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Authors: J. D. Robb

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Crime, #Crime & mystery, #Thrillers & Mystery

Innocent in Death (6 page)

BOOK: Innocent in Death
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Irritation, faint as a whisper, passed over his face. “I’ve no intention of dabbling in old habits.”

“Old habits die hard, didn’t you say?”

Now a hint of ice came into his eyes, into his voice. “Eavesdropping now, Lieutenant?”

“I was standing in my office. Your door was open. I have ears.”

“Then use them to hear this. I’m having lunch, nothing more or less.” His head angled slightly while those wild blue eyes narrowed speculatively on her face. “Or don’t you trust me?”

“I’d trust you a hell of a lot more if you didn’t refer to her as an old
friend
when we both know she was a hell of a lot more.”

“What she was is nearly a dozen years in the past. Years before I ever set eyes on you.” Now simple bafflement joined the irritation and the ice. “Christ Jesus, are you jealous of a woman I haven’t spoken to, seen, or thought of in years?”

Eve only looked at him for one long moment. “You’re thinking of her now,” she said, and walked away.

She jogged down the steps, and there was Summerset, Roarke’s majordomo, his guardian, his man of all work. And the chronic pain in her ass. He stood, tall and thin in unrelieved black, his pewter hair swept back into wings, and cool disdain in his dark eyes.

She only grabbed the coat, which was draped over the newel post. “If you say a word to me, just one fucking word, I’ll yank that stick out of your ass and beat you bloody with it.”

She strode toward the door, then spun around. “And tell your
keeper
if I were the jealous type I’d have beaten
him
bloody two years ago. Goddamn it.”

Summerset arched his brows, speculated, then glanced up as Roarke came to the top of the stairs.

“The lieutenant seems more abrasive than usual this morning,” Summerset commented.

“She’s having a mood.” Hands in his pockets, Roarke frowned at the front door. A damned uncharacteristic mood, he thought. “Magdelana’s in town. We’re having lunch today. Apparently, Eve doesn’t like it.”

He met Summerset’s eyes and the expression in them had the temper he’d barely gotten back under control straining again. “Don’t start on me. I’ve had enough drama for one day, and it’s not even eight in the bloody morning.”

“Why would you complicate your life?”

“I’m not. I’m having fucking lunch. Leave it be,” Roarke warned before walking away.

The snow at the curbs had gone to dirty gray, and slick patches of ice were booby traps on the sidewalks and people glides. Half-frozen commuters stood bundled to the eyes waiting at maxibus stations. On the corners, glide-cart vendors had their grills smoking as much for personal warmth as business.

Her vehicle gauge listed the ambient temperature as a hideous four degrees.

She hoped Roarke froze his Irish ass off.

Sitting in snarled traffic, she let her head drop down to the wheel. She’d handled it the wrong way. She didn’t know how the hell she should’ve handled it, but she knew she’d bungled it. Now he was going to be pissed at her when he met that…slut. That couldn’t be good strategy.

And why the hell should she need any strategy anyway?

“Forget it, forget it,” she told herself. “Barely a bump in the road.”

Still she steamed about it all the way downtown, brooded over it as she crammed herself in the crowded elevator up to Homicide.

She went straight to her office with barely a snarl for the bull pen. Closed the door, programmed coffee.

Work space, she reminded herself. No personal business allowed. That was it, that was all. She decided to drink her coffee and stare out her tiny window until her mind was clear enough to work.

She was still drinking, still staring, when, after a quick knock, Peabody walked in.

“Morning. How was the dinner thing?”

“I ate. Get your coat. We’re going to the vic’s apartment.”

“Now? Should I contact Lissette Foster to make sure she’s—”

“I said get your coat.”

“Yes, sir.”

Peabody didn’t speak again until they were in the car. “Did I miss something? Are we looking at Lissette as prime suspect?”

“When did you think we’d cleared her?”

“I didn’t, but I thought we felt she was an unlikely for this.”

“She had the opportunity. As for motive, spouses can always find one. Sometimes it’s just because you married an asshole. This is where we start.” She drove for a time in silence. “I want to see where he lived,” she said more calmly. “How he lived. How they lived. His body tells us he was a healthy man in his middle twenties who died from ingesting a lethal dose of ricin. That’s about all it tells us. That doesn’t mean that’s all the vic has to say.”

“Okay, I get that. Is everything all right?”

