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Authors: J. D. Robb

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BOOK: Vendetta in Death
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“You drugged women.”

“I didn’t— Yes, yes!” He shrieked it to hold off the pain. “Not always, but I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“You used your position to intimidate, to pressure women who wanted work to have sex.”

“No— Yes—yes! I have needs. Please.”

“Your needs?” She picked up a sap, slapped it across his face. Shattered his cheekbone. “Your needs were more important than their free will, than their wishes, their needs? Than your vows to your wife?”

“No, no. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I—I need help. I’ll get help. I’ll confess. I’ll go to prison. I’ll do whatever you say.”

“Say my name.”

“I don’t know who you are. Please.”

“I
told
you!” She shocked him again, knew by the way he convulsed that she was nearing the end. “I’m Lady Justice. Say my name!”

“Lady Justice,” he mumbled, barely conscious.

“And justice will be served.”

She had the bucket and the blade ready, brought them over. She set the bucket between his legs.

“What’s that for? What are you doing? I confessed. I’m sorry. Oh my God, oh God, please, no!”

“It’s all right, Nigel.” She smiled into his watering, horrified eyes. “I’m going to take care of your needs. For the last time.”

She kept him alive as long as she could, and when it was done, when he hung limp and silent, she let out a long sigh.

“So. Justice is served.”

As dawn broke over the city, Lieutenant Eve Dallas stood over the naked, mutilated body. The early breeze frisked through her choppy cap of hair, flapped at her long leather coat as she read the bold,
computer-generated print on the sign tacked securely where the victim’s genitals had been.

He broke his vows of marriage,

and woman he disparaged.

His life he built on wealth and power,

to lure the helpless to his tower.

He raped for fun,

and now he’s done.

LADY JUSTICE

Eve shifted her field kit, turned to the uniformed officer, the first on scene. “What do you know?”

The beetle-browed, mixed-race female snapped to. “The nine-one-one came in at oh-four-thirty-eight. A limo dropped off a female, one Tisha Feinstein, on the corner of West Eighty-eighth and Columbus. Feinstein states that after attending her bachelorette party with fourteen friends, she wanted to walk, catch some air. Catching said air, she walked the three blocks uptown to Ninety-first, saw the body laid out across the sidewalk here. She ran into the building—this is her residence, Lieutenant—woke her fianc
é
, one Clipper Vance. He came out, saw the body, called it in.

“My partner and I responded, arrived on scene at oh-four-forty, secured the scene, called for a pair of beat droids to help with that. Officer Rigby is inside with the wits.”

“All right, Officer, stand by.”

After sealing up, she crouched by the body, opened her field kit. Then, pressing the victim’s thumb to her Identi-pad, she read out for the record:

“Victim is identified as Nigel B. McEnroy, Caucasian, age forty-three, British citizen. His several listed residences include an apartment
at 145 West Ninety-first, New York City. That would be the same building as Tisha Feinstein, who discovered the body.”

Eve scanned the face. “Hardly a surprise she didn’t recognize him if she’d known him. Severe bruising and burn marks, most likely electrical, on the face, the body, ligature marks, deep, both wrists, indicate the victim was bound during torture and struggled during same.”

She took out microgoggles, took a closer look at the cuts and bruises on the wrists. “From the angle, I’d say his arms were bound over his head, carried the weight of his body. ME to confirm. The genitals have been severed.”

She bent close, lifted the bottom edge of the sign for a clearer angle. “No visible hesitation marks, looks almost surgical. Possible medical knowledge or experience?”

She took out her gauges. “TOD oh-three-twelve. COD, possible blood loss from castration, possible cardiac incident from electric shocks. Maybe a combo.”

She sat back on her heels. “So he was bound, tortured, killed elsewhere—need some privacy for that—placed here. Not dumped so much as arranged, basically on his own doorstep. And with this handy, poetic note.

“Lady Justice. Somebody was really pissed at you, Nigel.”

She took small pliers, a couple of evidence bags from her kit. As she pulled out the first tack, she heard the familiar clomp of her partner’s pink cowboy boots trotting up the sidewalk.

Peabody badged the beat droids, moved through the barricades. She took a look at the body, said, “Harsh.”

“It’s all that.”

Eve remembered a time, not so long before, when Peabody would have taken that look and gone green. A couple years as a murder cop brought out the sterner stuff.

“When I get this love note detached—there. Peabody, call the
morgue team, the sweepers. Let’s get him bagged and tagged before people in this nice, quiet neighborhood start walking their dogs or taking a morning jog. Officer, help me turn him to finish the on-site.”

