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Authors: J. D. Robb

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BOOK: Vendetta in Death
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She moved on, found what she figured served as the kids’ classroom/playroom, a kind of gathering room, formal dining, and McEnroy’s office.

No office or separate space for his wife, she noted, but McEnroy’s work space hit upscale in every note. The view, the desk, the chair, the sofa, the art, the data and communication system.

Top-of-the-line, she mused, as would behoove a man of his position and wealth.

She found his memo book, passcoded; his work comp, passcoded; communications, passcoded.

A careful man, even in his own home.

Desk drawers locked and coded.

Even the closet required a swipe and code.

She started there.

Opening her field kit, she took out a tool—one Roarke had given her—and got to work.

She heard the sweepers come into the unit, heard Peabody talking to them. Ignored it.

She could do this, and she’d be damned if McEnroy put this kind of security on an office holding freaking memo cubes and work discs.

Ten minutes later, frustrated, she nearly gave in and just kicked the damn door down. But then she’d have to report herself.

She heard McNab’s cheery, “Hey, She-Body!” And doubled her efforts.

She’d also be damned if she’d work this long, then pass the stupid task to the EDD geek, have him show her up.

She set her teeth as she heard his airboot prance coming her way.

“Hey, LT.”

“Start on the electronics,” she ordered. “Open what you can here, do a quick pass, tag and transport. Shit, shit, shit! Open the hell up! Take what you can’t open back to EDD.”

“On it. Hey, that’s a mag code reader. Is that a TTS-5?”

“How the hell do I know? Stop breathing on me.”

“Looks like you’re through everything but—”

She made a sound deep in her throat even a rabid dog would have backed away from. McNab just leaned closer.

When the pad blinked green, he tapped a fist to her shoulder. “Nice.”

“Fucking A,” she said, and used the master to swipe through the rest.

She figured McNab could have done it in half the time she’d taken, and Roarke? He probably could have slid through by his damn Irish charm.

But she’d done it.

She opened the door, saw the memo cubes, the discs, the other organized office supply paraphernalia—and a case she judged would hold the camera in the bedroom.

And a locked cabinet. “Jesus Christ. Is he storing the crown freaking jewels?”

“Just a key lock this time,” McNab noted. “We can pry it.”

“No property damage.” From the field kit she took lock picks—again courtesy of Roarke. She had a better hand with key locks than e-locks, and had the cabinet open in under five.

When she opened the door, McNab let out a low whistle. “Wowzer. Kink City.”

“I knew it.”

“Dude could practically open his own sex shop.” McNab slipped his hands into two of the many pockets on his plutonium-infused purple baggies.

She couldn’t disagree as she scanned the padded cuffs, the vibrators,
the oils and lotions, the cock rings, nipple clamps, ticklers, silk cords, blindfolds, the supply of condoms, of Stay Up, feathers, gels.

She gestured at a bottle clearly marked
ROHYPNOL
, another marked
RABBIT
, and a small one labeled
WHORE
.

“Son of a bitch. He’s got travel vials. Go clubbing, take a vial, pick your target. Get her back here, do what you want. Lady Justice’s poem wasn’t wrong.”

“Poem?”

“We’ll get to it. Electronics, McNab.”

“On it.” He stepped back, a skinny guy with a pretty face, a long tail of blond hair, an earlobe weighed down by silver hoops. “The toys, you know, that’s one thing. No harm, no foul if everybody’s having fun. But the chemicals, that’s fucked-up.”

“And now so’s he.”

And whatever he’d done, whatever he’d been, now he was hers.

She went out, spoke to the head sweeper, rounded up Peabody.

“Let’s take his New York admin. That’s the best chance of getting his habits, his schedule, his friends, and his side pieces if he had repeats.”

“Lance Po,” Peabody read from her PPC as they started out. “Thirty-eight, mixed-race male, married five years to Westley Schupp, worked the New York base for just under eleven years, the last four as the vic’s admin. The apartment was so classy,” Peabody added as they rode down.

“Yeah, that’s how it looked. Nice, quiet, upper-class class. He had photos of his wife and kids on his desk ten feet from a locked cabinet full of sex toys and bottles of roofies, Rabbit, Whore. Not so goddamn classy.”

“So he didn’t just cheat on his wife in her own damn bed. He used rape drugs.”

“Hard to believe he had them—and not all the bottles were full—
and didn’t use them. Let’s see if the admin knows where he was heading last night, and who—if anyone—he headed out to meet.”

They went outside, where life in New York hit full churn. Ad blimps blasting, traffic snarling, pedestrians surging. No body lay over the sidewalk now, and no sign remained that it had.

