Home > Devoted in Death (In Death #41)(7)

Devoted in Death (In Death #41)(7)
J.D. Robb

“If you’d wait here. Please sit and be comfortable. May I provide you with any refreshment?”

“No, thanks. Just Mina McKensie.”

“Of course.”

He moved to the curve of stairs and walked up.

She’d know, Eve thought. She’d know as soon as the droid said the cops were downstairs. There’d be a desperate glimmer of hope, but she’d know.

Eve caught the movement, looked up. Mina hadn’t dressed as yet, and wore a full-length cream-colored robe, silk and fluid. On her face – an arresting face of sultry eyes against golden skin – Eve saw the hope fighting to overcome the grief.

Her hands whitened at the knuckle on the rail as she came quickly down.

“Dorian. Please, say it quickly. Say it fast.”

“Ms. McKensie, we regret to inform you your son was killed.”

She held up both hands as if she could shove the words away, lowered as carefully as an invalid into a chair of lipstick red.

“You’re sure it’s Dorian. You’re absolutely sure?”

“Yes, we’re sure. We’re sorry for your loss.”

“  ‘Loss’? That’s such a small word, isn’t it? Most of what you lose, you can replace again. Like a key card or an earring. You just get another. But…”

She rocked herself, gently, gently, while tears swam and shimmered. “I knew. I knew. I knew. When he missed the performance. He would never miss a performance. But I thought, No, it’s just… anything else. Anything else. But he didn’t answer his ’link, and I begged him to just let me know he was all right. He would never cause me to worry. He would never do that. They said, the police, that we had to wait to file a report. Why, why?”

Peabody sat, leaned toward her. “A lot of people, adults, sometimes take a day or two, just need that space.”

“Dorian isn’t like that.”

“I understand, Ms. McKensie.”

“Would it have made a difference?” A rawness in the question, just short of accusation. “If you’d looked sooner, would it have —”

“I don’t think so.” In her gentle way, Peabody took her hand. “I don’t think so, I’m sorry. Can I get you some water, Ms. McKensie?”

“I need…” She closed her eyes, and two tears slid through. “Jarvis, I need a brandy, please.”

“Of course, madam, right away.”

“I need a brandy,” Mina repeated, opening her eyes again. “And I need just a moment. Then I need you to tell me what happened to Dorian. I need you to tell me that, and to tell me where he is so I can go see him. I need to see my son.”

“We’ll arrange that, Ms. McKensie.”

She took the brandy from the droid, brought it to her lips for a long, slow sip. “I won’t fall apart. That’s for a private moment. I won’t fall apart,” she repeated, but her voice shook, and the tears slid down her face. “Tell me what happened to my son.”

“Ms. McKensie, is there anyone I can contact to come and be with you?”

“I don’t need anyone. I need to know.”

“Ms. McKensie.” Eve stepped in, sat on the slick silver table, trained her eyes on the brimming ones. “What I have to tell you is hard. It’s very hard. If there’s someone you trust, you depend on, you might want that person to come and stay with you after I tell you. We spoke to your son’s house droid. Do you want us to activate her, bring her down?”

“Maeve.” Another tear spilled, but she drew in, shook her head. “No, not Maeve, not yet. Ethan. Ethan Chamberlin. My conductor. My lover. I asked him not to stay last night, but…

“Jarvis, please contact Mr. Chamberlin and —”

“It might be better if I spoke with him.” Peabody rose.

“Jarvis, give the officer the information.”

“We’ll take this in the next room.” Peabody gestured to the droid to lead her out.

“I won’t fall apart,” Mina repeated. “I’m very strong. I raised Dorian on my own after his father died. Dorian was only six. I raised him on my own, and built a career. I’m very strong. Tell me.”

“His body was found in Mechanics Alley. Do you know that area?”

“I’m not sure.”

“It’s downtown. It’s Lower East Side. Do you know any reason he might have been in that area?”

“No. No. He has friends downtown. In the Village, in Tribeca, SoHo. Dorian made friends easily. I want to know how he died.”

“The medical examiner will determine that.”

“You know. It’s what you do, isn’t it? You know what happened to him. I’m his mother, and I need to know.”

“Ms. McKensie, the ME has to determine cause of death. I can tell you that from our on-site evaluation, it appears he’d been restrained. He suffered multiple injuries.”

Very carefully Mina took another sip of brandy. “They restrained him so they could hurt him? So he couldn’t stop them from hurting him.”

Yes, she was a strong woman, Eve concluded. And far from stupid.

“It appears to be the case, but the ME will have to examine Dorian. I’m very sorry. Do you know of anyone who would do something like this to your son? Someone with a grudge, a former lover, a competitor?”

“No.” Mina pressed her fingers between her eyebrows, took a slow breath. “No, I don’t. I’m not just dismissing what you asked, but he was well-liked.”

“He taught at Juilliard. Maybe a student he reprimanded.”

“None that I know. He liked teaching. He didn’t need to teach for financial reasons. He gave that time because he enjoyed nurturing new talent. It excited him to help a student come along. No one who knew him could have done this. No one who knew him could have hurt him this way, taken his life.”

“You were close.” She kept her eyes on Mina’s as Peabody came back in.

“Yes. Very.”

“Then I’m going to ask you, do you know anyone who’d want to hurt you by hurting your son? The same question from a different angle, Ms. McKensie. Someone with a grudge, a former lover, a competitor?”

“Oh God.” Her hands trembled as she set the snifter aside, so she gripped them together in her lap. “Kill Dorian to hurt me? I don’t know anyone who’s capable of such a terrible thing. There are people who don’t particularly like me, or people I’ve had disagreements with. Even serious ones. But I swear to you, no one I know would hurt Dorian. Even people who didn’t particularly like me liked him. The idea, even the thought that someone would hurt him because of me —”

“Ms. McKensie, we have to ask. We have to look at every possibility.” Peabody sat again. “Mr. Chamberlin is on his way.”

“Thank you.”

“Did your son mention anyone bothering him? He’d have fans, right?” Eve suggested. “People who follow the opera, who enjoyed his work?”

“Yes – I mean, yes, he had many who enjoyed his work, who might attend performances, and wait to speak with him or have him sign a program.”

“Sometimes a fan can cross a line, can develop a fictional relationship, and become angry when the object of that interest doesn’t reciprocate.”

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