Home > Obsession in Death (In Death #40)(9)

Obsession in Death (In Death #40)(9)
J.D. Robb

“Any trouble with anyone here at the offices?”

“No.”

“Clients?”

“Leanore served her clients well, and was always frank and realistic with them. She was fierce, as you know yourself, Lieutenant, in defending her clients.”

“Fierceness makes enemies. So does making a play for somebody else’s spouse. How’s Arthur Foxx these days?”

She knew – she’d checked – that Fitzhugh’s spouse, a man who’d hated Bastwick, had moved to Maui over a year before.

But she wanted Stern’s reaction.

“I believe Arthur relocated – Hawaii. We’re not in touch.” He drew a breath through his nose. “You don’t think Arthur killed Leanore. No, no.” A firm shake of the head. “I know he disliked Leanore, but I can’t see him coming back to New York, doing this.”

“People do all sorts of strange.” Though she agreed, not Foxx, she pushed a little. “Did he ever threaten Bastwick?”

“He was overwrought at the time of Fitz’s death. We all were, but Arthur was devoted, and took it very hard. You’re aware of this, of course, as I’m aware of your conversations with Leanore during that period. She told me.” Stern spread his hands. “As far as I know, Arthur moved away, moved on, started a new chapter in his life.”

“Did she make a play for anybody else’s spouse, since Fitzhugh?”

Stern’s jaw tightened. “I’m aware of nothing along those lines.”

“How about you?”

“My relationship with Leanore was professional. Friendly, of course, but we have never been involved in a romantic or sexual way.”

“Other threats? Directed at Bastwick?”

“Of course, it’s the nature of the business. Cecil has the copies for you of the files we kept on any threats or what we’d term ‘disturbing correspondence.’ I’ve spoken with him in depth, and I’m aware of the message written at the crime scene. It would appear, Lieutenant, this threat came from someone you know.”

“Potentially someone who knows me or of me,” Eve countered. “Equally possible from someone who used that message to re-angle the investigation away from a more personal motive. You said you were personal friends, so you’d be knowledgeable about her personal life. Social, sexual.”

“Leanore was an interesting, attractive woman. While she enjoyed the company of men, there was no one serious or exclusive. I’ve given Cecil permission to give you the names of her most usual escorts, her friends. Believe me, if I had any reason to believe any one of those escorts and friends could have done this, I would tell you.”

“You’ve lost two partners in the last couple years, Mr. Stern.”

His eyes went hard on hers. “Partners, colleagues, friends. Before you ask, she left her estate to her mother and her sister, and her interest in the firm to me.”

“That’s a good chunk – the firm.”

“Leanore is a great loss, personally and professionally. We may, and likely will, lose some clients. There will be upheaval and considerable, difficult publicity. We were discussing taking on a third partner, and had just recently narrowed in on one of our own, perhaps two. Cecil will also have their names, though there’s no motive in either.”

“Can you give us your whereabouts yesterday, between four and eight?”

“I was in Park City, Utah, yesterday – which is why we did the ’link conference. My fiancée and I spent Christmas there. We’re both avid skiers. We returned last night, got into New York about nine. Carolina will give you the name of our hotel, and the names of the crew on the shuttle – we took our corporate shuttle.”

“Okay. We appreciate the time.”

“Carolina will take you to Cecil.” Stern rose. “I want to say… She didn’t like you. Leanore made adversaries out of the opposing side. It was part of that fierceness. So, she didn’t like you, Lieutenant, but she did respect your capabilities. Whoever killed her was wrong. Just wrong. If that matters.”

“What matters is finding who did this to her, and bringing him or her to justice. If you want that justice, you should hope whoever killed her doesn’t engage someone like her as counsel.”

He smiled a little. “She’d defend her own killer, if she could. It’s how she was made. I’ll show you out.”

I think Stern was telling it straight,” Peabody said when they left the building. “Or mostly. I don’t think he liked her, personally, as much as he acted. More admired her professionally and was, like, cordial on the personal level.”

“Peabody, my pride swells.”

“Yeah?” Grinning, Peabody wiggled her shoulders inside her pink coat.

“She wasn’t his type, not just romantically. She’d have moved in on him there, like she tried with Fitzhugh, if she saw some gain in it. Not personal for her, not with Fitzhugh either. Just what could she get out of it. She was cold and a little hard, plenty hard,” Eve corrected. “Stern’s more refined, we’ll say, and not needy in the ego as Fitzhugh was.”

“Foxx hasn’t left Maui in six months, according to all the data. I wouldn’t have thought of Arthur Foxx on this if you hadn’t told me to do a run on him.”

“That’s why I’m LT and you’re lowly detective.”

“Frosty detective who rocks a magic pink leather coat.” Adoring it, more than a little, Peabody stroked her own sleeve.

“Don’t make love to the damn coat. Foxx was just somebody we had to check out, cross off. He’s not a lunatic, and whoever did this leans loony. Plus, he’d have hurt her, made her suffer some. He’d have messed up her face. And he’d have done it two years ago if he’d really meant to kill her.”

Checking Foxx? Just routine, Eve thought.

“I wanted to see if Stern knew how Bastwick played his other partner. He knew, he didn’t care. And yeah, didn’t much like her. But admire professionally works. She was splashier, in court, in the media. And he benefited from that. He’s going to rake in her share of the firm, and that’s considerable, but now he doesn’t have that frontispiece, and he wants one.

“Check his alibi,” Eve added as they climbed into the car. “It’s going to hold, but we’ll want to check it off the list. We’ll talk to her escorts after we go by the morgue.”

“Escorts. I guess that’s a refined way of saying her sex partners.”

“Some of them, sure. Some of them are going to be gay. That’s safe. A great-looking gay guy is the professional woman’s best friend, right?”

“I don’t have a bestie gay guy,” Peabody said wistfully. “I need to get one.”

“None of her ‘escorts’ would be – besties?” she said with a pitying look at Peabody. “Seriously?”

“It’s a word.”

“It’s a stupid word. None of them will be genuine friends.”

YOUR TRUE AND LOYAL FRIEND.

“Think of her apartment,” Eve went on, shoving the thought aside. “All hers. Her office, all hers. She wasn’t into sharing. Nothing in her place that said she was having an affair, working on having one. I’m betting she mostly used pros. She gets exactly what she wants with an LC – no more, no less.”

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