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Rapture in Death by J D Robb (1)

CHAPTER SEVEN

At shortly before eight the next morning, a bit sore and fuzzy-brained, Eve sat at her desk in her home office. She considered it more of a sanctuary than an office, really, the apartment Roarke had built for her in his home. Its design was similar to the apartment where she had lived when she'd met him, which she'd been reluctant to give up.

He'd provided it so that she could have her own space, her own things. Even after all the time she'd lived there, she rarely slept in their bed when he was away. Instead, she curled into the relaxation chair and dozed.

The nightmares came less often now, but crept back at odd moments.

She could work here when it was convenient, lock the doors if she wanted privacy. And as it had a fully operational kitchen, she often chose her AutoChef over Summerset when she was alone in the house.

With the sun streaming through the view wall at her back, she reviewed her caseload, juggled legwork. She knew she didn't have the luxury of focusing exclusively on the Fitzhugh case, particularly since it was earmarked a probable suicide. If she didn't turn up hard evidence in the next day or two, she'd have no choice but to lower its priority.

At eight sharp there was a brisk knock on the door.

"Come on in, Peabody."

"I'll never get used to this place," Peabody said as she walked inside. "It's like something out of an old video."

"You should get Summerset to take you on a tour," Eve said absently. "I'm pretty sure there are rooms I've never seen. There's coffee." Eve gestured toward the kitchen alcove and continued to frown at her logbook.

Peabody wandered off, scanning the entertainment units lining the wall, wondering what it would be like to be able to afford any amusement available: music, art, video, holograms, VR, meditation chambers, games. Play a set of tennis with the latest Wimbeldon champ, dance with a hologram of Fred Astaire, or take a virtual trip to the pleasure palaces on Regis III.

Daydreaming a bit, she turned into the kitchen. The AutoChef was already programmed for coffee, so she ordered two, carried the steaming mugs back into the office. She waited patiently while Eve continued to mutter.

Peabody sipped her coffee. "God. Oh God. It's real." Blinking in shock, she cupped both hands reverently around the mug. "This coffee is real."

"Yeah, you get spoiled. I can hardly stomach the slop down at Cop Central anymore." Eve glanced up, caught Peabody's dazed expression, and grinned. It hadn't been so long before that she'd had a similar reaction to Roarke's coffee. And to Roarke. "Pretty great, huh?"

"I've never had real coffee before." As if sipping liquid gold – and with the depletion of the rain forests and plantations it was equally dear – Peabody drank slowly. "It's amazing."

"You've got a half hour to OD on it while we work out the day's strategy."

"I can have more?" Peabody closed her eyes and just inhaled the scent. "You're a god, Dallas."

With a snort, Eve reached for her beeping 'link. "Dallas," she began, then her face lit with a grin. "Feeney."

"How's married life, kid?"

"It's tolerable. Pretty early in the day for you electronic detectives, isn't it?"

"Got a hot one working. A scramble at the chief's office. Some joker hacked into his mainframe and nearly fried the whole system."

"They got in?" Her eyes widened in surprise. She wasn't sure even Feeney, with his magic touch, could break the security on the Chief of Police and Security's system.

"Looks that way. Tangled shit all to hell and back. I'm unknotting it," he said cheerfully. "Thought I'd check in, see what's what since I haven't heard from you."

"I hit the ground running."

"You don't know any other speed. You primary on Fitzhugh?"

"That's right. Something I should know?"

"No. Smart money's that he iced himself, and nobody around here's too sorry. That oil slick loved squeezing cops on the stand. Funny though, second big suicide in a month."

Eve's interest spiked. "Second?"

"Yeah. Oh, that's right, you were off honeymooning and making cow's eyes." He wiggled his bushy red eyebrows. "Senator in East Washington a couple weeks ago. Jumped out the window of the Capitol Building. Politicians and lawyers. They're crazy anyway."

"Yeah. Could you get me the data on it when you have the chance? Transfer it to my office unit."

"What, you going to keep a scrapbook?"

"Just interested." The feeling was back in her gut, "I'll pick up the tab next time we're in the Eatery."

"No problem. As soon as I get this system unknotted, I'll feed it to you. Don't be a stranger," he told her and signed off.

Peabody continued to take miserly sips of coffee. "You think there's a connection between Fitzhugh and the senator who took the dive?"

"Lawyers and politicians," Eve murmured. "And autotronic engineers."

"What?"

Eve shook her head. "I don't know. Disengage," she ordered her unit, then swung her bag over her shoulder. "Let's go."

