The In Death Collection 06-10 (7 page)

BOOK: The In Death Collection 06-10
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“We try.” He smiled at Peabody as they descended the stairs. “All clear, Officer?”

“Nothing here except a couple really lucky spiders.”

“Spiders?” Lifting a brow, Roarke took out his memo and plugged in a note to contact the exterminators.

“Where’s the next place?” Eve asked him.

“It’s only a couple of blocks. I’ll lead you over.”

“You could give me the code and go home.”

He brushed a hand over her hair as they stepped outside. “No, I couldn’t.”

The second home was back off the street, tucked behind now leafless trees. Though houses crowded in on either side, residents had sacrificed their yards for privacy. Trees and shrubs formed a high fence between buildings.

Eve felt her blood begin to stir. Here, she thought, in this quiet, wealthy arena, where the houses were soundproofed and protected from prying eyes, murder would be a private business.

“He’d like this one,” she said under her breath. “This would suit him. Decode it,” she told Roarke, then gestured for Peabody to move to the right.

Eve shifted in front of Roarke, opened the door herself. That was all it took.

She smelled fresh death.

Shawn Conroy’s luck had run out in a gorgeously
appointed parlor, just off a small, elegant foyer. His blood stained the wild roses climbing over the antique rug. His arms were stretched wide as if in supplication. His palms had been nailed to the floor.

“Don’t touch anything.” She gripped Roarke’s arm before he could step inside. “You’re not to go in. You’ll contaminate the scene. You give me your word you won’t go in or I’ll lock you outside. Peabody and I have to check the rest of the house.”

“I won’t go in.” He turned his head, and his eyes were hot with emotions she couldn’t name. “He’ll be gone.”

“I know. We check the house anyway. Peabody, take the back. I’ll do upstairs.”

There was nothing and no one, which was what she’d expected. To give herself a moment alone with Roarke, she sent Peabody out to the unit for her field kit.

“He wants it to be personal,” she began.

“It is personal. I grew up with Shawn. I knew his family. His younger brother and I were of an age. We chased some of the same girls on the streets of Dublin, and made them sigh in dark alleys. He was a friend. A lifetime ago, but a friend.”

“I’m sorry. I was too late.”

Roarke only shook his head, and stared hard at the man who’d once been a boy with him. Another lost boy, he thought. Eve turned away, pulled out her communicator. “I have a homicide,” she said.

 

When her hands and boots were clear sealed, she knelt in blood. She could see that death had come slowly, obscenely to Shawn Conroy. His wrists and throat had been slashed, but not deeply, not so that the blood would gush and jet and take him away quickly. He would have bled out slowly, over hours.

He was sliced, neatly, almost surgically from breastbone
to crotch, again so that the pain would be hideous, and release would be slow. His right eye was gone. So was his tongue.

Her gauge told her he’d been dead less than two hours.

She had no doubt he’d died struggling to scream.

Eve stood back as the stills and videos of the body and scene were taken. Turning, she picked up the trousers that had been tossed aside. They’d been sliced off him, she noted, but the wallet remained in the back pocket.

“Victim is identified as Shawn Conroy, Irish citizen, age forty-one, residence 783 West Seventy-ninth. Contents of wallet are victim’s green card and work permit, twelve dollars in credits, three photographs.”

She checked the other pocket, found key cards, loose credits in the amount of three dollars and a quarter, a slip of torn paper with the address of the house where he’d died. And an enameled token with a bright green shamrock on one side and a line sketch of a fish on the other.

“Lieutenant?” The field team medic approached. “Are you finished with the body?”

“Yeah, bag him. Tell Dr. Morris I need his personal attention on this one.” She slipped the wallet and the pocket contents into an evidence bag as she glanced over at Roarke. He’d said nothing, his face revealed nothing, not even to her.

Automatically, she reached for the solvent to remove the blood and sealant from her hands, then walked to him.

“Have you ever seen one of these before?”

He looked down into the bag that held what Shawn had carried with him, saw the token. “No.”

She took one last scan of the scene—the obscenity in the midst of grandeur. Eyes narrowed, she cocked her head and stared thoughtfully at the small, elegant statue on a pedestal with a vase of pastel silk flowers.

A woman, she mused, carved out of white stone and
wearing a long gown and veil. Not a bridal suit, but something else. Because it seemed both out of place and vaguely familiar she pointed. “What is that—the little statue there?”