She found scores of burns, many that had seeped open during the torture, on the back, the buttocks, the hamstrings, the calves.

“Had to take some time,” she murmured. “Couldn’t do all this without taking time. And what do you suppose Lady Justice did with the cock and balls?”

Rising, Eve turned to her partner. Peabody wore her pink coat with a thin blue scarf with—jeez!—pink flowers scattered over it. She had her dark hair in a bouncy little tail.

“Wits inside. Hold the scene, Officer. What’s Feinstein’s apartment?”

“Six-oh-three, sir.”

With Peabody she started toward the entrance of a nicely rehabbed brownstone of about fifteen floors of dignity. No night man on the door, Eve noted, but good, solid security.

She badged her way through the beat droid on the door.

The lobby continued the dignity with navy and cream tiles for the floor, navy walls with cream trim, a discreet security desk—currently unmanned—a couple of curved padded benches, and fresh, springy-looking flowers in tall, slim vases.

Eve called for an elevator while she filled in Peabody.

“Wit’s coming home from a girl party, sees McEnroy on the sidewalk, runs in, gets Vance, her fianc
é
. He goes out, verifies, calls it in. Nine-one-one logged at four-thirty-eight, first on scene arrived in two minutes. Vic’s also a resident of this building—or has a residence here. He’s a Brit, owns, with partners, some sort of international, interplanetary headhunter firm. Married, two offspring.”

“Wife,” Peabody said.

“Yeah.” She stepped into the elevator. “We’ll see if she’s in residence after we talk to the wits.”

“Didn’t keep his marriage vows,” Peabody said. “If she did it, she left a really big clue with that note.”

“Yeah, well, people do the weird when they’re pissed, and Lady Justice was seriously pissed. But … unless the wife’s a moron, she’s going to have a damn good alibi.”

Eve stepped off, started down the quiet corridor on long legs. She noted security cams. “Let’s get the security feed for the vic’s floor, for the elevators, the lobby, the exterior.”

She rang the bell at 603, flashed her badge for the uniform—young, male, fresh of face—who answered the door. “I’ve got this, Officer Rigby. Contact the building security or supervisor. We want the feed for the cams on the victim’s floor, the elevators, the lobby, and the exterior.”

“For what period of time, sir?”

“Forty-eight hours if they have it. Then start the knock-on-doors.”

“Yes, sir.”

She let him go, gave the couple huddled together on a long, shimmery green gel sofa a quick study.

The female—late twenties—had long, curly, coppery hair. Eyes nearly the same color showed signs of weeping and shock in a face pale and scrubbed clean of the enhancements she’d surely have worn for the night out.

She wore simple gray cotton pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and house skids as she clung to the buff, mixed-race male of about the same age.

He cast soulful brown eyes at Eve. “I hope this won’t take long. Tish needs to sleep.”

“I’m afraid to close my eyes. I know I’ll see…” She pressed her face into Vance’s broad shoulder.

“I know this is difficult, Ms. Feinstein, and we’ll keep this as brief as possible. I’m Lieutenant Dallas, this is Detective Peabody. We’re Homicide.”

“I guess I know. My friend Lydia’s brother’s a cop in Queens. I almost called him. We sort of dated when we were in high school, but…”

“Why don’t you just tell us what happened? Start with where you were tonight.”

“We were all over,” Feinstein began.

“I’m sorry,” Vance interrupted. “Please sit down. Do you want coffee or anything?”

“That’d be great.” And would give him something to do, Eve thought. “Black for me, coffee regular for my partner.”

“How about some more tea, cutes?”

Feinstein smiled. “Thanks, Clip. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Never have to find out. Just take me a minute.”

He rose, moved quietly from the room. Feinstein curled up defensively.

“So, your evening?”

“We were all over. It was my stag party. We’re getting married next Friday. The limo picked me up about nine. There were fourteen of us, and we club hopped, you know? Clip’s deal is tomorrow night. So anyway, we finished up with the all-male revue at Spinner’s downtown. I know it sounds like—”

“A fun time with girlfriends,” Peabody finished with a smile.

“It was.” Feinstein’s eyes filled. “It really was. Some of us have been friends since forever, and I’m the first of our group to get married. So we did it big, and we drank a lot and laughed a lot, and the limo started dropping us off. I was the last one, and I had him drop me on the corner. I just wanted some air, to walk a little. I felt so happy, so silly, so
good
. I didn’t want it to end. Then…”

She broke off when Vance came back with mugs on a tray.

“Clip.”

“It’s okay, come on now, cutes. It’s okay.”