Peabody struggled not to pout about the lack of another cup of coffee. "Two suicides in two different cities in a month isn't such a weird thing," she began, lengthening her stride to catch up with Eve.

"Three. There was a kid on Olympus who hanged himself while we were there. Mathias, Drew. I want to see if you can find a connection, anything that ties them together. People, places, habits, education, hobbies." She rushed down the stairs, gearing up.

"I don't know the politician's name. I didn't pay attention to the reports on the East Washington suicide." Busily, Peabody tugged out her personal palm computer and began searching for data.

"Mathias was in his early twenties, autotronics engineer. He worked for Roarke. Shit." She had a bad feeling she was going to be forced to drag Roarke into her work once again. "If you run into a snag, ask Feeney. He can pop the data handcuffed and drunk, faster than either of us."

Eve wrenched open the door, scowled when she didn't see her car at the top of the drive. "Goddamn Summerset. I've told him to leave my car when I park it."

"I think he did." Peabody flipped on her sunshades, pointed. "It's blocking the drive, see?"

"Oh, yeah." Eve cleared her throat. The car was just as she'd left it, and fluttering in the mild breeze were a few torn articles of clothing. "Don't ask," she muttered and started to hoof it down the drive.

"I wasn't going to." Peabody's voice was smooth as silk. "Speculation's more interesting."

"Shut up, Peabody."

"Shutting up, Lieutenant." With a smirk, Peabody climbed in the car and swallowed a laugh when Eve swung the vehicle around and cruised down the drive.

 

***

 

Arthur Foxx was sweating. It was subtle, just a faint sheen over his top lip, but Eve found it satisfying. She hadn't been surprised to discovered his chosen representative was an associate of Fitzhugh's, a young eager beaver in a pricey suit with trendy medallions decorating the slim lapels.

"My client is understandably upset." The lawyer folded his youthful face into somber lines. "The memorial service for Mr. Fitzhugh is scheduled for one p.m. this afternoon. You've chosen an inappropriate time for this interview."

"Death chooses the time, Mr. Ridgeway, and it's usually inappropriate. Interview with Authur Foxx, re Fitzhugh, case number three oh oh nine one-ASD, conducted by Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. Date August 24, 2058, time oh nine thirty-six. Will you state your name for the record?"

"Arthur Foxx."

"Mr. Foxx, you are aware that this interview is being recorded."

"I am."

"You have exercised your right to counsel and understand your additional rights and responsibilities?"

"That's correct."

"Mr. Foxx, you gave an earlier statement regarding your activities on the night of Mr. Fitzhugh's death. Do you wish to view a replay of that statement?"

"It's not necessary. I told you what happened. I don't know what else you expect me to tell you."

"To begin, tell me where you were between twenty-two thirty and twenty-three hundred on the night of the incident."

"I've already told you. We had dinner. We watched a comedy, we went to bed and caught a bit of the late news."

"You remained at home all evening?"

"That's what I've said."

"Yes, Mr. Foxx, that's what you've said, on record. But that's not what you did."

"Lieutenant, my client is here voluntarily. I see no – "

"Save it," she suggested. "You left the building at approximately ten thirty p.m. and returned some thirty minutes later. Where did you go?"

"I – " Foxx tugged at the silver string of his tie. "I stepped out for a few minutes. I'd forgotten."

"You'd forgotten."

"My mind was confused. I was in shock." His tie made wispy sounds as his fingers worked over it. "I didn't remember something as unimportant as taking a quick walk."

"But you remember now? Where did you go?"

"Just for a walk. Around the block a few times."

"You returned with a parcel. What was in it?"

She saw the moment he realized the security cameras had nailed him. His gaze shifted past her and the fingers on his tie became busier. "I stopped into a 24/7, picked up a few things. Veggie-Smokes. I have the urge for one occasionally."

"It's a simple matter to check with the 24/7 and determine exactly what you purchased."

"Some tranqs," he spit out. "I wanted to tranq out for the night. I wanted a smoke. There's no law against it."

"No, but there is a law against giving false statements in a police investigation."

"Lieutenant Dallas." The lawyer's voice was still smooth but a bit frayed around the edges with annoyance. It gave Eve the clue that Foxx had been no more forthcoming with his representative than he had with the police. "The fact that Mr. Foxx left the premises for a short time is hardly germane to your investigation. And discovering a loved one's body is a more than reasonable excuse for neglecting to remember a minor detail."

"One minor detail, maybe. You didn't mention, Mr. Foxx, that you and Mr. Fitzhugh had a visitor on the evening of his death."