“What?” Distracted, Roarke glanced over. Puzzled, he stepped around a field tech and might have picked it up if Eve hadn’t snagged his hand. “The BVM. Odd.”

“The what?”

His laugh was short and far from humorous. “Sorry. Catholic shorthand. The Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Surprised, she frowned at him. “Are you Catholic?” And shouldn’t she have known something like that?

“In another life,” he said absently. “Never made it to altar boy. It doesn’t belong here,” he added. “My decorating firm isn’t in the habit of adding religious statues to the rental units.”

He studied the lovely and serene face, beautifully carved in white marble. “He put it there, turned it just so.”

He could see by the cool look in Eve’s eyes that she’d already come to the same conclusion. “His audience,” she agreed. “So, what was he, like showing off for her?”

Roarke might not have thought of himself as Catholic or anything else for too many years to count, but it sickened him. “He wanted her to bless his work, I’d say. It comes to the same thing more or less.”

Eve was already pulling out an evidence bag. “I think I’ve seen another just like this—at Brennen’s. On the wife’s dresser, facing the bed. It didn’t seem out of place there, so I didn’t really notice. There were those bead things you pray with, holos of the kids, a statue like this, silver-backed hairbrush, comb, a blue glass perfume bottle.”

“But you didn’t really notice,” Roarke murmured. Some cops, he mused, missed nothing.

“Just that it was there. Not that it shouldn’t have been. Heavy,” she commented as she slipped the statue into the
bag. “Looks expensive.” She frowned at the markings on the base. “What’s this, Italian?”

“Mmm. Made in Rome.”

“Maybe we can run it.”

Roarke shook his head. “You’re going to find that thousands of these were sold in the last year alone. The shops near the Vatican do a bustling business on such things. I have interests in a few myself.”

“We’ll run it anyway.” Taking his arm, she led him outside. It wouldn’t help for him to watch the body bagged and readied for transport. “There’s nothing for you to do here. I have to go in, file the report, do some work. I’ll be home in a few hours.”

“I want to talk to his family.”

“I can’t let you do that. Not yet. Not yet,” she repeated when his eyes went narrow and cold. “Give me a few hours. Roarke . . .” Helplessly she fell back on the standard line. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

He surprised her by grabbing her close, pressing his face into her hair and just holding on. Awkwardly she smoothed her hands over his back, patted his rigid shoulders.

“For the first time since I met you,” he murmured so she could barely hear, “I wish you weren’t a cop.”

Then he let her go and walked away.

She stood out in the freshening wind, smelled hints of the winter to come, and bore the miserable weight of guilt and inadequacy.

 

Roarke was closed in his office when she arrived home. Only the cat greeted her. Galahad twined affectionately between her legs as she shrugged out of her jacket, hitched her bag more securely on her shoulder.

It was just as well she was alone, Eve decided. She still had work. Since she was obviously pathetic at comforting
her husband, she’d be a cop. There, at least, she knew her moves.

Galahad came with her, bounding up the steps despite his girth as she headed for the suite of rooms where she often worked and sometimes slept when Roarke was away from home.

She got coffee from the AutoChef, and as much because Galahad looked so hopeful as for her own appetite, ordered up a tuna sandwich. She split it with the cat, who fell on it as if he hadn’t eaten in a month, then carried her own to her desk.

She studied the door that connected her office with Roarke’s. She had only to knock, she knew. Instead she sat behind her own desk.

She hadn’t saved his friend. Hadn’t been fast enough or smart enough to prevent death. Nor would she be able to keep Roarke out of the investigation. There would be questions she would have to ask, statements she would have to take.

And the media would know by morning. There was no way to block them out now. She’d already decided to call Nadine Furst, her contact at Channel 75. With Nadine she would get fair coverage. Though Nadine was annoyingly persistent, she was without doubt accurate.

Eve looked at her ’link. She’d arranged for McNab to program her office ’link to transfer transmissions to her home unit for the night. She wanted the bastard to call.

How long would he wait? And when would he be ready to play the next round?

She drank coffee, ordered her mind to clear. Go back to the beginning, she told herself. Replay first round.

She shoved a copy of the initial contact call into her machine, listened to it twice. She had his rhythm, she thought, his tone, his mood. He was arrogant, vain, smart, yes, he was smart and skilled. He was on a holy mission.
But conceit was his weak point. Conceit, she mused, and his skewed faith.