“No, it’s really not. But I’m not going to talk about it. Let’s do the job.” But the silence that dropped back was worse. Eve dragged a hand through her hair. “Talk about something else. You never shut the hell up most of the time. Talk about something else, for Christ’s sake.”

“Ummmm. I can’t think of anything. It’s too much pressure. Oh, oh! I know. Are you all set for tomorrow night?”

“Set for what?”

“Now.”

“If it’s now, it’s not tomorrow night. What did you smoke for breakfast?”

“All I had was rehydrated grapefruit. The holiday weight just won’t get the hell off me. It’s all cookies.” Peabody gave a mournful sigh. “My ass is entirely made up of cookies.”

“What kind? I like cookies.”

“Every kind,” Peabody said. “I have no strength against the mighty variety tin of Christmas cookies. My grandmother still makes them from scratch.”

“I thought cookies were made of sugar.”

“Scratchis from sugar—and flour and eggs and carob chips and butter. Mmmm, butter.” Peabody closed her eyes and dreamed of it. “Like from cows.”

“Cows are a milk thing.” Eve waited while a herd of pedestrians tromped across the crosswalk. “And I don’t understand why anyone wants to drink something that comes out of a cow like, well, piss.”

“You make butter from milk. If you’re talking real deal. Damn it, now I’m hungry. I can’t talk about cookies, my ass is expanding just from the conversation. I was talking about something. Oh,
Now
.”

“It was now, it became then. Now it’s now all over again.”

Brow knit, Peabody turned her head to look at Eve. “You’re trying to confuse me, and hey—nice job. You know I mean Nadine’s new show. You’re first up tomorrow for the premiere.”

“And I’m trying not to think about it.”

“It’s going to be mag. What are you wearing?”

“I thought, just for a kick, I’d try clothes.”

“Come on, Dallas, the show’s national and satellite and it’s getting megahype. Let Roarke pick out your outfit.”

Eve’s eyes narrowed into sharp slits; she felt a snarl rising in her throat. “I know how to dress. I’ve been wearing clothes for years now.” She thought of Magdelana again, and the bold red dress with silver shoes. “I’m a cop, not some fashion whore. If he wanted someone who struts around on stilts wearing fancy dresses, he shouldn’t have married me.”

“I don’t think your wardrobe was a big factor.” Cautiously, Peabody dipped a toe in dangerous waters. “Did you guys have a fight?”

“Not exactly. But I think we’re due.” Eve punched it to swing around a sedan, then zipped onto a second-level street spot. “This is close enough.”

“I’ll say.” Peabody got her wind back, then jogged down to the sidewalk behind Eve.

The bitter cold drilled straight to the bone, and a whipping wind raced down the urban canyons. Eve shoved her ungloved hands into her pockets, and pushed her mind back to the job.

“She’s got nothing to hide, she won’t have a problem with us looking around her place. Otherwise, we can get a warrant quick enough. We look for any sign of the poison, that includes the beans themselves, or any by-product. I want to go through his data and communications, any discs, and paperwork. I want to know what he kept in his top dresser drawer, hidden in his coat pockets. The works.”

Peabody sighed with relief when they entered the building and shut out February’s blast. “If their place is like Kowoski’s, it won’t take long.”

After the hike up the stairs, Eve knocked on the door. It was opened by a woman with tired eyes and glossy dreadlocks. “Can I help you?”

“Lieutenant Dallas and Detective Peabody to see Lissette Foster.”

“You’re the police investigating Craig’s death. I’m Cicely Bolviar, Lissy’s mother. Please come in. She’s in the bathroom.” Cicely sent a worried glance toward the closed bathroom door. “She’s taking a shower. She didn’t sleep last night. I’m going to make breakfast. She needs to eat something. I’m sorry.” She turned back to Eve and Peabody. “Please sit. Would you like coffee?”

“Don’t trouble.”

“It’s no trouble. I want to make her something. We’re meeting Craig’s family this afternoon to talk about…” Her lips quivered. “To talk about arrangements. I want to make her something to eat.”

“When did you get to New York, Ms. Bolviar?”

“Late last night. I came as soon as…when Lissy called to tell me, I came. She needs her
maman
now. He called me that, too.
Maman
.” She moved into the kitchen bump, then stood as if she didn’t know what to do next.

“It was here she wanted to live, my Lissy, and because she had Craig, I didn’t worry. In a few years, he told me—they were so young—in a few years, they’d start a family, and I’d be
Grandmaman
. That’s what he said. Do you know what this person killed? They killed that sweet boy, and that family he and Lissy would have made. They killed that joy. Do you know how this happened?”