He set the tray down, put an arm around her. Eve took the mug of black coffee from the tray. From the smell, she knew she’d had worse. She’d had better, God knows, but she’d had worse.

“If I’d just had Shelly—that was the driver—drop me out front, she’d have seen it first. It’s terrible, but I wish she had. He was just lying there. For a second I thought it was just some awful joke, but then I saw … I think I screamed. I don’t know for sure, but I ran, and I could hardly use my swipe and code to get in I was shaking so bad, and I came right up to Clip.”

“I thought there’d been an accident. She could hardly tell me. Then I thought, well, she’s pretty lit, she imagined it, but she was so upset.” He kept that protective arm around her as he spoke, his fingers stroking up and down her arm. “I threw on some clothes, went out. And I saw she didn’t imagine it. I called nine-one-one, and the police came.”

“Did you recognize the victim?”

“No.” Vance looked at Feinstein, who shook her head.

“I didn’t really look,” Feinstein added. “I know he was right under the streetlight, but I didn’t really look at his face. He was all, I don’t know, burned. I saw the sign, the note, and that right below it, he’d—”

“So did I,” Vance added when she broke off. “Someone castrated him.”

“Could I ask how long you’ve lived in this building?”

“Two and a half months.” Feinstein managed a ghost of a smile as she took Vance’s hand. “We wanted to have our own place before the wedding. Our first place together.”

 

2

“V
ic

s top floor
,” E
ve told
P
eabody as they walked back to the elevator. “Unlikely those two knew him or his wife. A couple of months in the building, eight floors away, twenty-odd years younger.”

“And this is only one of the vic’s residences,” Peabody added. “So he’s not always here.”

“He was here long enough to get dead. Let’s see if his family’s in the building.”

They rode up.

“The killer’s female, or wants us to think so,” Peabody said. “If the message left has validity, possibly someone he cheated with or raped. But … he was a trim guy, but you’d still need muscle to get him in and out of a vehicle—had to have one—and spread him out on the sidewalk. Maybe she—if it’s a she—had a partner.”

“Definitely possible. The angle of the ligature marks on the wrists indicates he was restrained with his hands and arms held over his head—taking at least some of his weight. You could haul him up that
way with muscle or with a pulley. Lower him onto some sort of dolly, wheel him up a ramp into a vehicle, wheel him out. It’s a lot, but somebody gave all of it some thought. They sure as hell knew where he lived in New York, when he’d be here. And I didn’t find any defensive wounds.”

The top floor held more generous units, for a total of six. The McEnroy apartment had the northeast corner with a wide, double-door entrance.

A cam, palm plate, swipe, solid locks.

Eve pushed the buzzer.

The McEnroys are currently not receiving visitors. Please leave your name, your reason for this visit, and your contact information. Thank you.

Eve held up her badge. “Dallas, Lieutenant Eve, Peabody, Detective Delia, on police business. We need to speak with anyone now in residence.”

One moment while your identification is verified.

Eve waited out the scan, held another minute before she heard the locks disengage.

A house droid opened the left-side door. He stood—like the building—dignified in a dark suit. The sturdy body style told Eve he could likely double as a bodyguard. He spoke in a, well, dignified Brit accent while he looked over Eve and Peabody with eerily steady blue eyes.

“I’m sorry, Lieutenant, Detective, but Mr. McEnroy has not yet returned from an engagement. Ms. McEnroy and the children are out of
town on holiday and not expected back for five more days. Is there anything I can help you with at this time?”

“Yeah, you can give us Ms. McEnroy’s location and her contact information.”

“Again, I apologize, but that information is private.”

“Not anymore. Mr. McEnroy won’t be returning from his engagement, as he’s on his way to the morgue.”

She watched those steady eyes flicker. Processing the unexpected.

“This is very unfortunate.”

“You could say. We’re coming in.”

“Yes, please do.”

He stepped back, closed the door behind them.

The wide foyer opened into a generous living space. She could see hints of the Hudson through the tall windows, showing silver in the morning light.

The living area boasted a recessed viewing screen above a long, slim fireplace, upscale furniture in quiet tones of blues and greens, some framed cityscapes, a scatter of fancily framed family photos, and no clutter whatsoever.

“What time did Mr. McEnroy leave the premises?”

“At nine-eighteen last evening.”

“Where was he going?”

“I don’t have that information.”

“Was he alone?”

“Yes.”

“What was he wearing?”

Again she saw the flicker as the droid searched memory banks.

“Black Vincenti trousers, a Box Club light blue sweater, silk and cashmere blend, a black leather Leonardo jacket, black leather Baldwin loafers, and matching belt.”

The specificity of detail reminded her there were times droids came in very handy.

