. “Roarke has a lot of business dealings with a lot of people. I didn’t know you were back on the gossip beat, C. J.”
That wiped the smarmy little smile off his face. There was nothing C. J. Morse hated more than being reminded of his roots in gossip and society news. Especially now that he’d wormed his way onto the police beat. “I’ve got contacts, Dallas.”
“Yeah, you’ve also got a pimple in the middle of your forehead. I’d have that taken care of.” With that cheap but satisfying shot, Eve cut him off.
Springing up, she paced the small square of her office, jamming her hands into her pockets, pulling them out again. Goddamn it, why did Roarke’s name have to come up in connection with the case? Just how closely was he involved with Towers’s business dealings and her associates?
Eve dropped into her chair again and scowled at the reports on her desk. She’d have to find out, and quickly.
At least this time, with this murder, she knew he had an alibi. At the time Cicely Towers was having her throat slashed, Roarke had been fucking the hell out of the investigating officer.
Eve would have preferred to have gone back to the apartment she continued to keep despite the fact that she spent most nights at Roarke’s. There, she could have brooded, thought, slept, and walked herself back through the last day of Cicely Towers’s life. Instead, she headed for Roarke’s.
She was tired enough to give up the controls and let the auto program maneuver the car through late-evening traffic. Food was the first thing she needed, Eve decided. And if she could steal ten minutes to clear her mind, so much the better.
Spring had decided to come out and play, prettily. It tempted her to open the windows, ignore the sounds of bustling traffic, the hum of maxibuses, the griping of pedestrians, the overhead swish of air traffic.
To avoid the echoing bellow of the guides from the tourist blimps, she veered over toward Tenth. A shot through midtown and a quick zip up Park would have been quicker, but she would have been treated to the droning recitation of New York’s attractions, the history and tradition of Broadway, the brilliance of museums, the variety of shops—and the plug for the blimp’s own gift emporium.
As the blimp route skimmed over her apartment, she’d heard the spiel countless times. She didn’t care to hear about the convenience of the people glides that connected the sparkling fashion shops from Fifth to Madison or the Empire State Building’s newest sky walk.
A minor traffic snag at Fifty-second had her pondering a billboard where a stunning man and a stunning woman exchanged a passionate kiss, sweetened, they claimed each time they came up for air, by Mountain Stream Breath Freshener.
Their vehicles jammed flank to flank, a couple of cabbies shouted inventive insults at each other. A maxibus overflowing with passengers laid on its horn, adding an ear-stinging screech that had pedestrians on rampways and sidewalks shaking their heads or their fists.
A traffic hovercraft dipped low, blasted out the standard order to proceed or be cited. Traffic inched uptown, full of noise and temper.
The city changed as she moved from its core to its edges, where the wealthy and the privileged made their homes. Wider, cleaner streets, the sweep of trees from the islands of parks. Here the vehicles quieted to a whoosh of movement, and those who walked did so in tailored outfits and fine shoes.
She passed a dog walker who handled a brace of elegant gold hounds with the steady aplomb of a seasoned droid.
When she came to the gates of Roarke’s estate, her car idled until the program cleared her through. His trees were blooming. White blossoms flowed along with pink, accented by deep, rich reds and blues, all carpeted by a long sweep of emerald grass.
The house itself towered up into the deepening sky, glass sparkling in the late sun, the stone grand and gray. It had been months since she had first seen it, yet she had never grown used to the grandeur, the sumptuousness, the simple, unadulterated wealth. She had yet to stop asking herself what she was doing here—here, with him.
She left her car at the base of the granite steps and climbed them. She wouldn’t knock. That was pride, and it was ornery. Roarke’s butler despised her and didn’t trouble to hide it.
As expected, Summerset appeared in the hall like a puff of black smoke, his silver hair gleaming, a frown of disapproval ready on his long face.
“Lieutenant.” His eyes scraped her, making her aware that she was wearing the same clothes she’d left in, and they were considerably rumpled. “We were unaware of the time of your return, or indeed, if you intended to return.”
“Were we?” She shrugged, and because she knew it offended him, peeled off her scarred leather jacket and held it out to his elegant hands. “Is Roarke here?”
“He is engaged on an interspace transmission.”
“The Olympus Resort?”
Summerset’s mouth puckered like a prune. “I don’t inquire as to Roarke’s business.”