She’d need to exploit it.

Revenge, he’d said. An eye for an eye. Revenge was always personal. Both men who were dead had a connection to Roarke. So, logically, did their killer. An old vendetta, perhaps.

Yes, she and Roarke had quite a bit to discuss. He could be a target. The thought of that turned her blood cold, scattered her heartbeat, froze her brain.

She shoved it aside. She couldn’t afford to think like a wife, like a lover. More than ever, she needed to be pure cop.

She gave Galahad most of the second half of the sandwich when he came begging, then took out the copies of the security disc for the Luxury Towers.

Step by step, she ordered herself. Every disc, every area covered, no matter how long it took. In the morning she would have Roarke view them as well. He might recognize someone.

She knocked her coffee cup over when she did.

“Stop,” she ordered. “Replay from zero-zero-five-six. Jesus Christ. Freeze, enhance section fifteen to twenty-two by thirty percent, shift to slow motion.”

She stared as the figure in the trim black suit and flowing overcoat enlarged, as he walked across the sumptuous lobby of the apartment complex. Checked the expensive timepiece on his wrist. Smoothed his hair.

And she watched Summerset step into the elevator and head up.

“Freeze screen,” she snapped.

The time at the bottom read twelve
P
.
M
., the afternoon on Thomas X. Brennen’s murder.

She ran the lobby disc through, fast-forwarding through hour after hour. But she never saw him come back out.

chapter five

She didn’t bother to knock, but simply shoved open his door. Her blood was hot, her mind cold.

Roarke could clearly see both temperatures in her eyes. Deliberately and without haste, he flipped his computer manually to hold, closing off his work.

“You’re overdoing again,” he said easily, remaining seated as she stalked—a single posse closing in on her man—to his desk. “Fatigue always steals the color from your face. I don’t like seeing you pale.”

“I don’t feel pale.” She wasn’t sure what she felt. All she could be certain of was that the man she loved, a man she’d taught herself to trust, knew something. And he wasn’t telling her. “You said you hadn’t had any contact with Brennen or Conroy. Any contact, Roarke? Not even through a liaison?”

He angled his head. This wasn’t the track he’d expected. “No, I haven’t. Tommy because he preferred to sever ties, and Shawn because . . .” He looked down at his hands, spread his fingers, closed them. “I didn’t bother to keep in touch. I’m sorry for that.”

“Look at me,” she demanded, her voice sharp and keen. “Look me in the face, damn it.” He did, rising now so their gazes were nearly level. “I believe you.” She whirled
away from him as she said it. “And I don’t know if it’s because it’s the truth, or because I need it to be.”

He felt the nick of her distrust at the edge of his heart. “I can’t help you with that. Would you prefer to do this in Interview?”

“I’d prefer not to do it at all. And don’t climb on your golden horse with me, Roarke. Don’t you even start.”

He opened the japanned box on his desk, carefully selected a cigarette. “That would be ‘high horse,’ Lieutenant.”

She clenched her fists, prayed for control, and turned back. “What was Summerset doing at the Luxury Towers on the day of Thomas Brennen’s murder?”

For perhaps the first time since she’d met him, she saw Roarke completely staggered. The hand that had just flicked on a silver lighter froze in midair. His just beginning to be annoyed blue eyes went blank. He shook his head once, as if to clear it, then carefully set down both the lighter and the unlit cigarette.

“What?” was all he managed.

“You didn’t know.” Her limbs went limp with it. It wasn’t always possible to read him, she knew. He was too controlled, too clever, too skilled. But there was no mistaking the simple shock on his face. “You weren’t prepared for that. You had no idea at all.” She took a step closer. “What were you prepared for? What did you expect me to ask you?”

“Let’s just stick with the initial question.” Outwardly his recovery was smooth and quick. His stomach muscles, though, were tightening into oily knots. “You believe Summerset visited Tommy on the day of the murder. That’s just not possible.”

“Why not?”

“Because he would have told me.”

“He tells you everything, does he?” She jammed her
hands in her pockets, took a fast, impatient turn around the room. “How well did he know Brennen?”

“Not well at all. Why do you think he was there that day?”

“Because I have the security discs.” She stood still now, facing him with the desk between. “I have Summerset in the lobby of the Luxury Towers at noon. I have him getting into an elevator. I don’t have him coming back out. The ME puts Brennen’s time of death at four-fifty
P
.
M
. But the initial injury, the amputation of the hand, is clocked at between twelve-fifteen and twelve-thirty
P
.
M
.”