"Leanore is hardly a visitor," Foxx said stiffly. "She is – was Fitz's partner. I believe they had some business to discuss, which is another reason I went for a walk. I wanted to give them a few moments of privacy to discuss the case." He took a shallow breath. "I generally found that more convenient for everyone."

"I see. So now your statement is that you left the apartment in order to provide your spouse and his partner with privacy. Why didn't you mention Ms. Bastwick's visit in your earlier statement?"

"I didn't think of it."

"You didn't think of it. You stated that you ate dinner, watched a comedy, and went to bed, but you neglected to add in these other events. What other events have you neglected to tell me, Mr. Foxx?"

"I have nothing more to say."

"Why were you angry when you left the building, Mr. Foxx? Did it annoy you to have a beautiful woman, a woman with whom Mr. Fitzhugh works closely, drop by your home so late in the evening?"

"Lieutenant, you have no right to imply – "

She barely spared the lawyer a glance. "I'm not implying, Counselor, I'm asking, in a very straightforward manner, if Mr. Foxx was angry and jealous when he stormed out of his building."

"I did not storm, I walked." Foxx fisted a hand on the table. "And I had absolutely no reason to be angry or jealous of Leanore. However often she chose to throw herself at Fitz, he was completely disinterested in her on that level."

"Ms. Bastwick threw herself at Mr. Fitzhugh?" Eve lifted her brows. "That must have ticked you off, Arthur. Knowing that your spouse had no sexual preference between women or men, knowing they were together hours every day during the work week, having her come by, flaunt herself in front of him in your own home. No wonder you were angry. I'd have wanted to deck her."

"He thought it was amusing," Foxx blurted out. "He was actually flattered to have someone so much younger and so attractive playing for him. He laughed when I complained about her."

"He laughed at you?" Eve knew how to play the game. Sympathy dripped in her voice. "That must have infuriated you. It did, didn't it? It ate at you, didn't it, Arthur, imagining them together, him touching her, and laughing at you."

"I could have murdered her." Foxx exploded with it, batting away his lawyer's restraining hands as fury spurted color into his face. "She thought she could lure him away from me, make him want her. She didn't give a damn that we were married, that we were committed to each other. All she wanted to do was win. Fucking lawyer."

"You don't care much for lawyers, do you?"

His breath was shuddering. He caught it, let it shudder out until it was even again. "No, as a rule, I don't. I didn't think of Fitz as a lawyer. I thought of him as my spouse. And if I'd been disposed to committing murder that night or any other, Lieutenant, I would have murdered Leanore."

He unfisted his hands, folded them together. "Now, I have nothing more to say."

Gauging it to be enough for the time being, Eve terminated the interview, rose. "We'll be talking again, Mr. Foxx."

"I'd like to know when you're going to release Fitz's body," he said, getting stiffly to his feet. "I've decided not to postpone the service today, though it feels unseemly to go on with it with his body still being held."

"That's the decision of the medical examiner. His tests are still incomplete."

"Isn't it enough that he's dead?" Foxx's voice trembled. "Isn't it enough that he killed himself without you dragging it out, pulling out the small and sordid personal details of our lives?"

"No." She walked to the door, released the code. "No, it's not." She hesitated, decided to take a stab in the dark. "I imagine Mr. Fitzhugh was very shocked and very upset by the recent suicide of Senator Pearly."

Foxx only jerked his head in a formal nod. "He was shocked, certainly, though they barely knew each other." Then a muscle jerked in his cheek. "If you're implying that Fitz took his own life because he was influenced by Pearly, it's ridiculous. They had no more than a slight acquaintance. They rarely communicated."

"I see. Thank you for your time." She ushered them out, glanced down the corridor to the adjoining interview room. Leanore should certainly be inside by now, waiting.

Taking her time, Eve strolled down the corridor to a vending unit, contemplated her choices, jingled loose credits in her pocket. She settled on a Chewy Bar and a half tube of Pepsi. The unit delivered the goods, droned out the standard request to recycle, and offered the consumer a mild warning on sugar intake.

"Mind your own business," Eve suggested. Leaning back against the wall, she lingered over her snack, dumped the trash into the recycle chute, then walked leisurely down the hall.

She'd estimated the twenty-minute wait would steam Leanore. She was right on target.

The woman was pacing like a cat, elegant legs eating up the worn flooring with quick steps. The minute Eve opened the door, she whirled.

"Lieutenant Dallas, my time is extremely valuable, even if yours is not."

