Home > Obsession in Death (In Death #40)(10)

Obsession in Death (In Death #40)(10)
J.D. Robb

“And isn’t obliged to make breakfast in the morning. Yeah, that’s how she reads. It’s kind of sad.”

“It’s not sad to get what you want.”

“It’s sad not to want more than paid-for sex and a styling apartment, and have your assistant be the one who looks like he mourns you the most. I checked her travel. She didn’t even go see her mom or her sister for Christmas. Never left the city. And the next day, she’s back at work, then she’s dead. It’s sad.”

“She lived the way she wanted to.”

“I’ll do better work, I think, if I feel a little sorry for her.”

“She lived the way she wanted to,” Eve repeated. “But she didn’t die the way anyone wants to. That’s sad enough.”

“Now that you mention it.”

Eve strode down the white tunnel of the morgue with Peabody. No skeleton staff here – ha – as the holidays always brought a banquet of murder, accidental death, and self-terminations.

She made her way to Morris’s domain, caught a glimpse of him through the porthole windows of his doors, pushed them open.

Leanore Bastwick might have died alone, but here she had company. Morris leaned over a body – male, Eve judged mid-twenties.

“Double duty?” Eve asked, and Morris straightened, scalpel in hand.

“I’ve finished yours. This one’s more recent. He sent his ex-girlfriend a vid, which she claims she didn’t see until this morning, possible, as according to the report she became engaged to his former best friend on Christmas Day. Our unfortunate young man spent most of his time since drowning his sorrows with a combination of illegals and cheap tequila, then, at ten last night, tied a noose out of bedsheets and sent the newly engaged lady a vid of himself weeping and threatening to hang himself.”

“Boy, that’ll teach her.”

“I’m sure he thought just that. It’s not entirely clear, as yet, if he meant to kick the chair out from under himself or if he was terminally clumsy. Either way, here he is.”

Morris smiled, set down the scalpel. He wore midnight-blue pants with a silver shirt, a precisely knotted blue-and-silver tie under his protective cape. His dark hair fell in a single thick braid down his back.

“And how was your Christmas?”

“Good. Caught the bad guy, opened presents, drank fancy champagne. You?”

“I visited my parents Christmas Eve, stayed for the morning, and had dinner with Garnet DeWinter and her very charming daughter. A child adds sparkle, like champagne, to Christmas. How is your family, Peabody? You went home, I’m told.”

“Great. It was totally mag to see everybody, and just dive into the chaos for a few hours.”

“I know just what you mean. And let me say, that’s a very frosty coat.”

“I know.” Despite Eve’s warning, Peabody stroked the sleeve again. “My amazing partner and her hunka-husband gave it to me for Christmas.”

“Don’t make me regret it, Peabody.”

“Best Christmas ever.”

“And now we’re back,” Eve said, before they spent half a day talking plum pudding or whatever. “What can you tell me?” she asked, lifting her chin toward Leanore Bastwick.

“A very healthy woman up until her death.” Morris moved over to the slab. “Some expert face and body work. Nothing extreme, what you might call tune-ups. Her last meal, consumed about four hours before her death, was Greek yogurt and granola.”

“Now that’s sad,” Eve said to Peabody.

“She’d had about a half a glass of wine within thirty minutes of death, so that’s a bit happier. No illegals in her system, and no sign she used them,” Morris added. “No defensive wounds, no signs of restraint or physical struggle.”

He handed Eve microgoggles.

“Stun marks, which would account for the lack of defensive wounds. Mid-body.”

“Yeah, I see. Killer pulls the stunner out of the right coat pocket, moves into the apartment. She’s moving backward and to the side to let him in. Very close range, high power. So it left clear marks on her skin.”

“A very slight contusion on the back of her head. She fell backward, banged it, but not violently. As with most on a stun, she probably more crumpled than fell after convulsing.”

“What did she weigh?”

Since it was Eve, Morris automatically converted from metric. “One-eighteen.”

“Not heavy. She was wearing slipper-type things. Pull-on, elastic deals. I didn’t see any scuffing on the heels. Probably carried her into the bedroom. She’s stunned, out, limp. Haul her up, or toss her over the shoulder. Lay her out. The bed was tidy, so were her clothes.”

“No sexual assault. No recent sexual activity.”

“More sad,” Peabody murmured.

“Lowers the odds on a boyfriend type, an ex, a wannabe lover,” Eve considered. “You’d expect some sexual assault there, or more personal signs in the kill.”

“She’d opted for sterilization,” Morris commented. “Or I assume it was her option. Good, clean work. There’s no indication she’d ever borne a child. She tended to her body,” he continued. “The tune-ups, and her muscle tone speaks of regular exercise. As I said, no sign she abused illegals, or alcohol.”

“That’s how she lived. How did she die?”

“I concur with your on-scene. Strangulation. Thin, strong wire, piano wire would be my conclusion. A garrote. From behind.”

Eve narrowed her eyes. “Not face-to-face.”

“No. More leverage from behind, and the angle of the wound verifies. The killer got behind her, propped her up, nearly a sitting position, wrapped the wire around her neck, twisted, pulled. With some force, as it severed her larynx.”

“Okay.” She didn’t doubt Morris, so now circled the body, pulled the scene into her head. “Dumps her on the bed. You’ve already taken off the coat – don’t want blood on the coat because you’ve got to wear it out again. And it’s bulky. You need some freedom of movement. Leave on the gloves or, no, take out others. Thin gloves now, or sealant. Maybe you’ve got a protective cape and gloves, a can of sealant in the box. Open the box, get out the cape, the gloves, put them on, get out the garrote.”

“A protective cape, sealant, or gloves would cut down on any chance of fibers on the bed or body,” Peabody put in.

“Yeah, it would. And you’ve planned this out, taken some time to work out the details. Now it comes to that moment. Get on the bed, push her up so you can get behind her.”

Eve walked around the body, stood at the head.

“The wire’s thin and sharp. Being smart, you’ve probably rigged handles on the ends, so you can get a good, clean grip. You’re not looking to cause her pain, you don’t need to see her die – that toggles down the personal. No need to see her face when you do it, makes her a thing, not a person. Just feel the wire bite in. It’s not about sex, not about pleasure – not then – it’s about justice. So it’s quick and done.

“Don’t leave the wire – don’t leave anything. The wire goes back in the box, maybe in a plastic bag first, but back in the box. You lay her back down, smooth the bed where it got mussed. Neat and tidy. Do you look at her?”

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