Because he needed something to do with his hands, Roarke walked over, poured a brandy. He stood for a moment, swirling it. “He may irritate you, Eve. You may find him . . . unpleasant.” He only arched his brows when Eve snorted. “But you can’t seriously believe Summerset is capable of murder, of spending a number of hours torturing another human being.” Roarke lifted the snifter, sipped. “I can tell you, without a single doubt, that he isn’t capable of it, and never has been.”

She wouldn’t be swayed by sentiment. “Then where was your man, Roarke, from noon to five
P
.
M
. on the date in question?”

“You’d do better to ask him.” He reached up, pressed a button on a monitor without glancing at it. “Summerset, would you come up to my office, please? My wife has a question for you.”

“Very well.”

“I’ve known the man since I was a boy,” Roarke said to Eve. “I’ve told you most of it, trusted you with that. Now I’m trusting you with him.”

She felt a fist squeeze around her heart. “I can’t let this be personal. You can’t ask that of me.”

“You can’t let it be anything else. Because that’s exactly what it is. Personal,” he continued, walking to her. “
Intimate.” With fingertips only, he skimmed her cheek. “Mine.”

He dropped his hand as the door opened.

Summerset stepped inside. His silver hair was perfectly groomed, his black suit ruthlessly pressed, his shoes shone with a mirror gleam.

“Lieutenant,” he said, as if the word was ever so slightly distasteful to his palette. “Can I help you?”

“Why were you at the Luxury Towers yesterday at noon?”

He stared at her, through her, and his mouth thinned to a line sharp as a blade. “That is certainly none of your business.”

“Wrong, it’s exactly my business. Why did you go see Thomas Brennen?”

“Thomas Brennen? I haven’t seen Thomas Brennen since we left Ireland.”

“Then what were you doing at the Luxury Towers?”

“I fail to see what one has to do with the other. My free time is . . .” He trailed off, and his eyes darted to Roarke, went wide. “Is that where—Tommy lived at the Luxury Towers?”

“You’re talking to me.” Eve stepped between them so that Summerset focused on her face. “I’ll ask you again, what were you doing at the Luxury Towers yesterday at noon?”

“I have an acquaintance who lives there. We had an engagement, for lunch and a matinee.”

“All right.” Relieved, Eve pulled out her recorder. “Give me her name.”

“Audrey, Audrey Morrell.”

“Apartment number?”

“Twelve eighteen.”

“And Ms. Morrell will verify that you met at noon and spent the day together?”

His already pale face was slowly going whiter. “No.”

“No?” Eve looked up, and said nothing when Roarke brought Summerset a glass of brandy.

“Audrey—Ms. Morrell wasn’t in when I arrived. I waited for a time, then realized she’d . . . Something must have come up.”

“How long did you wait?”

“Thirty or forty minutes.” Some color seeped back into his cheeks now, of the embarrassed sort. “Then I left.”

“By the lobby exit.”

“Of course.”

“I don’t have you on the security discs coming out. Maybe you left by another exit.”

“I certainly did not.”

Eve bit her tongue. She’d tossed him a rope, she thought, and he hadn’t grabbed for it. “Fine, you stick to that. What did you do then?”

“I decided against the matinee. I went to the park.”

“The park. Great.” She leaned back on Roarke’s desk. “What park?”

“Central Park. There was an outdoor art exhibit. I browsed for a time.”

“It was raining.”

“There were inclement weather domes.”

“How did you get from the apartment complex to the park? What kind of transpo?”

“I walked.”

Her head began to throb. “In the rain?”

“Yes.” He said it stiffly and sipped his brandy.

“Did you speak to anyone, meet someone you know?”

“No.”

“Shit.” She sighed it, then rubbed absently at her temple. “Where were you at midnight last night?”

“Eve—”

She cut Roarke off with a look. “This is what I do. What
I have to do. Were you at the Green Shamrock last night at midnight?”

“I was in bed with a book.”

“What was your relationship with Shawn Conroy?”

Summerset set the brandy down, stared at Roarke over Eve’s shoulder. “Shawn Conroy was a boy in Dublin years ago. He’s dead, then?”