“We’ll need to speak with your daughter.”


Bien sûr
. Please sit. I’ll make coffee. They have egg substitute. At home, I have eggs from the chickens my neighbor keeps, but here…He was a sweet boy.” Her tired eyes gleamed with tears. “Such a sweet boy. This should never have happened. Please sit.”

There was a bright blue couch with bright green pillows and two chairs covered in the same vivid colors done in wide stripes. A streamlined workstation took up one corner of the room while a small table with two chairs stood in the other. The arrangement, the order, the flashing colors gave the stingy space style and function.

Cicely walked to the bathroom door, rapped lightly. “Mignon, the police are here. The lieutenant and detective. She’ll only be a moment,” she told Eve. “I’ll make the coffee now.”

Lissette came out in loose pants and a sweatshirt with thick socks on her feet. She looked like a woman who was suffering from a long illness. Her color had gone pasty, her eyes were dull and swollen. She moved as if her bones hurt.

“You know something more?” Her voice was like rusted metal. “Something about Craig?”

Eve got to her feet. “Have a seat, Mrs. Foster.”

“I went to see him. We went to see him. His parents and I went to that place. It wasn’t a mistake. You said it wasn’t. It broke them to pieces. His mom and dad, it broke them to pieces. What will I do now?” As if suddenly aware of her surroundings, she looked around the little apartment. “What will I do?
Maman
.”

“There, my baby. Sit now.” Cicely came back, eased Lissette into a chair. “Please, can’t you tell us something? Anything? It’s so hard not knowing why, or how.”

Eve looked into Lissette’s eyes. “Your husband was killed when he ingested a lethal amount of ricin.”

“Ingested? Ate? Ricin? What is it?”

“It’s poison,” Cicely murmured and her eyes were huge now, horrified now. “I know this. This is poison.”

“Poison? But why would he…how did he…”

“It was in the hot chocolate,” Eve told Lissette and watched the woman go gray.

“No. No. No. That’s not right. I made it for him. I made it myself. Every morning once the weather gets cold. And when it warms again, I make him sweet cold tea. Every day. You think I hurt Craig? You think I—”

“No, I don’t.” After more than eleven years on the job, Eve knew when to trust her gut. “But in order to clear you so that we can pursue other avenues, we’d like to look around the apartment. We’d like your permission to search it, to go through your husband’s computer, his work, his personal items.”

“Wait. Please.” Lissette gripped her mother’s hand. “You said poison. You said Craig was poisoned. How could he have taken poison by mistake?”

“They don’t think it was a mistake,” Cicely said. “Do you?”

“No.”

“But then…” Color came back into Lissette’s face, dull and red as she slowly rose to her feet. “Deliberately? Someone did this to him? For what? He hurt no one, ever. Not ever.”

“Mrs. Foster, we believe ricin was added to your husband’s drink at some point on the morning he died.”

“ButI made the drink. I made it.” She rushed over to the little kitchen area. “Here, right here. Every morning I make his lunch because it pleases him so much. It takes only a few minutes, and it pleases him so much, I…”

Cicely murmured in French as she went to her daughter.

“No, no, no. I made it just like every morning. The sandwich, the fruit, the chips he likes. And I made the chocolate like you taught me,
Maman
. He loves it. Right here, right here.” She spread her hands. “I made the chocolate.”

“Lissy.” Cicely laid her hands on her daughter’s damp cheeks. “Don’t do this.”

“Lissette, did you make the drink in a black insulated thermos?”

“Yes, yes.” Lissette leaned against her mother. “The jumbo-sized go-cup. With his name on it. I gave it to him when he started at the school, a little gift, and the black lunch bag.”

“This is what he’d normally carry to school?”

“Every day, yes. Every day. What difference does it make?”

“It’s just details,” Eve said easily. “We’re investigating both how and why this was done, so details matter. We’d like to look through your apartment.”

“Why?” Lissette stared down at her hands. “Why would anyone hurt Craig?”

“I don’t have answers for you at this time.”

“You want to look through our things because it will help you find the answers?”

“Yes.”

“Look at anything, at everything. He has more at the school. On his computer there, in his desk there. Do whatever you need to do. I don’t want to watch. I don’t want to watch while you go through our things. Can we go out?”

BOOK: Innocent in Death
6.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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