Authors: J. D. Robb
Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #New York (N.Y.), #Women Sleuths, #Mystery Fiction, #Police, #Romantic suspense fiction, #Police Procedural, #Political, #Policewomen, #Police - New York (State) - New York, #Dallas; Eve (Fictitious Character)
Imitation in Death
Summer of 2059 was a mean and murderous bitch who showed no sign of lightening her mood. September dragged in on the sweaty heels of August and smothered New York in a wet blanket of heat, humidity, and foul air.
Summer, Jacie Wooton thought, was killing business.
It was barely two A.M., prime time with the bars spitting out customers, and those customers looking for a little extra action before heading home. The heart of the night, as she liked to think of it, when those with a yen and the price to satisfy it came trolling for a companion.
She was licensed for street work, since she'd screwed herself up with a little illegals addiction and a couple -of busts. But she was clean now, and intended to work her way back up the prostitution ladder until she was back on the arm of the rich and lonely.
But for now, she had to earn a goddamn living, and no= body wanted to have sex, and pay for it, in all this heat.
The fact that she'd seen only a couple of associates on the stroll in the last two hours told her there weren't many willing to have sex and be paid for it in the current climate either.
But Jacie was a pro, had considered herself a complete professional since the night, more than twenty years ago, she'd put her first license to use.
She might sweat in the heat, but she didn't wilt. Just as she'd cracked a bit under the probationary street license, but it didn't break her.
She'd stay on her feet-or her knees or her back, depending on the client's preference-and do the job.
Do the job, she told herself. Bank the pay, mark the time. And in a few months, she'd be back in a penthouse on Park where she belonged.
If the thought passed through her mind that she'd gotten a bit old and soft for street 'work; she blocked it out and focused on making one more score. Just one more score.
Besides, if she didn't make that one more score tonight, she wasn't going to have anything left over for body treatments after the rent. And she needed a tune-up.
Not that she wasn't still choice, she told herself as she strolled by a lamppost in the three-block area she'd staked as her own in the bowels of the city. She kept in shape. Maybe she'd traded the Push for- a bottle of vodka-and she could sure as hell use a drink right now-but she still looked good. Dam good.
And she was showing off the merchandise in a go-glo halter and crotch skirt, both pulsing red. Until she hit the body sculptor, she needed the halter to boost up her boobs. But her legs were still her best feature. Long and shapely, and given an erotic touch with the silver spike sandals with lattice straps that crossed to her knees.
They were fucking killing her as she walked the streets looking for one more job.
To give her feet a break, shy leaned on the next lamppost, cocked out a hip, and scanned the all-but-deserted street out of tired brown eyes. She should've gone for the long silver wig, she told herself. Johns always went for hair. But she hadn't been able to face the weight of a wig tonight, and had simply spiked up her own ink black, and given it a careless spray of silver netting.
A cab streamed by, and a couple of cars passed. Though she leaned over, gave them each the standard come-on, nobody so much as paused.
Ten more minutes and she'd call it a night. And she'd give the landlord a free blowjob if she was short on the rent.
She pushed off the post and began to walk, slowly on aching feet, in the direction of the one room she'd been reduced to. She remembered she'd once had a high-toned apartment on the Upper West Side, a closet full of beautiful' clothes, and a full appointment book.
Illegals, as her counselor had told her, sent you into a downward spiral that often ended in miserable death.
She'd lived through it, Jacie thought, but she. was right dead center of misery.
Six more months, she promised herself. And she'd be back on top again.
She saw him walking toward her. Rich, eccentric, and out of place-you didn't see many guys wandering around this area done up in evening clothes. With a cape and top hat, no less. He carried a black satchel. Jacie put on her game face, and slicked a hand down her hip. "Hey, baby. Since you're all dressed up, why don't we have a party?"
He smiled at her, a quick, appreciative smile that showed her a flash of white, even teeth. "What did you have in mind?"
His voice suited his dress. Upper-class, she thought, with both pleasure and nostalgia. Style, culture. "Whatever you want. You're the boss."
"A private party then, somewhere... close." He glanced around, then gestured toward a narrow alley. "I'm afraid I'm a bit pressed for time right now."
The alley meant a quick bang, which was fine with her. They could get the business done, and if she played it right, she'd get herself the fee and a nice tip. More than enough for the rent and the boob job, she planned as she led the way.
"You're not from around here, right?"
"Why do you say that?"
"Don't sound like it, don't look like it." She shrugged, none of her business. "Tell me what you want, baby, and we'll get the financials out of the way."
"Oh, I want it all."
She laughed, then reached out to run a hand over his crotch. "Mmm. You sure do. You can have it all." Then I can get out of these shoes and into a nice, cold drink. She named a fee, elevating it as much as she thought possible. When he nodded, didn't blink at the inflated price, she cursed herself for not adding more.
"I need to have it up front," she told him. "Once you pay, we start having fun."
"Right. Payment' first."
Still smiling, he spun her around to face the wall, jerked her head back by the hair. He slit her throat so she couldn't scream, sliced it with one stroke with the knife he'd held under his cloak. Her mouth opened as she gaped at him, and she made a gurgling sound as she slid down the dirty wall.
"And now the fun," he said, and went to work on her.
You never saw it all. No matter how many times you walked through the blood and the gore, no matter how often you looked at the horror man inflicted on man, you never saw it all.
There was always something worse, something meaner, or crazier, more vicious, more cruel. As Lieutenant Eve Dallas stood over what had once been a woman, she wondered when she would see worse than this.
Two of the uniform cops on scene were still retching at the mouth of the alley. The sound of their sickness echoed back to her. She stood where, she was, hands and boots already sealed, and waited for her own shuddering stomach to settle..
Had she seen this much blood before? It was hard to remember. It was best not to.