“When did the rest of the family leave New York?”

“Two days ago, at eight
A.M
. The Urban Ride Car Service picked up Ms. McEnroy, the children, and their tutor to take them to the shuttle. From there they traveled to Tahiti, and are in residence at the South Seas Resort and Spa, in beach villa Paradise, for their holiday.”

Yeah, she thought, very handy. “Has Mr. McEnroy entertained any guests in their absence?”

“I don’t have that information. I am habitually disengaged when Mr. McEnroy departs, and reengaged when he wishes my assistance.”

“You’ve got a door cam. I need the feed.”

“Of course. The security hub is just off the kitchen.”

“Take it, Peabody. Contact info for Ms. McEnroy.”

This time, without hesitation, the droid reeled off a number.

“What time is it in Tahiti?”

He blinked. “It is currently twelve-thirty-three
A.M
. in Tahiti.”

“That’s just stupid,” Eve muttered.

“I don’t understand.”

“Me, either. I’m having Crime Scene come up, go through this unit, and EDD will take all electronics in. Are there other droids in residence, or any housekeeping staff, human or otherwise?”

“There are small tool droids for cleaning floors and other tasks. There is a tutor for the children, but as I relayed, she is also on holiday with Ms. McEnroy at this time. Mr. McEnroy’s administrative assistant and other business staff in this location are often called to the residence but, by and large, Mr. McEnroy works daily, when in New York, from his base in the Midtown Roarke Tower building.”

“Huh. I’ll let you know if I have more questions. What have you got, Peabody?” she asked when her partner came back.

“He left when the droid says, wearing what the droid says. No one
came to the door until we did. He overwrote the previous seventy-two, but just a standard from what I can tell. EDD can get under that.”

“Tag McNab, and get sweepers up here.”

Eve made her way to the master bedroom. More soft, tasteful colors, more tasteful art. Though the bed’s headboard spread like a peacock fan, the fabric covering it followed that soft and tasteful tone with a quiet peach one a few shades lighter than the fluffy duvet, which itself was shades lighter than the pillow shams, the stylishly arranged throw.

But the kicker was an all-directional vid camera on tripod placed in the center of the room.

She checked it, found it cued up for voice command, and currently no vids in its storage.

She went back out, called the droid. “Up here.”

“Of course.”

He climbed the stairs, followed her back into the bedroom. She gestured to the camera. “Is that usually here?”

“No. I have not seen that instrument before.”

“Here, or at all?”

“At all, Lieutenant.”

“Okay. You can go back down, stand by.”

She checked the drawers in the polished pewter bedside tables, found e-readers in both that she tagged for EDD, condoms in the one closest to the windows, a nail buffer and hand lotion in the one closest to the attached bath.

No sex toys or enhancements.

Interesting.

Curious, she turned down the duvet, ran a hand over the sheets, bent down, sniffed. Crisp and fresh and smelling very faintly of lavender.

She walked back out to the droid. “Master bedroom sheets. When were they put on fresh?”

“Yesterday morning. Ten
A.M
.”

“Did Mr. McEnroy request the change, or is that the usual?”

“When Mr. McEnroy is alone in residence, the sheets are changed daily.”

“And when the family is in residence?”

“Twice weekly.”

“Where are the sheets you took off yesterday morning?”

“With the laundry service.”

“Too bad. Peabody, we’ll start in the master.”

“McNab’s on his way. Sweepers should be up in twenty. Well,” Peabody added as they stepped into the master and she saw the camera.

“Yeah, all-directional vid cam, set to voice activation, in the bedroom. Sheets changed twice a week when the wife’s with him, daily when she’s not.”

Peabody curled her lip. “He taps his side pieces in the bed he shares with his wife, and records the action?”

“That’d be my take. And I’m betting he’s got toys stashed somewhere. Start in his closet. I need to talk to his wife.”

She contacted the resort first, confirmed Geena McEnroy, her daughters, and a Frances Early were currently guests, their check-in date, checkout date.

Then she used the contact the droid had given her, prepared to notify next of kin.

Geena answered on the third beep with blocked video and a sleepy voice. “Yes, hello?”

“Geena McEnroy?”

“Yes, speaking.”

“This is Lieutenant Eve Dallas with the New York Police and Security Department.”

“What? Oh my goodness!” The voice leaped alert, the video flashed
on to reveal a pretty, sleep-rumpled woman with tousled brown hair, alarmed blue eyes. “Was there a break-in?”

“No, ma’am. Mrs. McEnroy, I regret to inform you your husband is dead. His body was found earlier this morning. I’m very sorry for your loss.”