"Depends on how you look at it," Eve said easily. "I don't get to log in billable hours at two K a pop."

Peabody cleared her throat. "For the record, Lieutenant Eve Dallas has entered Interview Room C to conduct the remainder of the proceedings. The subject has been informed of all rights and has chosen self-representation during this interview. All data has been logged in record."

"Fine." Eve sat, indicated the chair across from her. "Whenever you've finished prowling, Ms. Bastwick, we can get started."

"I was ready to begin this procedure at the appropriate time." Leanore sat, crossed her satiny legs. "With you, Lieutenant, not your subordinate."

"Hear that, Peabody, you're my subordinate."

"Duly recorded, sir," Peabody said dryly.

"Though I consider it insulting and unnecessary." Leanore brushed at the cuffs of her trim black suit. "I'm attending Fitz's memorial in a few hours."

"You wouldn't be here, being unnecessarily insulted, if you hadn't lied in your previous statement."

Leanore's eyes went glacial. "I assume you can substantiate that accusation, Lieutenant."

"You stated for the record that you had gone to the deceased's residence last evening on a professional matter. That you remained, discussing a case, for twenty to thirty minutes."

"More or less," Leanore said, her voice frosty around the edges.

"Tell me, Ms. Bastwick, do you always take a bottle of vintage wine to a business meeting and groom yourself for said meeting in the elevator like a prom queen?"

"There's no law against good grooming, Lieutenant Dallas." Her gaze flicked dismissively over Eve's untidy hair down to her battered boots. "You might try it yourself."

"Aw, now you've hurt my feelings. You polished yourself up, flicked open the top three buttons of your blouse, and brought along a bottle of wine. Sounds like seduction time to me, Leanore." Eve shifted closer, nearly winked. "Come on, we're all girls. We know the drill."

Leanore took her time, studied a minute chip in her manicure. She remained icy. Unlike Foxx, the woman didn't break a sweat. "I dropped by that evening to consult with Fitz on a professional matter. We had a brief meeting, and I left."

"You were alone with him during that time."

"That's right. Arthur got into one of his snits and went out."

"One of his snits?"

"It was typical of him." There was a sneer in her voice now, light and disdainful. "He was outrageously jealous of me, certain I was trying to lure Fitz away from him."

"And were you?"

A slow, feline smile curved Leanore's lips. "Really, Lieutenant, if I'd put any effort into it, don't you think I would have succeeded?"

"I'd say you put effort into it. And not succeeding would have really burned you."

Leanore lifted a shoulder. "I'll admit I was giving it some consideration. Fitz was wasting himself on Arthur. Fitz and I had a great deal in common, and I found him very attractive. I was very fond of him."

"Did you act on your attraction and your fondness that evening?"

"You could say I made it clear that I was open to a more intimate relationship with him. He wasn't immediately receptive, but it was only a matter of time." She moved her shoulders, a quick, confident movement. "Arthur would have known that." Her eyes went cold again. "And that's why I believe he killed Fitz."

 

***

 

"Quite a piece of work, isn't she?" Eve muttered when the interview was completed. "Doesn't see anything wrong with trying to lure a man into adultery, break apart a longstanding relationship. More, she's convinced there isn't a man in the world who could resist her." She sighed heavily. "Bitch."

"Are you going to charge her?" Peabody wondered.

"For being a bitch?" With a small smile, Eve shook her head. "I could try to nail her on the false statement, and she and her legal pals would brush it off like lint. Not worth the time. We can't place her at the scene at time of death or hang any kind of motive on her. And I can't see that self-absorbed bimbo sneaking up on a two hundred fifty pound man and slashing his wrists. She wouldn't have wanted to get all that blood on her nifty suit."

"So you're back to Foxx?"

"He was jealous, he was pissed, he inherits all the toys." Eve rose, paced to the door and back. "And we've got nothing." She pressed her fingers to her eyes. "I've got to go with what he said when he lost it during interview. He'd have killed Leanore, not Fitzhugh. I'm going to review the data on the two previous suicides."

"I haven't got much yet," Peabody began as she followed Eve out of the interview room. "There wasn't time."

"There's time now. And Feeney's probably come through. Get me what you've got, then get me more," Eve demanded and swung into her office. "Engage," she ordered the computer as she plopped down in front of it. "Play new communications."

Roarke's face swam onto the screen. "I assume you're out fighting crime. I'm on my way to London, a little glitch that requires personal attention. I don't imagine it will take long. I should be back by eight, which will give us plenty of time to fly out to New Los Angeles for the premiere."

