Home > Devoted in Death (In Death #41)(4)

Devoted in Death (In Death #41)(4)
J.D. Robb

“The killer had to have transpo, and likely pulled up on Madison. The dump site’s close to Madison. The vic’s – what was it – five-ten, and one-fifty-five. We’ll have the sweepers determine if the plastic with the body was dragged down the alley, but it doesn’t look like it. Hard to be certain in this light, but dragged or carried, the killer had some muscle. Or help. We’ll see if the canvass turns up anything.”

She looked up, scanned dark windows. “Middle of the night, middle of the winter. Cold as a bitch’s tit.”

“It’s ‘witch’s.’   ”

“Why? Doesn’t matter,” Eve said quickly. “Neither way makes sense. If somebody’s a witch, why do they put up with cold tits? I’m a bitch, and twenty-four hours ago, my tits were plenty warm.”

“Was it wonderful? Your vacation?”

“It didn’t suck.”

Blue skies, blue water, white sand and Roarke. No, it hadn’t sucked.

And now it was done.

“Let’s call in the sweepers, the morgue, and get a couple of uniforms back here on the body.” She checked her wrist unit. “We’ll go by the vic’s residence first. There’s no point waking his mother up at this hour to tell her he’s dead.”

Eve tugged the silly cap farther over her frozen ears, bobbled her light. As she leaned over to retrieve it, her gaze flicked toward the body where the end of the beam arrowed.

“Wait. Is that… Peabody, microgoggles.”

“You see something?”

“I’ll see if I see something better with the microgoggles.”

She was kneeling beside the body now, drawing the left arm farther out.

“Fuck me, I almost missed this.”

“Missed what?” After she pulled the microgoggles from Eve’s field kit, Peabody pushed them at her, tried to angle to see what Eve’s light beamed on.

“It’s a heart. So much blood and bruising, I might’ve missed it. Morris would have caught it once the vic was on his table, but in this light, I didn’t see it.”

“I don’t see it now.”

“Just under the armpit.” Leaning closer, goggles in place, Eve bookended it with her fingers, top to bottom, then side to side. “About an inch high and wide. Precise as a high-dollar tattoo. Initials inside. E over D.”

“D for Dorian.”

“Could be.” And it sure as hell shifted some angles. “Maybe a pissed-off lover or wannabe or used-to-be lover after all. Ante- or postmortem?” she wondered. “A signature or a statement? This part’s precise. The killer took some time and care carving this in.”

“McQueen carved numbers in his vics,” Peabody remembered, “so the cops would know how many he’d done. Maybe this is E’s signature, and E picks the vic and develops some sick, delusional relationship. And since sick, delusional relationships never end well, the killer bashes, ties up, gags, tortures, kills, then carves in the heart – killer over vic inside it.”

Eve nodded – a good theory. Solid and logical. “It could play.”

“Maybe this isn’t E’s first sick, delusional relationship.”

“That could play, too.” Eve rose, pulled off the goggles. “We’ll run the elements through IRCCA, look for like crimes. Right now, let’s go check out the vic’s place. Maybe we’ll find out who he knew whose name starts with E.”

“His mother lives in the same building,” Peabody said as Eve signaled to one of the uniforms at the mouth of the alley.

“Well, that saves us time. We’ll go through his place, then do the notification.”

“She’s with the orchestra, too. She plays a baby cello.”

“They have babies?”

“It was, like, a joke. She’s first violin. So, ha ha, baby cello.”

“Assume I laughed. Lives in the same building, works the same job – basically. She probably knows anybody with the initial E he knew. And how he got along at work, with lovers.”

Eve turned away, had a short conversation with the uniform.

With the scene secured, and no witness – so far – to interview as the body had been discovered by beat droids, she climbed into her car. And with unspeakable relief, ordered the heat on full.

With even more unspeakable relief, she pulled off the snowflake hat.

“Aw. It looks cute on you.”

“If I wanted to look cute, I wouldn’t be a cop.” She forked her fingers through her short, shaggy brown hair. “Address, Peabody.”

“West Seventy-first between Amsterdam and Columbus.”

“A long way from where he ended up.” Needles pricked along her fingers as they thawed out.

One of the things she’d figured out how to operate in the fully loaded, purposely nondescript vehicle her husband had designed for her was coffee from the onboard AutoChef.

And right that minute, she thought she might kill for real coffee.

“Computer, engage AutoChef,” Eve began.

“Yippee!”

“Shut up, Peabody, or you won’t get any.”

AutoChef engaged. What would you like, Dallas, Lieutenant Eve?

“One coffee black, one coffee regular, both in go-cups.”

One moment, please. Is front-seat delivery desired?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s desired.”

“I didn’t know it did that,” Peabody piped up. “I thought it was just backseat – Whoa!”

Order complete, the computer announced as two go-cups slid out from under the dash.

“That is totally iced.”

“It better not be iced.” Eve snagged the go-cup with the black top, leaving the cream-colored top for Peabody.

It was hot and strong and perfect.

“I love this ride,” Peabody stated, cuddling her coffee.

“Don’t get used to the coffee service. Maybe the next time it’s shy of five a.m., minus three with a windchill of you don’t fucking want to know, we’ll do it again. Otherwise, forget it.”

Peabody only smiled, took the first glorious sip. “I love this ride,” she repeated.

2

Eve concluded playing a big, fat violin paid pretty well. Dorian Kuper had lived in a two-level apartment in a meticulously rehabbed building – one that had survived the Urban Wars. It stood, bright white brick and long sheets of glass gleaming, in a tony area of the Upper West Side.

When the doorman, wearing a classic black topcoat over his livery, greeted her by rank instead of snooty insults on the bland appearance of the DLE she drove, she knew Roarke owned the building. Obviously Doorman Frank had gotten the memo.

“How can I help you today, Lieutenant?”

“We need access to Dorian Kuper’s apartment.”

His round, almost cherubic face fell. “I was afraid of that. Please, come inside, out of the wind. I heard Mr. Kuper was missing. I guess you found him, and I guess it’s not good.”

She stepped inside, into warmth and white marble veined with gray, into the strangely spicy scent of whatever the masses of bold flowers cast off from their silver urn on the central table.

“We found him. It’s not good,” she confirmed.

“This will crush Ms. McKensie. His mother. They were really tight. He was a nice guy, Lieutenant, I just want to say. Always had a word, you know?”

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