You know exactly what he’s doing and when, she thought, but turned out of the wide, glittery hall toward the curve of the stairs. “I’m going up. I need a bath.” She tossed a glance over her shoulder. “You can let him know where I am when he’s finished his transmission.”
She climbed up to the master suite. Like Roarke, she rarely used the elevators. The moment she’d slammed the bedroom door behind her, she began to strip, leaving a trail of boots, jeans, shirt, and underwear in her wake on the way to the bath.
She ordered the water at 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and as an afterthought tossed in some of the salts Roarke had brought her back from Silas Three. They foamed into sea green froth that smelled of fairy tale woods.
She all but rolled into the oversized marble tub, all but wept when the heat seeped into her aching bones. Drawing one deep breath, she submerged, held herself down for a count of thirty seconds, and surfaced with a sigh of sheer sensual pleasure. She kept her eyes closed and drifted.
So he found her.
Most people would have said she was relaxed. But then, Roarke thought, most people didn’t really know and certainly didn’t understand Eve Dallas. He was more intimate with her, closer to her mind and heart than he had ever been with another. Yet there were still pockets of her he had yet to plumb.
She was, always, a fascinating learning experience.
She was naked, dipped to her chin in steamy water and perfumed bubbles. Her face was flushed from the heat, her eyes closed, but she wasn’t relaxed. He could see the tension in the hand that was fisted on the wide ledge of the tub, in the faint frown between her eyes.
No, Eve was thinking, he mused. And worrying. And planning. He moved quietly, as he had grown up doing in the alleyways of Dublin, along wharves and the stinking streets of cities everywhere. When he sat on the ledge to watch her, she didn’t stir for several minutes. He knew the instant she sensed him beside her.
Her eyes opened, the golden brown clear and alert as they latched onto his amused blue. As always, just the sight of him gave her a quick inner jolt. His face was like a painting, a depiction in perfect oils of some fallen angel. The sheer beauty of it, framed by all that rich black hair, was forever a surprise to her.
She cocked a brow, tilted her head. “Pervert.”
“It’s my tub.” Watching her still, he slid an elegant hand through the bubbles into the water and along the side of her breast. “You’ll boil in there.”
“I like it hot. I needed it hot.”
“You’ve had a difficult day.”
He would know, she thought, struggling not to resent it. He knew everything. She only moved her shoulder as he rose and went to the automated bar built into the tiles. It hummed briefly as it served up two glasses of wine in faceted crystal.
He came back, sat on the ledge again, and handed her a glass. “You haven’t slept; you haven’t eaten.”
“It goes with the territory.” The wine tasted like liquid gold.
“Nonetheless, you worry me, Lieutenant.”
“You worry too easily.”
“I love you.”
It flustered her to hear him say it in that lovely voice that hinted of Irish mists, to know that somehow, incredibly, it was true. Since she had no answer to give him, she frowned into her wine.
He said nothing until he’d managed to tuck away irritation at her lack of response. “Can you tell me what happened to Cicely Towers?”
“You knew her,” Eve countered.
“Not well. A light social acquaintance, some business dealings, mostly through her former husband.” He sipped his wine, watched the steam rise from her bath. “I found her admirable, wise, and dangerous.”
Eve scooted up until the water lapped at the tops of her breasts. “Dangerous? To you?”
“Not directly.” His lips curved slightly before he brought the wine to them. “To nefarious practices, to illegalities, small and large, to the criminal mind. She was very like you in that respect. It’s fortunate I’ve mended my ways.”
Eve wasn’t entirely sure of that, but she let it slide. “Through your business dealings and your light social acquaintance, are you aware of anyone who would have wanted her dead?”
He sipped again, more deeply. “Is this an interrogation, Lieutenant?”
It was the smile in his voice that rubbed her wrong. “It can be,” she said shortly.
“As you like.” He rose, set his glass aside, and began to unbutton his shirt.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting into the swim, so to speak.” He tossed the shirt aside, unhooked his trousers. “If I’m going to be questioned by a naked cop, in my own tub, the least I can do is join her.”
“Damn it, Roarke, this is murder.”
He winced as the hot water all but scalded him. “You’re telling me.” He faced her across the sea of froth. “What is it in me that is so perverse it thrives on ruffling you? And,” he continued before she could give him her short, pithy opinion, “what is it about you that pulls at me, even when you’re sitting there with an invisible badge pinned to your lovely breast?”
He skimmed a hand under, along her ankle, her calf, and to the spot on the back of her knee he knew weakened her. “I want you,” he murmured. “Right now.”
