Home > Devoted in Death (In Death #41)(5)

Devoted in Death (In Death #41)(5)
J.D. Robb

“Do you know anyone who didn’t think he was such a nice guy?”

“Not right off, I’m sorry. He had a lot of friends. They’d come over for parties, for music.”

“Girlfriends, boyfriends?”

Frank shifted on his feet.

“Anything you can tell us,” Peabody said, adding a light touch to his arm. “Anything may help us find who killed him.”

“I get it, but it’s hard to talk about a resident’s personal life. I’d say Mr. Kuper had both, and nothing really serious.”

“All right. Has anyone been around in the past couple weeks, asking about him?” Eve asked. “Any former friend make any trouble?”

“Not that I know of. And when you’re on the door, you usually know.”

“Okay, Frank, thanks. I need you to clear us up to his place.”

“Sixth floor. Apartment six hundred. That’s the main entrance. I’ll clear the first elevator. I need to get clearance to get his pass key and code. It’ll take a minute.”

“I’ve got a master. We’ll get in.”

With a nod, Frank walked over to a blank granite counter, tapped and brought up a screen. “Lobby droid’s in the back. I don’t activate her this early. It’s usually quiet, so what’s the point? You’re clear, Lieutenant.”

He cleared his throat as Eve and Peabody stepped to the elevator. “Ah, does his mom know?”

“We’ll speak to her after we see his apartment. Like you said, it’s early. No reason to wake her up with this kind of news.”

“It’s going to crush her. They doted on each other, you know?”

Though she didn’t know what it was to have a mother dote on her, or to dote back, Eve nodded before she stepped into the elevator.

Ascending to sixth floor, the computer announced as they started to rise, proving Frank as efficient as any droid.

“Nice guy, lots of friends, loved his mother, bisexual.” Eve considered. “Not a bad rundown from a doorman in a couple minutes.”

“He looked sad,” Peabody commented. “When the doorman looks sad, you know you’re going to be dealing with a lot of sad in an investigation.”

“If you want happy, don’t be a murder cop. Or a cop period,” Eve decided.

The elevator opened to a wide hallway carpeted in dignified gray with the classy touch of artwork arranged on the walls. Curved tables holding slim, clear vases of white flowers ranged between apartment doors.

Six hundred took the west corner farthest from the elevator. Prime real estate in a prime building. Yeah, Eve thought, playing the big, fat violin brought in the bucks.

“Full security,” she noted, engaging her recorder. “Cam, palm plate, double police locks.”

She bypassed all with her master, opened the right side of the double entrance doors. Lights that had been off went automatically to a soft ten percent illumination.

“Convenient,” she said, “but not enough. Lights on full,” she ordered.

“Wow.” Peabody’s eyes widened as the light strengthened. “It’s totally uptown.”

Classy old-world, was Eve’s sense. The sort of deal Roarke preferred. Rich, deep colors, sink-in sofas and chairs. High backs, graceful curves. Dark, gleaming wood, the glint of silver and crystal. Flowers in vases that looked old and precious, candles in slender holders.

Art ran to landscapes, cityscapes, seascapes.

“Let’s take this floor first, see if he kept an office down here. We’ll want a look at his computers, his house ’link.”

Eve moved left, Peabody right.

When Eve opened double pocket doors, she found the unrestricted space created one large L. Living area, dining area, kitchen.

A serious sort of kitchen, she concluded, with a massive cooktop and oven in addition to double AutoChefs, miles of counter done in pale gold with tiny glinting flecks. Like beach sand, she thought as she walked through, opened cabinet doors, drawers at random.

A lot of serious kitchen tools, precisely organized.

Tucked inside a large, fully stocked pantry, she found a house droid created to depict a pleasant-faced, middle-aged woman of short stature and sturdy build. The droid wore a gray uniform and white apron, and the dead-eyed expression of a droid at rest.

“Got a droid here!” Eve called out, and began to examine it for its manual operating switch.

“There’s a powder room, a totally mag music room,” Peabody began as she came in. “Piano, cello, double bass, three violins, flutes, piccolos. It’ll open up just like this area. High-class party central. Here.”

She moved around Eve, reached under the steel-gray bun at the base of the droid’s neck and did whatever needed to be done to activate.

The dead blue eyes became full of life and merriment. The slack mouth curved up in a cheerful smile.

“And what is it I can be doing for you this fine morning?”

The plank-thick Irish brogue would have made Roarke – whose own Irish was like a hint of music gliding through words – laugh or wince. Eve just lifted her eyebrows, and her badge.

The merry eyes scanned the badge, processed, confirmed. “And what, Lieutenant ma’am, would the local gardi be wanting with the likes of me?”

“Dallas. Lieutenant Dallas. Detective Peabody. At what time were you last activated?”

“I’ll be pleased to answer that, and any other questions you might have once I’ve cleared the matter with my Dorian. That scamp would still be abed at this hour if you hadn’t come ’round.”

“  ‘Scamp’?”

“He’s a lively one, he is. Works hard, plays the same. If he’s been waked so early, he’ll be wanting his coffee. I’m happy to serve you as well.”

“He won’t be wanting his coffee. Dorian Kuper is dead.”

Something resembling shock came and went in the droid’s eyes. “I can’t process that information. Please repeat.”

Once again Peabody moved in. “Could we have your name?”

“I’m Maeve.”

“Maeve, we regret to inform you Dorian was killed last night. We’re very sorry for your loss.”

“But, he’s young and healthy.” Grief, and anyone would have sworn sincere, clouded the voice, the eyes. “Killed? An accident?”

“He was murdered. Let’s move out here,” Eve demanded. “There’s no point standing in a closet.”

“No one would do him harm. I think there’s a mistake of some sort, begging your pardon.”

“There’s no mistake,” Eve began. “His identification’s been verified and confirmed.”

The droid moved to the counter, sat on one of the stools. “Why are humans so fragile?”

“It’s a mystery. When did you last interact with Dorian?”

“One moment, please.” The eyes went blank for a moment, then filled with apparent distress. “Ah God, ah God. My records show it’s been sixty-two hours and eighteen minutes since my Dorian deactivated me. Has he been dead so long?”

“No. No one has activated you until now?”

“No.”

Eve wondered why the officer on the missing persons hadn’t activated and questioned the house droid – then remembered the report had only just been filed.

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