She crouched, opened her field kit, and took out her. W pad to run the victim's fingerprints. She couldn't avoid the blood, so she stopped thinking about it. Lifting the limp hand, she pressed the thumb to her pad.
. "Victim is female, Caucasian. The body was discovered at approximately oh three-thirty by officers responding to anonymous nine-one-one, and is herewith identified through fingerprint check as Wooton, Jacie, age forty-one, licensed companion, residing 375 Doyers. "
She took a shallow breath, then another. "Victim's throat has been cut. Spatter pattern indicates wound was inflicted while victim stood against the north-facing wall of the alley. Blood pattern and trail would indicate victim fell or was laid across alley floor by assailant or assailants who then..."
Jesus. Oh Jesus.
"Who then mutilated the victim by removing the pelvic area. Both the throat and pelvic wounds indicate the use of a sharp implement and some precision."
Despite the heat her skin prickled, cold and clammy as she took out gauges, recorded data.
"I'm sorry." Peabody, her aide, spoke from behind her. Eve didn't have to look around to know Peabody's face would still be pale and glossy from shock and nausea. "I'm sorry, Lieutenant; I couldn't maintain."
"Don't worry about it. You okay now?"
"I... Yes, sir."
Eve nodded and -continued to work. Stalwart, steady, and as dependable as the tide, Peabody had taken one look at what lay in the alley, turned sheet-white, and stumbled back toward the street at Eve's sharp order to puke elsewhere.
"I've got an ID on her. Jacie Wooton, Doyers. An LC. Do a run for me."
"I've never seen anything like this. Just never seen..."
"Get the data. Do it down there. You're in my light here."
She wasn't, Peabody knew. Her lieutenant was cutting her a break, and because her head wanted to spin again, she took it, moving toward the mouth of the alley.
She'd sweated through her uniform shirt, and her dark bowl of hair was damp at the temples under her cap. Her throat was raw, her voice weak, but she initiated the run. And watched Eve work.
Efficient, thorough, and some would say cold. But Peabody had seen the leap of shock and horror, and of pity on Eve's face before her own vision had blurred. Cold wasn't the word, but driven was.
She was pale now, Peabody noted, and it wasn't just the work lights that bleached the color from her narrow face. Her brown eyes were focused and flat, and unwavering as they examined the atrocity. Her hands were steady, and her boots smeared with blood.
There was a line of sweat down the middle of the back of her shirt, but she wouldn't stumble away. She would stay until it was done.
When Eve straightened, Peabody saw a tall, lean woman in stained boots, worn jeans, and a. gorgeous linen jacket, a fine-boned face with a wide mouth, wide eyes of gilded brown, and a short and disordered cap of hair nearly the same color.
More: She saw a cop who never turned away from death.
"Peabody, I don't care if you puke as long as you don't contaminate the scene. Give me the data."
"Victim's lived in New York for twenty-two years. Previous residence on Central Park West. She's resided down here for eighteen months."
"That's quite a change of venue. What she get popped for?"
"Illegals. Three strikes. Lost her top-drawer license, did six months in, rehab, counseling, and was given a probationary street license about a year ago."
"She roll on her dealer?"
"We'll see what the tox screen tells us once she's in the morgue, but I don't think Jack here is, her dealer." Eve lifted the envelope that had been left-sealed to prevent bloodstains-on the body.
LIEUTENANT EVE DALLAS, NYPSD
Computer-generated, she guessed, in a fancy font on elegant cream-colored paper. Thick, weighty, and expensive. The sort of thing used, for high-class invites. She should know, she mused, as her husband was big on sending and receiving high-class invites.
She took out the second evidence bag and read the note again.
Hello, Lieutenant Dallas:
Hot enough for ya? I know you've had a busy summer, and I've been admiring your work. I can think of no one on the police force of our fair city I'd rather have join me on what I hope will be a very intimate level.
Here is a sample of my work. What do you think? Looking forward to our continued association.
"I'll tell you what I think, Jack. I think you're a very sick fuck. Tag and bag," she ordered with a last glance down the alley. "Homicide."
Wooton's apartment was on the fourth floor of one of the housing structures thrown up as a temporary shelter for refugees and victim- of the Urban Wars. A number of them stood in the poorer, sections of the city, and were always slated for replacement.
The city dickered back and forth between tossing out the low-rent.. IC's, chemi-heads, and dealers along with the working poor and mowing down the shaky structures or revitalizing.
While they dickered, the buildings''decayed and nothing was done.
Eve expected nothing would be done until the dumps collapsed inward on their residents and the city fathers found themselves in the throes of a -class-action suit.
But until that time, it was the sort of place you expected to find a down-on-her-luck whore.
Her room was a hot little box with a stingy bump-out for a kitchen and a thin sliver for a bathroom. Her view was the wall of the identical building to the west.
Through the thin walls Eve could clearly hear the heroic snoring from the apartment next door.
Despite the circumstance, Jacie had kept her place clean, and had made some attempt at style. The furniture was cheap, but it was colorful. She hadn't been able to afford privacy screens, but there were frilly curtains at the windows. She'd left the bed pulled out of the convertible sofa, but it was made, and the sheets were good cotton. Possibly salvaged from better times, Eve thought.
She had a low-end desk 'link on a table, and a prefab dresser covered with the various tools of her trade: enhancements, scents, wigs, tawdry jewelry, temporary tattoos. The drawer and closet held work clothes primarily, but mixed in with the whore-wear were a couple of more conservative outfits Eve imagined she'd used for off-hours.
She found a supply of over-the-counter meds, including a half bottle of Sober-Up and a full, unopened bottle as backup. Which made sense with the two bottles of vodka and the bottle of home-brew in the kitchen.