Her hand had gone limp on the stem of her glass before she managed to shift away. “Talk to me about Cicely Towers.”
Philosophically, Roarke settled back. He had no intention of letting her out of the tub until he was finished, so he could afford patience. “She, her former husband, and George Hammett, were on the board of one of my divisions. Mercury, named after the god of speed. Import-export for the most part. Shipping, deliveries, rapid transports.”
“I know what Mercury is,” she said testily, dealing with the annoyance of not knowing that, too, was one of his companies.
“It was a poorly organized and failing business when I acquired it about ten years ago. Marco Angelini, Cicely’s ex, invested, as did she. They were still married at the time, I believe, or just divorced. The termination of their marriage, apparently, was as amicable as such things can be. Hammett was also an investor. I don’t believe he became personally involved with Cicely until some years later.”
“And this triangle, Angelini, Towers, Hammett, was that amicable, too?”
“It seemed so.” Idly he tapped a tile. When it flipped open to reveal the hidden panel, he programmed in music. Something low and weepy. “If you’re worried about my end of it, it was business, and successful business at that.”
“How much smuggling does Mercury do?”
His grin flashed. “Really, Lieutenant.”
Water lapped as she sat forward. “Don’t play games with me, Roarke.”
“Eve, it’s my fondest wish to do just that.”
She gritted her teeth, kicked at the hand that was sneaking up her leg. “Cicely Towers had a rep for being a no-nonsense prosecutor, dedicated, clean as they come. If she’d discovered any of Mercury’s dealings skirted the law, she’d have gone after you with a vengeance.”
“So, she discovered my perfidy, and I had her lured to a dangerous neighborhood and ordered her throat cut.” His eyes were level and entirely too bland. “Is that what you think, Lieutenant?”
“No, damn it, you know it’s not, but—”
“Others might,” he finished. “Which would put you in a delicate position.”
“I’m not worried about that.” At the moment, she was worried only about him. “Roarke, I need to know. I need you to tell me if there’s anything, anything at all, that might involve you in the investigation.”
“And if there is?”
She went cold inside. “I’ll have to turn it over to someone else.”
“Haven’t we been through this before?”
“It’s not like the DeBlass case. Not anything like that. You’re not a suspect.” When he cocked a brow, she struggled to put reason rather than irritation in her voice. Why was everything so complicated when it touched on Roarke? “I don’t think you had anything to do with Cicely Towers’s murder. Is that simple enough?”
“You haven’t finished the thought.”
“All right. I’m a cop. There are questions I have to ask. I have to ask them of you, of anyone who’s even remotely connected to the victim. I can’t change that.”
“How much do you trust me?”
“It has nothing to do with trusting you.”
“That doesn’t answer the question.” His eyes went cool, remote, and she knew she’d taken the wrong step. “If you don’t trust me by now, believe in me, then we have nothing but some rather intriguing sex.”
“You’re twisting this around.” She was fighting to stay calm because he was scaring her. “I’m not accusing you of anything. If I had come into this case without knowing you or caring about you, I would have put you on the list on principle. But I do know you, and that’s not what this is about. Hell.”
She closed her eyes and rubbed wet hands over her face. It was miserable for her to try to explain her feelings. “I’m trying get answers that will help to keep you as far out of it as I can because I do care. And I can’t stop trying to think of ways I can use you because of your connection with Towers. And your connections, period. It’s hard for me to do both.”
“It shouldn’t have been so hard to simply say it,” he murmured, then shook his head. “Mercury is completely legitimate—now—because there’s no need for it to be otherwise. It runs well, makes an acceptable profit. And though you might think I’m arrogant enough to engage in criminal acts with a prosecuting attorney on my board of directors, you should know I’m not stupid enough to do so.”
Because she believed him, the tightness that she’d carried in her chest for hours broke apart. “All right. There’ll still be questions,” she told him. “And the media has already made the connection.”
“I know. I’m sorry for it. How difficult are they making it for you?”
“They haven’t even started.” In one of her rare shows of easy affection, she reached for his hand, squeezed it. “I’m sorry, too. Looks like we’re in another one.”
“I can help.” He slid forward so that he could bring their joined hands to his lips. When she smiled, he knew she was, finally, ready to relax. “It isn’t necessary for you to keep me out of anything. I can handle that myself. And there’s no need to feel guilty or uncomfortable for considering that I could be useful to you in the investigation.”