Inside the building was a different story. She had uniforms knocking on doors, sweepers spreading over a family home, an EDD geek who’d dig through what that family had documented, what they’d talked about on their ’links, what they’d keyboarded, what photos they’d saved on any device.

Death unearthed secrets.

When Eve slid behind the wheel, Peabody gave her the admin’s address. “It’s going to be a hard trip home for his wife and kids,” she commented.

“Yeah. Did she know?” Eve wondered. “Maybe, maybe she didn’t know about what he kept locked in a cabinet, but how could she not know about the cheating? A guy doesn’t have that kind of sex supply—out of the bedroom he shares with his spouse—and not cheat as a matter of habit. How could she not know?”

“Some women just believe, and some guys are really good at covering.”

Eve shook her head. “Nobody’s that good.”

She punched out, muscled her way into the snarling traffic.

Po and his husband lived in a Midtown unit over a Greek restaurant. A reasonable walk to work, if Po was inclined, Eve calculated. She buzzed in at the street-level door, and in seconds got a cheerful “Hey, yo!” through the intercom.

“Lieutenant Dallas, Detective Peabody, NYPSD. We need to speak to Mr. Po.”

“Yeah, right, and Roarke’s up here having a bagel. Is that you, Carrie?”

“Lieutenant Dallas. Am I speaking to Lance Po?”

“Well, yeah. Come on, seriously?”

“Seriously. We need to come up.”

Eve heard some cross talk, a laugh. “Says she’s Eve Dallas. It’s gotta be Carrie.”

But the buzzer sounded, the locks clicked open.

The tiny hallway held a skinny elevator Eve wouldn’t have trusted if Po had lived a mile up, and an equally skinny set of stairs.

As they climbed up, she heard the door open above. “You sounded pretty kick-ass, Carrie, but—”

The man in the doorway broke off.

He hit about five-eight of trim, slim, mixed-race Asian. He looked younger than his thirty-eight years in a natty metallic-blue suit, a red-and-blue-dotted tie, and with raven black hair in short, curly dreads tipped in gold.

His eyes, nearly as gold as the tips, popped wide.

“Holy shit! Holy shit, Wes! It’s fucking Eve Dallas.”

“Get real, Lance.” The second man, with a muscular, shaved head, black skin covered in faded jeans and a long-sleeved red T-shirt, stepped out. He blinked, laid a hand on Po’s shoulder, said, “Well, son of a bitch.”

Then he blinked again, and his dark eyes filled with worry. “Jesus, somebody’s dead.”

“Oh God. God. Is somebody dead?”

“Can we come in?”

“My mom. My mom—”

“It’s not about your mother, Mr. Po, or any family member. We’re here about your boss.”

“Sylvia?” He reached up, grabbed his partner’s hand.

“No, Nigel McEnroy.”

“Mr. McEnroy’s
dead
?”

“We’d like to come inside.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He stepped back. “Yes, please. I was—we were—just thrown off. We’re big fans, of both of you. Not just the book and vid, though totally mag there. But we’ve been following you since you and Roarke—big fans there, too—and it’s your work, and the fashion, and the no-prisoners interviews when they get you on camera. We’re just—”

“You’re babbling, honey.” Schupp nudged Po aside, reached for Eve’s hand, then Peabody’s. “Please, sit down. We don’t have your coffee, but—”

“We’re fine.”

The living space, though small, struck Eve as a lot more friendly and comfortable than the McEnroys’. A high-backed navy sofa ranged along one wall, topped with a long, interesting pencil sketch of the city. It faced a couple of easy chairs in bold, multicolored stripes. A bench padded with fake leather added more seating, and a jog to the left opened into a smart-looking little kitchen and eating area.

“I’m going to tag in, get a sub. I teach art and coach football,” Schupp explained. “High school. How about I make you some tea, Lance?”

“That’d be great. I’m just … It wasn’t an accident. Like I said, we’re fans, so I know you’re with Homicide. Was it a mugging?”

He gestured to a chair as he spoke, so Eve took one, Peabody the other, while Po lowered to the sofa.

“No. You were Mr. McEnroy’s admin?”

“Yeah. Yes. He travels a lot, and when he’s not in New York, which is about half the year, really, Sylvia Brant runs things. I mean, Mr. McEnroy and his partners run everything, but Sylvia’s like captain of the ship when he’s not here. Should I tell her?”

“We’ll take care of that. Do you know Mr. McEnroy’s schedule?”

“Sure. Absolutely. A ten o’clock this morning with the leading candidate for the VP of marketing position at Grange United, New York office. Eleven with—”

“How about yesterday’s?”