“What? What? What are you talking about? That’s not possible. I spoke to Nigel just this afternoon—here. I-I-It would have been evening there. You’ve made a mistake.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. McEnroy, there’s no mistake. Your husband was killed early this morning, approximately three
A.M
., and has been officially identified.”

“But you see, that’s not possible. You said there hadn’t been a break-in. Nigel would have been home, in bed, at that hour.”

“According to your house droid’s statement and your apartment security feed, your husband left your West Ninety-first Street apartment shortly after nine last evening. His body was found”—no need for the harsh details now, Eve thought—“a short time ago. Again, I’m sorry for your loss.”

“But…” Confusion, the edge of annoyance, simple disbelief began to melt into shock and shock to grief. “What happened? What happened to Nigel? An accident?”

“No, Mrs. McEnroy. Your husband was murdered.”

“Murdered? Murdered? That’s insane!” Her voice pitched up, then she seemed to catch herself. She pressed a hand to her mouth. “How? Who? Why?”

“Ms. McEnroy, it might be best for you to return to New York. We’ve just begun our investigation. Is there anyone I can contact for you at this time?”

“I— No—I— Wait.”

The video blurred as Geena obviously ran from the bedroom with
the ’link in hand. Eve saw pieces of a living area—bold, tropical colors, a hint of moonlight through glass, long, narrow feet with toes painted pastel pink.

“Francie!” The harsh whisper shook. Tears, Eve calculated, were coming. “Oh God, Francie, I need you.”

“I’m up, I’m up!” A light flashed on. “Are you sick, honey?”

To Eve’s best guess, Geena thrust the ’link at the woman in bed, sat, and burst into tears.

The screen filled with the outraged face of a mixed-race woman of about fifty, hazel eyes firing out of a dusky face. “Who is this?”

“This is Lieutenant Eve Dallas with the New York City—”

“Oh, bullshit! I’ve read the book, I’ve seen the vid. Dallas is…” Those hazel eyes blinked before she rubbed them clear. “Oh dear God. What happened? Who’s dead?”

She shifted as she spoke, showing a sturdy body in a pink—not pastel—sleep shirt with a unicorn prancing over it. “Here now, Geena, here now. I’m going to get you some water. I’m going to take care of this, all right? What happened?” she demanded again, obviously on the move.

“Nigel McEnroy is dead. He was killed early this morning.”

“Ah God. How— No don’t bother with that.”

From what Eve could see, the woman dumped ice and fizzy water in a glass in some sort of kitchen. “She needs me. The girls need me, so we’ll wait on that. They loved him. I’ll take care of things here. We’ll be on our way back to New York as soon as possible. Did it happen in the apartment?”

“No.”

“All right. We’ll go there, as soon as I can arrange it.”

“Your name, ma’am.”

“Francie—Frances,” she corrected. “Frances Early. I teach the girls. I need to see to Geena.”

“Please contact me when you arrive in New York.”

“Geena will. She’ll have steadied up by then, for the girls. I have to see to her now.”

When the woman clicked off, Eve shifted modes, did a quick run on Frances Early.

“The tutor,” Eve began as she walked into what was a his-and-hers dressing room rather than a closet. “Frances Early, one marriage, one divorce, no children. Age fifty-six, educator, twenty-two years in the public school arena, New York, born and raised. Seven years with the McEnroys as tutor to first the older daughter, then both. Travels with the family when they travel. Lives here or with her sister when they’re in New York, has rooms in their London home, and is given accommodations in their other residences. One bump—assault charge brought by her ex, then dropped. She seems solid.”

“I’m not finding anything in here except really nice clothes, his and hers, and excellent products in the makeup and grooming area. But there is a safe.”

Eve eyed it, calculated she could open it—she’d been taught by the expert thief (former) who happened to be her husband. “It’s going to be jewelry,” she decided. “She’d likely have the codes, so he wouldn’t stash anything in there he didn’t want her to see. Shared space.

“Keep at it. I’ll hit his home office.”

Wandering through, she paused at a bedroom obviously shared by the two daughters. All pink and white and frilly, it said girlie girls. One section held a pair of facing desks, another toys and games.

She identified the third bedroom as the tutor’s. The bright floral spread indicated a fondness for color—added to when a glance in the closet showed a wardrobe in bright, cheerful hues.

One wall held a big frame, with various kid art on display, and on a table under the window sat a trio of photos—the girls, the tutor with the family.

She’d called the wife by her first name—called her honey when concerned. Kid art, photos. Part of the family, Eve concluded. And people who lived as part of a family knew things.

She’d want to talk to Frances Early.

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