"Shit, I forgot."

On screen, his image smiled. "I'm sure you've conveniently forgotten the engagement, so consider this a gentle reminder. Take care of yourself, Lieutenant."

Flying to California to spend the evening rubbing elbows with puffed-up video types, eating the glossy little vegetables people out there considered food, tolerating reporters sticking recorders in her face and asking lame questions was not her idea of an entertaining evening.

The second communication was from Commander Whitney, ordering her to prepare a statement for the media on several ongoing cases. Hot damn, she thought sourly. More headlines.

Then the data from Feeney flashed on screen. Eve rolled her shoulders, hunkered down, and got to work.

At two, she walked into the Village Bistro. Her shirt was sticking to her back as the temperature control on her unit had once again died an unnatural death. The air inside the tony restaurant was ocean breeze cool. Soft, loving zephyrs flitted through, teasing the feathery palms, which grew in huge, white china pots. Glass tables were arranged on two levels, cleverly situated near a small, black water lagoon or in front of a wide-view screen of a white sand beach. Servers wore short uniforms in tropical hues and threaded their way through the tables with offerings of colorful drinks and artistically arranged dishes.

The maitre d' was a droid dressed in a flowing white jumpsuit and programmed with a snooty French accent. He took one look at Eve's worn jeans and limp shirt and wrinkled his prominent nose.

"Madam, I am afraid we have no tables available. You would perhaps prefer the delicatessen on the next block north."

"Yeah, I would." Because his attitude annoyed her, she stuck her badge in his face. "But I'm eating here. I don't give a shit if that puts your chips in a twist, pal. Where's Dr. Mira's table?"

"Put that away," he hissed, looking everywhere at once and fluttering his hands. "Do you wish my customers to lose their appetites?"

"They'll really lose them if I take my weapon out, which is what I'll do if you don't show me Dr. Mira's table and see that I've got a glass of iced fizzy water in the next twenty seconds. Got that program?"

His lips clamped together and he nodded. Stiff-backed, he led the way up a swing of faux stone steps to the second level, and then onto an alcove fashioned to resemble an ocean terrace.

"Eve." Mira rose immediately from her pretty table and took both of Eve's hands. "You look wonderful." To Eve's faint surprise, Mira kissed her cheek. "Rested. Happy."

"I guess I am." After a brief hesitation, Eve leaned forward and touched her lips to Mira's cheek in turn.

The droid had already snapped to a server. "Dr. Mira's companion wishes a fizzy water."

"Iced," Eve added, curling her lip at the maitre d'.

"Thank you, Armand." Mira's soft blue eyes twinkled. "We'll order shortly."

Eve took another quick scan of the restaurant, the diners in their summer pastels and pricey cottons. She shifted on her padded chair. "We could have met in your office."

"I wanted to take you to lunch. This is one of my favorite spots."

"The droid's an asshole."

"Well, perhaps Armand is a bit overprogrammed, but the food is wonderful. You should try the Clams Maurice. You won't regret it." She settled back when Eve's water was served. "Tell me, how was your honeymoon?"

Eve gulped down half the water and felt human again. "Tell me how long I can expect people to ask me that question?"

Mira laughed. She was a pretty woman with soft sable hair swept back from a quietly attractive face. She wore one of her habitually elegant suits, this one in pale yellow. She appeared polished and tidy. She was one of the leading behavioral psychiatrists in the country, and was often consulted by the police about the most vicious crimes.

Though Eve was unaware of it, Mira's feelings toward her were strong and deeply maternal.

"It embarrasses you."

"Well, you know. Honeymoon. Sex. Personal." Eve rolled her eyes. "Stupid. I guess I'm just not used it. To being married. To Roarke. To the whole business."

"You love each other and make each other happy. There's no need to get used to it, only to enjoy it. You're sleeping well?"

"Mostly." And because Mira knew her deepest and darkest secrets, Eve dropped her guard. "I still have nightmares, but not as often. The memories come and go. None of it's as bad now that I've dealt with it."

"Have you dealt with it?"

"My father raped me, abused me, beat me," Eve said flatly. "I killed him. I was eight years old. I survived. Whoever I was before I was found in that alley doesn't matter now. I'm Eve Dallas. I'm a good cop. I've made myself."

"Good." There would be more, Mira thought. Traumas such as the one Eve had lived through cast echoes that never completely faded. "You still put the cop first."

"I am a cop first."

"Yes." Mira smiled a little. "I suppose you always will be. Why don't we order, then you can tell me why you called."