“I’ll let you know when I figure out how you might be.” This time she only arched her brows when his free hand snaked up her thigh. “If you try to pull that off in here, we’re going to need diving equipment.”
He levered himself to her, over her, so that water sloshed dangerously at the lip of the ledge. “Oh, I think we can manage just fine on our own.”
And he covered her grinning mouth with his to prove it.
Late in the night when she slept beside him, Roarke lay awake watching the stars whirl through the sky window over the bed. Worry he hadn’t let her see was in his eyes now. Their fates had intertwined, personally, professionally. It was murder that had brought them together, and murder that would continue to poke fingers into their lives. The woman beside him defended the dead.
As Cicely Towers had often done, he thought, and wondered if that representation is what had cost her her own life.
He made it a point not to worry too much or too often about how Eve made her living. Her career defined her. He was very much aware of that.
Both of them had made themselves—remade themselves—from the little or nothing they had been. He was a man who bought and sold, who controlled, and who enjoyed the power of it. And the profit.
But it occurred to him that there were pockets of his business that would cause her trouble, if the shadows came to light. It was perfectly true that Mercury was clean, but it hadn’t always been true. He had other holdings, other interests that dealt in the gray areas. He had grown up in the darker portions of those gray areas, after all. He had a knack for them.
Smuggling, both terrestrial and interstellar, was a profitable and entertaining business. The truly excellent wines of Taurus Five, the stunning blue diamonds mined in the caves of Refini, the precious transparent porcelain manufactured in the Arts Colony of Mars.
True, he no longer had to bypass the law to live, and live well. But old habits die hard.
The problem remained: What if he hadn’t yet converted Mercury into a legitimate operation? What he saw as a harmless business diversion would have weighed on Eve like a stone.
Added to that was the humbling fact that despite what they had begun to build together, she was far from sure of him.
She murmured something, shifted. Even in sleep, he mused, she hesitated before turning to him. He was having a very difficult time with that. Changes were going to be necessary, soon, for both of them.
For the moment, he would deal with what he could control. It would be very simple for him to make a few calls and ask a few questions relating to Cicely Towers. It would be less simple and take a bit more time to convert all of those gray areas of his concerns into the light.
He looked down to study her. She was sleeping well, her hand open and relaxed on the pillow. He knew sometimes she dreamed, badly. But tonight her mind was quiet. Trusting it would remain so, he slipped out of bed to begin.
Eve woke to the fragrance of coffee. Genuine, rich coffee ground from beans cultivated on Roarke’s plantation in South America. The luxury of that was, Eve could admit, one of the first things she’d grown accustomed to, indeed come to depend on, when it came to staying at Roarke’s.
Her lips were curved before her eyes opened.
“Christ, heaven couldn’t be better than this.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
Her eyes might have still been bleary, but she managed to focus on him. He was fully dressed in one of the dark suits that made him look both capable and dangerous. In the sitting area below the raised platform where the bed stood, he seemed to be enjoying breakfast and his quick daily scan of the day’s news on his monitor.
The gray cat she’d named Galahad lay like a fat slug on the arm of the chair and studied Roarke’s plate with bicolored, avaricious eyes.
“What time is it?” she demanded, and the bedside clock murmured the answer: oh six hundred. “Jesus, how long have you been up?”
“Awhile. You didn’t say when you had to be in.”
She ran her hands over her face, up through her hair. “I’ve got a couple hours.” A slow starter, she crawled out of bed and looked groggily around for something to wear.
Roarke watched her a moment. It was always a pleasure to watch Eve in the morning, when she was naked and glassy-eyed. He gestured toward the robe the bedroom droid had picked up from the floor and hung neatly over the foot of the bed. Eve groped into it, too sleepy yet to be baffled by the feel of silk against her skin.
Roarke poured her a cup of coffee and waited while she settled into the chair across from him and savored it. The cat, thinking his luck might change, thudded onto her lap with enough weight to make her grunt.
“You slept well.”
“Yeah.” She drew the coffee in like breath, winced only a little as Galahad circled her lap and kneaded her thighs with his needle claws. “I feel close to human again.”
She grunted again. Eve already knew his kitchen was staffed with artists. She took a swan-shaped pastry from the silver tray and downed it in three enthusiastic bites. When she reached for the coffeepot herself, her eyes were fully open and clear. Feeling generous, she broke off a swan’s head and gave it to Galahad.