“Right, sorry.”

Po rattled off names, times, purposes like a computer while Schupp brought him a pretty cup of tea. The cup, the floral smell, made Eve think of Mira.

She imagined she’d be talking this case through with the department’s top profiler and shrink before too long.

“So, no dinner meetings, no evening appointments?”

“No, he finished at the office just before six. His wife and kids are on spring break, in Tahiti. Oh Jesus, Wes, those sweet little girls.”

Schupp took Po’s free hand, gave it a squeeze. “Can you tell us what happened?”

“Mr. McEnroy was killed early this morning. The evidence so far indicates he left his residence just after nine
P.M
. He was killed at another location before his body was dumped outside his residence.”

She gauged her witness. “There are also indications the murderer was female, or purports to represent females Mr. McEnroy may have … misused.”

Po exchanged a look with his partner.

“You don’t seem surprised by that,” Eve commented. “Tell us why.”

 

3

“Y
ou always said
,” P
o murmured
.

“Call ’em like I see ’em. He had a vibe—a player, a hard type of player,” Schupp told Eve. “I only met him a few times, but he had a vibe. Tell them, Lance.”

“Well, it’s just feelings or observations mostly. Except I know damn well he hit on a couple of the lower-level staff. One of them complained to HR, and boom, she was gone. Word was he paid her off. And Sylvia—he was always respectful of her, but … see, she’s older and she’d kick his ass if he tried anything. Anyway, she reamed him over it, threatened to file a complaint. They really went at it—about a year ago. He was pretty steamed—I could see it—but he stopped fishing in the company pool, if you get me.”

“I get you. Why didn’t Sylvia file a complaint?”

“I think, mostly, because of his wife and kids. She would have if he didn’t straighten up. But…”

“You’re not being disloyal, Mr. Po,” Peabody put in. “His behavior
and habits very likely led to his death. His family needs to know who caused that death, and what you tell us helps us.”

“I didn’t like him,” Po said abruptly. “But I loved the work, and Sylvia, and the others I work with. And he wasn’t here half the time, anyway. He treated me well, I don’t mean to say otherwise.”

“You were an asset, honey. You’re the best admin going.”

“A little prejudiced.” Po managed a smile. “I am good at my job, and I like the job. He, Mr. McEnroy, just didn’t strike as a good husband. He loved the girls, that was clear and real. I think in his way he loved his wife. But he had that vibe, like Wes said. And, well, plenty of mornings when he came in—and his family wasn’t in New York—he had that I-got-laid look on him. He didn’t trouble to hide it.”

“Did anyone make threats?”

“You mean, like to hurt him? No. Unless it was on his private line or e-mail. I see everything else. Honestly, I don’t think he felt threatened. He always looked … smug, satisfied. The only time I saw him steamed was that time with Sylvia. I swear she’d never hurt anybody. She’d have roasted him professionally, but he laid off because, I think, he knew she would.”

“Would you know any of the venues he might have frequented after work?”

“Maybe.” He shifted, clearly uncomfortable. “It’s part of my job to keep things organized—when he’s in New York and when he’s not. Some clubs have little trinkets or amenities, especially when you spring for a privacy or VIP booth. He had swag from a few in a drawer in his desk.”

“We’d like the names, if you remember.”

“Lola’s Lair, Seekers, This Place, Fernando’s. Those were the usual as far as I know. There could be more, and he didn’t keep the souvies.”

“That’s very helpful.”

“I don’t know what I should do.” Po lifted his hands, then used them to grip his elbows. “Should I go to work?”

“We’ll be taking all Mr. McEnroy’s electronics in for analysis.”

“I think he keeps—kept—a ’link, a second, private one, locked in his top left-hand desk drawer. I didn’t have access, but I did see him speaking on another ’link several times in his office. And, ah, he kept some clothes there, too. I would sometimes be asked to have the ones he’d worn the day before sent to the cleaners. So I’d know he’d changed at work, after hours.”

“Would you know if he brought women there?”

“I really don’t think so. There’s security, and the cleaning service. I would, occasionally, send an invoice for a hotel room to our accountants. They would pop up now and again, when Mrs. McEnroy was with him in New York.

“I knew what he was.” Po stared into his tea. “But he was the boss.”

“Mr. Po, why don’t we give you a ride into work? It’s our next stop.”

He looked at Eve, then at Schupp. “Is that what I should do? Should I go in?”

“Actually, Mr. Po,” Peabody said, “you could help us out if you went in, showed us the office.”

The relief of being given direction, a task, streamed over his face. “Okay, then I’ll do that.”

