Home > Concealed in Death (In Death #38)

Concealed in Death (In Death #38)
J.D. Robb


Neglect could kill a building brick by brick. It was, to his mind, more insidious than hurricane or earthquake as it murdered slowly, quietly, not in rage or passion, but with utter contempt.

Or perhaps he was being a bit lyrical about a structure that had served no purpose other than housing rats and junkies for more than a dozen years.

But with vision, and considerable money, the old building, sagging its shoulders in what had once been Hell’s Kitchen, would stand strong again, and with purpose.

Roarke had vision, and considerable money, and enjoyed using both as he pleased.

He’d had his eye on the property for more than a year, waiting like a cat at a mousehole for the shaky conglomerate that owned it to crumble a little more. He’d had his ear to that mousehole as well, and had listened to the rumors of rehab or razing, of additional funding and complete bankruptcy.

As he’d anticipated, the reality fell between, and the property popped on the market. Still he’d waited, biding his time, until the fanciful—to his mind—asking price slid down to a more reasonable level.

And he’d waited a bit more yet, knowing the troubles of the group that owned it would surely make them more amenable to an offer well below even that level—with some additional sweating time.

The buying and selling of property—or anything else for that matter—was a business, of course. But it was also a game, and one he relished playing, one he relished winning. He considered the game of business nearly as satisfying and entertaining as stealing.

Once he’d stolen to survive, and then he’d continued when it had become another kind of game because, hell, he was damn good at it.

But his thieving days lay behind him, and he rarely regretted stepping out of the shadows. He might have built the foundations of his fortune in those shadows, but he added to them, wielded the power of them now in full light.

When he considered what he’d given up, and what he’d gained by doing so, he knew it to be the best deal of his life.

Now he stood in the rubble of his newest acquisition, a tall man with a lean and disciplined body. He wore a perfectly tailored suit of charcoal gray and a crisp shirt the color of peat smoke. He stood beside the spark plug of Pete Staski, the job boss, and the curvaceous Nina Whitt, his head architect. Workers buzzed around, hauling in tools, shouting out to each other over the grinding music already playing, as Roarke had heard it grind on countless other construction sites on and off planet.

“She’s got good bones,” Pete said around a wad of blackberry gum. “And I ain’t going to argue about the work, but I gotta say, one last time, it’d be cheaper to tear her down, start from scratch.”

“Maybe so,” Roarke agreed, and the Irish wove through the words. “But she deserves better than the wrecking ball. So we’ll take her down to those bones, and give her what Nina here has designed.”

“You’re the boss.”

“I am indeed.”

“It’s going to be worth it,” Nina assured him. “I always think this is the most exciting part. The tearing down what’s outlived its time so you can begin to build up again.”

“And you never know what you’re going to find during demo. Pete hefted a sledgehammer. “Found a whole staircase once, boxed in with particle board. Stack of magazines left on the steps, too, back from 2015.”

With a shake of his head, he held the sledgehammer out to Roarke. “You should take the first couple whacks. It’s good luck when the owner does it.”

“Well now, I’m all about the luck.” Amused, Roarke took off his suit jacket, handed it to Nina. He glanced at the scarred, dingy wall, smiled at the poorly spelled graffiti scrawled over it.

Fuk the mutherfuking world!

“We’ll start right there, why don’t we?” He took the sledgehammer, tested its weight, swung it back and into the gyp board with enough muscle to have Pete grunt in approval.

The cheap material broke open, spewing out gray dust, vomiting out gray chunks.

“That wasn’t up to code,” Pete commented. “Lucky board that flimsy didn’t fall down on its own.” He shook his head in disgust. “You want, you can give it a couple more, and she’ll go.”

Roarke supposed it was a human thing to get such a foolish charge out of destruction. He plowed the hammer into the wall again, shooting out small sprays of gypsum, then a third time. As predicted, the bulk of the wall crumbled. Beyond it lay a narrow space with spindly studs—against code as well—and another wall.

“What’s this shit?” Pete shifted over, started to poke his head through.

“Wait.” Setting the hammer aside, Roarke took Pete’s arm, moved in himself.

Between the wall he’d opened and the one several feet behind it lay two bundles wrapped in thick plastic.

But he could see, clearly enough, what they were.

“Ah well, f**k the motherfucking world indeed.”

“Is that . . . Holy shit.”

“What is it?” Nina, still holding Roarke’s jacket, pushed against Pete’s other side, nosed in. “Oh! Oh my God! Those are—those are—”

“Bodies,” Roarke finished. “What’s left of them. You’ll have to hold the crew off, Pete. It appears I have to tag up my wife.”

Roarke took his jacket from Nina’s limp fingers, drew his ’link out of the pocket. “Eve,” he said when her face came on screen. “It seems I’m in need of a cop.”

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