“It’s always a pleasure watching you wake up,” he commented. “But sometimes I wonder if you want me only for my coffee.”
“Well . . .” She grinned at him and sipped again. “I really like the food, too. And the sex isn’t bad.”
“You seemed to tolerate it fairly well last night. I have to be in Australia today. I may not make it back until tomorrow or the day after.”
“I’d like you to stay here while I’m gone.”
“We’ve been through that. I don’t feel comfortable.”
“Perhaps you would if you’d consider it your home as well as mine. Eve . . .” He laid a hand on hers before she could speak. “When are you going to accept what I feel for you?”
“Look, I’m just more comfortable in my own place when you’re away. And I’ve got a lot of work right now.”
“You didn’t answer the question,” he murmured. “Never mind. I’ll let you know when I’ll be back.” His voice was clipped now, cool, and he turned the monitor toward her. “Speaking of your work, you might like to see what the media is saying.”
Eve read the first headline with a kind of weary resignation. Mouth grim, she scanned from paper to paper. The banners were all similar enough. Renowned New York prosecutor murdered. Police baffled. There were images, of course, of Towers. Inside courtrooms, outside courthouses. Images of her children, comments and quotes.
Eve snarled a bit at her own image and the caption that labeled her the top homicide investigator in the city.
“I’m going to get grief on that,” she muttered.
There was more, naturally. Several papers had printed a brief rundown of the case she’d closed the previous winter, involving a prominent U.S. senator and three dead whores. As expected, her relationship with Roarke was mentioned in every edition.
“What the hell does it matter who I am or who I’m with?”
“You’ve leaped into the public arena, Lieutenant. Your name now sells media chips.”
“I’m a cop, not a socialite.” Fuming, she swiveled to the elaborate grillwork along the far wall. “Open viewing screen,” she ordered. “Channel 75.”
The grill slid open, revealing the screen. The sound of the early broadcast filled the room. Eve’s eyes narrowed, her teeth clenched.
“There’s that fang-toothed, dickless weasel.”
Amused, Roarke sipped his coffee and watched C. J. Morse give his six o’clock report. He was well aware that Eve’s disdain for the media had grown into a full-fledged disgust over the last couple of months. A disgust that stemmed from the simple fact that she now had to deal with them at every turn of her professional and personal life. Even without that, he didn’t think he could blame her for despising Morse.
“And so, a great career has been cut off cruelly, violently. A woman of conviction, dedication, and integrity has been murdered on the streets of this great city, left there to bleed in the rain. Cicely Towers will not be forgotten, but will be remembered as a woman who fought for justice in a world where we struggle for it. Even death can’t dim her legacy.
“But will her killer be brought to the justice she lived her entire life upholding? The Police and Security Department of New York as yet offers no hope. Primary investigating officer, Lieutenant Eve Dallas, a jewel of the department, is unable to answer that question.”
Eve all but growled when her image filled the screen. Morse’s voice continued.
“When reached by ’link, Lieutenant Dallas refused to comment on the murder and the progress of the investigation. No denial was issued as to the speculation that a cover-up is in process . . .”
“Why that smarmy-faced bastard. He never asked about a cover-up. What cover-up?” The slap of her hand on the arm of the chair made Galahad leap away to safer ground. “I’ve barely had the case for thirty hours.”
“Ssh,” Roarke said mildly and left her to spring up and stalk the room.
“. . . the long list of prominent names that are linked with Prosecutor Towers, among them Commander Whitney, Dallas’s superior. The commander recently refused the offer of the position as Chief of Police and Security. A long-standing, intimate friend of the victim—”
“That’s it!” Furious, Eve slapped the screen off manually. “I’m going to slice that worm into pieces. Where the hell is Nadine Furst? If we’ve got to have a reporter sniffing up our ass, at least she’s got a mind.”
“I believe she’s on Penal Station Omega, a story on prison reform. You might consider a press conference, Eve. The simplest way to deal with this kind of heat is to toss a well-chosen log on the fire.”
“Fuck that. What was that broadcast anyway, a report or an editorial?”
“There’s little difference since the revised media bill passed thirty years ago. A reporter has the right to flavor a story with his opinion, as long as it’s expressed as such.”
“I know the damn law.” The robe, brilliant with color, swirled around her legs as she turned. “He’s not going to get away with insinuating a cover-up. Whitney runs a clean department. I run a clean investigation. And he’s not going to get away with using your name to cloud it, either,” she continued. “That’s what he was leading up to with that excuse for news. That was next.”