“I’m going with you.” Schupp gave Eve a steady look. “I not only know the people Lance works with, a lot of them are friends. I can help.”

Since she’d found him as steady as the look, she nodded. “That’s fine. Are you ready now?”

“Yeah, sure. I guess.” Po walked over, picked up the satchel by the door, put it on cross-body. “Thanks, Wes.”

“No problem.”

Once they were down and in the car, Schupp let out a sigh. “I know I shouldn’t say this, under the circumstances, but it’s pretty damn frosty riding with Dallas and Peabody.”

“In the DLE.” Po managed a wan smile. “Even if I feel a little sick—not boot-it-up sick, but—”

“It’s okay.” Peabody shifted to smile back at him. “You’ve had a shock, it’s natural. And since you are riding in the DLE, you should probably hold on.”

Even as she said it, Eve punched out into traffic, swung around a lumbering crosstown maxibus, and zipped through the light at the corner seconds before it went red.

Several pedestrians already trying to surge across the intersection aimed vicious looks.

“Whee,” Schupp said under his breath, and took Po’s hand.

Eve skinned between a couple of Rapid Cabs, whizzed past a bike messenger with an obvious death wish, and barreled into the underground parking of the steel tower of Roarke’s headquarters.

The security scanner beeped her through, droned out the parking level and space under reserve for the DLE.

She pulled into the slot minutes after she’d pulled away from the curb.

Po said, “Wow,” and actually let out a quick laugh. “Better than the vid.”

“Welcome to my world,” Peabody told him.

“Um. We’re on the twenty-second floor. I can swipe us right up.”

So could she, Eve thought, but nodded. “Good enough. We’ll need to see Mr. McEnroy’s office, and speak to Ms. Brant. I also need the names of the two women you mentioned. The ones you know were harassed by Mr. McEnroy.”

“Oh man. I guess I knew that, but it feels … I didn’t know Jasmine—
that’s Jasmine Quirk—very well. She wasn’t here very long. She quit about three weeks after she started. And Leah Lester didn’t last a lot longer, maybe three months. She didn’t go quietly, and that’s how Sylvia got wind of what was going on. Allegedly, I guess. Leah and Jasmine left about the same time.”

He swiped into the elevator. “I don’t really know where they are now, but Sylvia might.”

“Okay.”

The ride up was smooth, as one expected of a Roarke property, and since she added her own swipe to Po’s, they went express.

The doors opened into the small, tasteful lobby of Perfect Placement.

Rich brown chairs in the waiting area contrasted richly with pale gold walls. The company logo arched on the wall behind reception where a man and woman, both in black, manned the echoing curved counter.

“Good morning, Lance.” The female offered a smile as she tapped her earpiece. “Hey, Westley, nice to see you.”

“Ah, is Sylvia in?”

“Isn’t she always?” The woman’s smile faltered as she skimmed her gaze over Eve and Peabody. “Is something wrong?”

“We need to speak with her,” Eve said.

“We’ll go straight back, okay?”

Without waiting, Po turned toward the glass doors. They whispered open even as the receptionist said, “I’ll let her know.”

Cubes first, Eve noted, with worker bees already at it, and the smell of street coffee and economy pastries rising through the air.

Around a corner to a handful of offices, some open, some closed. Another corner, bigger offices, snazzier views, the sound of keyboarding, of ’link calls.

Po paused outside of one of the snazzies.

An athletically built woman with strong shoulders sat behind a desk working a keyboard with a blur of fingers. She didn’t look up from the work.

“Hold there a minute, Lance. I need to get this sent asap.”

“Sylvia—”

“Ten seconds,” she muttered, fingers still flying. She paused, her bird-bright black eyes skimming the screen. “Send,” she ordered, then sat back, glanced up. “Hi, Wes. Now, what’s all this?”

Eve held up her badge. “I’m going to close the door.”

Sylvia sat straight again. “That sounds ominous. Could I have a closer look at your identification?”

Obliging, Eve stepped closer, offered the badge. Sylvia, her short, dark hair artfully streaked with silver, studied it. “Holy crap. Somebody killed Nigel.”

“That’s quite a guess, Ms. Brant.”

“I have two murder cops in my office, along with Nigel’s admin and Lance’s husband. I don’t think you’re here to pass the time of day. And in fact, I tried to tag Nigel five minutes ago, and got nothing, not even v-mail. Sit down, Lance.”

She rose as she spoke, went to him, gave him a one-armed hug as she pointed him toward a chair. “You look pale. Everybody sit down. Give me a second to process.”

“You’re processing pretty well,” Eve commented.

