Home > Brotherhood in Death (In Death #42)(4)

Brotherhood in Death (In Death #42)(4)
J.D. Robb

“More than one?” Eve prompted.

“Well . . . I think so. I expected to find Edward and the Realtor he’d engaged. I assumed they were talking. I called out to him. I didn’t want to startle them. I started back, and when I got to the study, I saw him sitting in Granddad’s desk chair. Black eye, the blood. He was frightened. I saw the fear, and I started forward to help him. I must have been struck from behind. It’s never happened to me before, but I believe that’s what happened.”

“It knocked you out.”

“The injuries are consistent with a strike from a heavy object, back of the skull.” Mira brought Dennis a mug, wrapped his hands around it. “And with his right temple hitting the floor when he fell.”

“I’m not questioning that, Dr. Mira.”

“I know you’re not.” She sighed, then leaned into Dennis to gently kiss his bruised temple. “I know you’re not.”

“What did you do, Mr. Mira, when you came to?”

“I was disoriented, very confused initially. Edward wasn’t there, and though we haven’t been on the best of terms in a long time, he would never have left me on the floor that way. I called for him—I think—and I looked. I’m afraid I wandered around the house for a while, still a little confused, until it came to me something terrible had happened to Edward. I contacted Charlotte so she wouldn’t worry, and asked her if you could come and look into it all.”

He gave Eve a look with those soft, dreamy eyes that made her want to kiss his temple as Mira had. It mortified her.

“I realize now I should have simply contacted nine-one-one rather than bothering you.”

“This isn’t a bother. Are you up to taking a look at the study? Seeing if anything’s missing or out of place?”

“Anything I can do.”

When they walked back, she sealed her hands, her feet. “It’s better if you don’t touch anything. You’ve already been in there, and through the house, so sealing up’s beside the point. But let’s keep it to a minimum.”

She paused at the doorway. “So your cousin was in the desk chair. Behind the desk.”

“Yes, he was—oh, not behind it. The chair was in front of the desk.” He frowned a moment. “Why would that be? But, yes, he was sitting in the chair, in front of the desk. On the rug.”

“Okay.” That jibed with her observations. “Hold it a minute.”

She took what she needed from her kit, crouched down to take a swab of the blood from the floorboards, sealed it. Then meticulously swabbed an area of the rug.

She added drops of something from a small bottle to the swab, nodded. “Blood here. Somebody cleaned it up, but you don’t get it all with a quick run of household cleaner.”

She bent down, sniffed. “You can still smell it.” She put on microgoggles, peered close. “And if you’re looking, you can see it, and the faint pattern where the chair rolled out and back, sat here with weight in it.”

“Edward’s weight.”

“Looks that way. Another minute.” She moved behind the desk, started an inch-by-inch exam of the chair.

“They missed some. Just a drop here.” She swabbed again, carefully, leaving enough for the sweepers to take their own sample. “Was he restrained, Mr. Mira?”

“I . . .” He closed his eyes. “I don’t think so. I don’t think he was. I’m sorry. I’m not at all sure. I was so shocked.”

“Okay. Black eye, bloody mouth. So someone assaulted him, put him in the chair, but out here, more in the center of the room. Scared him enough to keep him there. A stunner maybe, a knife, a weapon anyway, or the threat of more physical violence.”

She circled the room again. “Voices. So they were talking. Wanted something from him, most likely. But before they can get it, or finish, you come in. You call out, so that gives them time to threaten him to keep it shut, to move out of sight. They don’t stun you, if they have a stunner. You stun somebody, it takes a few seconds, and maybe you see them before you go down. Bash from behind. But they don’t finish you off, or take you with them. You’re not important in this. You’re just an inconvenience. But they go to the trouble of cleaning up, putting the chair back behind the desk.

“Why?”

“It’s fascinating, the science and art of what you do.”

“What?”

“What you do,” Dennis said, “it’s a science, and an art. The observational skills are so polished, and—I think—innate. Sorry, my mind wandered.” He smiled. “You asked why. I think I might understand that. If they knew Edward, they might know me. Some people would say, as my mind will wander, I simply fell and struck my head. And imagined the rest.”

“Some people would be stupid,” Eve said, making him smile. “Anything not here that should be, Mr. Mira, or out of place?”

“We’ve kept this almost exactly as he left it. My grandfather. Some of what’s here comes to me, to my children, to others. But they were content to leave it like this for now. Everything’s here. I don’t think anything’s been taken or moved.”

“All right. You came to the doorway, saw him. You froze for a second—people do. You’re focused on your cousin, and you move forward to help him.”

She went to the doorway, paused, took a quick step in. Then scanned the shelves.

She picked up a stone bowl, brilliantly polished, frowned, set it down again. Tested the weight of an award plaque, dismissed it. Then she curled her fingers around the uplifted trunk of large glass elephant in jubilant blues and greens. Had weight, she mused, and that handy grip.

“Dr. Mira?”

Mira moved forward, and like Eve examined the elephant. “Yes, yes, the legs. They’re consistent with the wound.”

As Eve got another swab, Mira turned to Dennis. “I will never, this is an oath, never complain about your hard head again.”

“Cleaned it up, but we’ve got a little blood. Attacker steps back, side of the doorway. This is handy, heavy. You come in, whack, down you go. He, she, they—it’s going to be they, one to deal with Edward, one to deal with you and the cleanup. So one of them gets rug cleaner, whatever, cleans things up, gets the hard drive, the discs. And they take him, leave you. I’m going to go through the house, make sure they didn’t stuff him somewhere—sorry,” she said immediately.

“No, don’t be.”

“I’m going to have sweepers come in, go over all this. I can contact Missing Persons, expedite there.”

“Could you . . .”

“Will you take lead on this?” Understanding, Mira took Dennis’s hand. “Both of us would feel easier if you remained in charge.”

“Sure, I can clear that. Why don’t you go back and sit down, let me get things rolling.”

Eve bagged the elephant, contacted Crime Scene, ordered up some uniforms to canvass. Someone had walked in the house, most likely invited in by Edward Mira. She’d check on this Realtor. And someone had walked back out again, either carrying Edward’s body or forcing him to leave with them.

They’d need transportation.

Not a burglary, she thought, and not a straight kidnapping, or why rough him up first? The chair in the middle of the room struck her as an interrogation.

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