“Someone claiming to represent Roarke lured him to one of Roarke’s rental units, nailed him to the floor, and opened up pieces of him. Let him bleed to death.” There was shock on his face, she noted. Good, she wanted him to be shocked. “And you’re going to have to give me a solid alibi, something I can confirm, or I’m going to have to take you in for a formal interview.”

“I don’t have one.”

“Find one,” she suggested, “before eight
A
.
M
. tomorrow. That’s when I want you at Cop Central.”

His eyes were cold and bitter when they met Eve’s. “You’ll enjoy interrogating me, won’t you, Lieutenant?”

“Hauling you in on suspicion of a couple of torture murders is just the chance I’ve been waiting for. The fact that the media will be screaming the news of your connection to Roarke by midday is only a minor inconvenience.” Disgusted, she stalked toward the door that connected her office with Roarke’s.

“Eve.” Roarke’s voice was quiet. “I need to speak with you.”

“Not now” was all she said as she closed the door between them. Roarke heard the bad-tempered snick of locks engaging.

“She’s already decided I’m guilty.” Summerset drank brandy now, deeply.

“No.” While regret warred with irritation, Roarke studied the panel that closed him off from his wife. “She’s decided she has no choice but to gather the facts.” His gaze
shifted to Summerset’s, held it. “She needs to know all of them.”

“That would only worsen the situation.”

“She’s entitled to know.”

Summerset set the snifter down, and his voice was as stiff as his spine. “I see where your loyalties lie, Roarke.”

“Do you?” Roarke murmured as Summerset left him alone. “Do you really?”

 

Eve slept in her office suite, and slept poorly. She didn’t care that her deliberate avoidance of Roarke was petty. She needed the distance. Well before eight she was at Cop Central. After toying with a bagel the consistency of cardboard and coffee that bore too close a relationship with raw sewage, she shot off a transmission to Peabody with orders to report to Interview Room C.

Prompt as a palace guard, Peabody was already in the small tiled and mirror-walled room checking the recording equipment when Eve came in. “We’ve got a suspect?”

“Yeah, we’ve got one.” Eve filled a pitcher from the water distiller herself. “Let’s try to keep a cork in it until the interview’s wrapped.”

“Sure, but who . . .” Peabody trailed off when a uniform brought Summerset and Roarke to the door. Her eyes darted to Eve’s, rounded. “Oh.”

“Officer.” Eve nodded to the uniform. “You’re dismissed. Roarke, you can wait outside, or in my office.”

“Summerset is entitled to representation.”

“You’re not a lawyer.”

“His representative isn’t required to be.”

She had to consciously unclench her jaw. “You’re making this worse.”

“Perhaps.” He sat, folding his hands on the scarred table, an elegant presence in an unfriendly room.

Eve turned to Summerset. “You want a lawyer,” she
said, spacing her words carefully. “Not a friend.”

“I dislike lawyers. Nearly as much as I dislike cops.” He sat as well, his bony fingers hitching the knees of his trousers to preserve the knife-edge pleats.

Eve thrust her hands into her pockets before she could pull at her hair. “Secure the door, Peabody. Recorder, engage.” Taking a deep breath, she began. “Interview with Summerset—Please state your full name for the record.”

“Lawrence Charles Summerset.”

“Interview with Summerset, Lawrence Charles re case number 44591-H, Thomas X. Brennen and case number 44599-H, Shawn Conroy. Homicides. The date is November seventeen, twenty fifty-eight, time is oh eight hundred point three hours. Present are subject; his chosen representative, Roarke; Peabody, Officer Delia; and Dallas, Lieutenant Eve, conducting interview. Subject has come into Interview voluntarily.”

Still standing, she recited the revised Miranda. “Do you understand your rights and obligations, Summerset?”

“Perfectly.”

“And you waive legal representation at this time?”

“That’s correct.”

“What was your connection with Thomas Brennen and Shawn Conroy?”

Summerset blinked once, surprised she’d shot straight to the heart. “I knew them, casually, when I lived in Dublin.”

“When was that?”

“Over a dozen years ago.”

“And when was the last time you saw or spoke with Brennen?”

“I couldn’t say precisely, but at least a dozen years ago.”

“Yet you were in the Luxury Towers only days ago, the day of Brennen’s murder.”

“Coincidence,” Summerset stated with a quick and
belligerent lift of his shoulder. “I had no knowledge that he resided there.”

BOOK: The In Death Collection 06-10
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