“It’s what I do. What happened? When? Why? Though the why’s not hard for me to process—unless it was an accident or a mugging.”

“Tell me why,” Eve suggested.

“Nigel, a man with a lovely, intelligent wife and two beautiful children, a successful business that afforded him the opportunity to live well, travel well, couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. If a husband, boyfriend, brother, father didn’t eventually bash his head in, one of the
women he used and abused would—and so I told him not fully a year ago.”

“And you, Ms. Brant? Did he use and abuse you?”

Sylvia let out a barking laugh. “Take a closer look.” She spread her arms—strong and muscled like the rest of her. “I’m sixty-three, tough, not curvy. I’m a handsome woman, some might say. Sexy, young, naive—no one would say.”

“I think you’re beautiful,” Schupp told her, and made her smile.

“And didn’t I tell Lance to snap you up for good reason? No, Lieutenant, Nigel wasn’t interested in me in that way. Plus, I’m far too valuable to the company. He hunted the younger, curvier, and often the powerless. Not quite a year ago when it became clear he’d been bobbing in the office pool, I threatened him with lawsuits, my resignation, and a conversation with his wife, someone I like quite a lot.”

“You didn’t follow through.”

She showed the first sign of tension by rubbing two fingers between her eyebrows. “No, I didn’t, because he stopped hunting in this particular forest, agreed to pay the two women I’d learned of a generous private settlement. He could have fired me—it wouldn’t have been easy, as he had no cause—but I’m valuable to the bottom line here, and I’d have made one hell of a stink. He knew it.”

She paused, sighed, rose. “I’m breaking into the VIP coffee. I need it, and I expect so do we all.”

She walked to an alcove, programmed an AutoChef. “Before I answer the questions I expect, I’m giving you full disclosure. I respected Nigel’s business sense, tremendously. He was a driving part in building a damn good company, with skill, determination, creativity, foresight. I admired that part of him, and the part who had a seer’s sense of placing the right person in the right position.”

She passed around coffee, brought over a tray of creamers and sugar
substitutes. “He was an excellent father from what I could tell, and his children adored him—clearly and genuinely. Geena, his wife … It’s hard for me to believe a woman as generous and intelligent as Geena didn’t know what he was doing, but then I didn’t know until a year ago, and I’m no idiot. I believe she genuinely loves—loved—him. I admire a man who can generate that kind of love.

“As for the rest of him, I found him despicable. Both women who finally came to me claimed he pressured them, used his position, and one of them believed he’d given her something, roofied her. He denied all this, of course, when I went at him, but he was lying. I could see it. And he agreed to the terms I gave him.”

“I appreciate your candor. Can you give me your whereabouts last night, particularly between the hours of nine
P.M
. and four
A.M
.?”

“Oh, but, Lieutenant, you can’t—”

“Shh.” Sylvia shook a finger at Po. “She needs to know. I left here shortly after Nigel, met my husband, our older son, and his fianc
é
e for dinner at Opa. We had seven o’clock reservations. I think we left about ten. Ray and I took a cab home. I’d say we were both in bed and asleep before midnight, and I left this morning about six-forty-five to hit the gym, and was in the office by eight-forty.

“We do have security on our building,” she added. “You would see Ray and me get in last night, and you’d see me leave this morning. I found Nigel despicable in many ways,” she said again, “but my heart breaks for his children. They’ve lost their father, and however I felt, those kids need their daddy.”

“All right. Would Jasmine Quirk and Leah Lester be the women who reported the harassment to you, and accepted the settlement?” Dallas asked.

“They would, yes.”

“I’m sorry, Sylvia, I—”

“Don’t be a boob, Lance, this is a murder investigation. You tell the
truth, you say what you know. I demanded he pay each of them a hundred thousand, USD, provide each of them with solid references, and have no other contact with them. If he balked on any of it, I’d follow through. Both women agreed to those terms as well, or it would’ve been a different matter. They just wanted out.”

“A hundred thousand seems a small payment for rape,” Eve commented.

Sylvia’s lips flattened. “And I agree. They couldn’t prove it, either of them. They couldn’t even be absolutely sure of it, either of them. Jasmine, in particular, felt she’d participated, felt she’d done something wrong, and wanted to forget it. She relocated to Chicago, where she had some family. Leah was angry, understandably, but refused to give me any solid details. She’s still in New York as far as I know, working in international finance. It may be I should have gone to the partners, or even the police, but all I had was the word of two women who both wanted to move on.”

She pinched the bridge of her nose. “I thought I did what was best for them at the time. I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

“Do you know who’ll inherit his percentage of the company?”

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