“He doesn’t worry me, Eve. He shouldn’t worry you.”
“He doesn’t worry me. He pisses me off.” She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath to settle herself. Slowly, very slowly and very wickedly, she began to smile. “I’ve got the perfect payback.” She opened her eyes again. “How do you think that little bastard would like it if I contacted Furst, gave her an exclusive?”
Roarke set aside his cup. “Come here.”
“Never mind.” He rose and went to her instead. Cupping her face in his hands, he kissed her hard. “I’m crazy about you.”
“I take that to mean you think it’s a pretty good idea.”
“My late unlamented father taught me one valuable lesson. ‘Boy,’ he would say to me in the thick brogue of a champion drunk, ‘the only way to fight is to fight dirty. The only place to hit is below the belt.’ I have a feeling you’ll have Morse nursing his balls before the day’s out.”
“No, he won’t be nursing them.” Delighted with herself, Eve kissed him back. “Because I’ll have sliced them right off.”
Roarke gave a mock shudder. “Vicious women are so attractive. Did you say you had a couple of hours?”
“I was afraid of that.” He stepped back, took a disc from his pocket. “You might find this useful.”
“What is it?”
“Some data I put together, on Towers’s ex, on Hammett. Files on Mercury.”
Her fingers chilled as they closed over the disc. “I didn’t ask you to do this.”
“No, you didn’t. You’d have gotten access to it, but it would have taken you longer. You know if you require my equipment, it’s available to you.”
She understood he was talking about the room he had, the unregistered equipment that the sensors of Compuguard couldn’t detect. “I prefer going through proper channels for the moment.”
“As you like. If you change your mind while I’m gone, Summerset’s aware you have access.”
“Summerset wishes I had access to hell,” she muttered.
“Nothing. I’ve got to get dressed.” She turned away, then stopped. “Roarke, I’m working on it.”
“On accepting what you seem to feel for me.”
He lifted a brow. “Work harder,” he suggested.
Eve didn’t waste time. Her first order of business when she hit her office was to contact Nadine Furst. The ’link buzzed and crackled over the galactic channel. Sunspots, a satellite dink, or simply the aging equipment held up the transmission for several minutes. Finally, a picture wavered onto the screen, then popped into clear focus.
Eve had the pleasure of seeing Nadine’s pale, groggy face. She hadn’t considered the time difference.
“Dallas.” Nadine’s normally fluid voice was scratchy and weak. “Jesus, it’s the middle of the night here.”
“Sorry. You awake, Nadine?”
“Awake enough to hate you.”
“Have you been getting Earth news up there?”
“I’ve been a little busy.” Nadine pushed back her tumbled hair and reached for a cigarette.
“When did you start that?”
With a wince, Nadine drew in the first drag. “If you terrestrial cops ever came up here, you’d give tobacco a shot. Even this dog shit you can buy in this rat hole. And anything else you could get your hands on. It’s a fucking disgrace.” She hitched in more smoke. “Three people to a cage, most of them zoned on smuggled chemicals. The medical facilities are like something out of the twentieth century. They’re still sewing people up with string.”
“And limited video privileges,” Eve finished. “Imagine, treating murderers like criminals. My heart’s breaking.”
“You can’t get a decent meal anywhere in the entire colony,” Nadine griped. “What the hell do you want?”
“To make you smile, Nadine. How soon will you be finished up there and back on planet?”
“Depends.” As she began to waken fully, Nadine’s senses sharpened. “You have something for me.”
“Prosecuting Attorney Cicely Towers was murdered about thirty hours ago.” Ignoring Nadine’s yelp, Eve continued briskly, “Her throat was slashed, and her body was discovered on the sidewalk of Hundred and forty-fourth between Ninth and Tenth.”
“Towers. Jesus wept. I had a one-on-one with her two months ago after the DeBlass case. Hundred and forty-fourth?” The wheels were already turning. “Mugging?”
“No. She still had her jewelry and credit tokens. A mugging in that neighborhood wouldn’t have left her shoes behind.”
“No.” Nadine closed her eyes a moment. “Damn. She was a hell of a woman. You’re primary?”
“Right the first time.”
“Okay.” Nadine let out a long breath. “So, why is the primary on what has to be the top case in the country contacting me?”
“The devil you know, Nadine. Your illustrious associate Morse is drooling down my neck.”