Authors: J. D. Robb
“I … His wife and daughters, I imagine. I honestly don’t know. Geena and the girls are away. God, what a mess.”
“Do you know of any other women he harassed?”
“Once I knew about Leah and Jasmine, I suspected there had been more, but no. No one else came to me or filed a complaint. And, believe me, since then I’ve kept my eyes and ears open. I feel certain Nigel knew I’d take action if he played among the office staff again.”
“All right, Ms. Brant. We’re going to need to go through his office, and we’ll need to have any and all of his electronics taken in to EDD.”
“God, the client files. So much confidential data.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I’m going to clear you through, save us all time, but I’m
going to ask you to cover all our asses and get a warrant. I have to inform the partners.”
“We’ll also need to speak with them.”
“Of course. I can, if you like, arrange a ’link or holo-conference. Neither partner is in New York. However I felt about him, Lieutenant, Nigel was my employer, he had a family I’m very fond of, and I’ll see that everyone in his office gives you every cooperation. His family will need closure. They won’t have it until you find who took him from them.”
“I’ll let you know about the conference. I appreciate your time and cooperation, Ms. Brant. I’m going to have Mr. Po take us to Mr. McEnroy’s office. EDD will arrange for the transport of the electronics. I’ll secure the warrant.”
They left her to walk down the corridor to the impressive double doors of McEnroy’s office.
It made two of Brant’s, with Po’s adjoining office a kind of afterthought. It boasted a full adjoining bath, an entertainment nook, with an AutoChef, a friggie, a bar. And a snazzier yet view of the city.
“I don’t have the passcode to his private files, or the locked drawer,” Po began.
“We’ll take care of it.”
“I can get you into the company files, e-mails, and so on. I have those codes, if it helps.”
“It does. Peabody, tag Reo for the warrant, then EDD.”
“If you need me to explain any of the data…”
“Getting us in’s enough for now. We’re going to need your office electronics, too.”
“Oh boy. I could open them if you want.”
“Appreciate it. Once you open things up, why don’t you take a break? If we need you, we’ll let you know.”
“He’s better busy,” Schupp commented.
“Yeah, I am. Wes knows me. I could maybe help Sylvia, keep busy and out of your way.”
“Go ahead. You’ve been a big help, Mr. Po, both you and Mr. Schupp.”
“It doesn’t really seem real,” Po murmured, as he efficiently opened the office comp, a memo book, a calendar. “Not all the way real. I guess it will.”
As he moved off to do the same in his office, Eve eyed the locked drawer. Then pulled out her signaling ’link to read a text.
Come up and see me. I can give you some data on your victim.
Of course he could, Eve thought. Roarke would know she’d entered the building almost as soon as she had—and would by now have gathered up whatever data there was to gather up on his dead tenant.
It would be worth a stop.
Got a few things yet to do down here—including picking a lock. We’ll come up after.
Need a hand with the lock?
Maybe, she thought, but answered:
Don’t insult me.
As it was now a matter of pride, she settled down, got to work.
“Warrant’s in the works,” Peabody told her. “McNab’s heading over. He reports McEnroy didn’t return to the apartment until around midnight—that’s night before last. And he didn’t return alone.”
Eve glanced up from the lock. “A woman?”
“A duet. Two redheads, and McNab says they both looked seriously wasted. Drunk or high or both. They left looking pretty much the same about oh four hundred.”
“Didn’t waste any time once the wife left, did he?”
Unsurprised, Eve went back to the very stubborn lock.
“The guy was a dick who thought with his dick. Anyway, EDD’s
sending a transport for what’s tagged from the residence, then from here.”
“Not you. The lock. I thought I had it. He’s got a second layer on it.”
Curious, Peabody moved over to watch. “A second layer on a desk drawer? Must be some goodies inside.”
“I’ve already deduced.” And she already felt the first trickles of sweat forming at the base of her spine. “Go take a look at Po’s stuff instead of breathing down my neck.”
“Sure, but McNab’s on his way, and he could…”
The low growl had Peabody moving quickly to the next office.
Eve felt more sweat pop out on the back of her neck—which only pissed her off. She could open a damn drawer. She
open the damn drawer.
Kept shit here, she calculated as she struggled, because his wife would never fiddle around in his office. Because his admin was as trustworthy as they came. Because he was the boss and assumed—very likely correctly—no one would dare try to compromise anything he’d locked away.
Now being dead, all bets were off.
“Son of a bitching bitch.”
“That bad, is it now?”
She looked up, and there he was.
She should’ve figured.
Roarke stood in the doorway, tall and lean in the ruler-of-the-business-world suit—the darkest of charcoals without being black—a shirt so sharp it could have sliced bread in a palest of pale gray hue, with a craftily knotted tie that added thin hits of burgundy to a medium gray field.
His black hair swept thick and silky around a face that might have been formed with angel kisses—with a few taps of devil to add to the appeal. And those impossibly blue eyes smiled, just for her.
The whisper of Ireland in his voice just capped the package.
She shot a finger at him, said, “No,” very decisively.
So he leaned on the jamb, a man at his ease, waited.
Having him show up—and knowing how easily he could show her up with a lock—had her doubling down. Maybe some of that sweat slid down the back of her spine, but she finally opened the stupid lock.
“And good for you, Lieutenant.”
“He had two layers on it.”
“Is that a fact?” Brows lifted, he wandered in. “And what is it the head of headhunting kept so secret?”
He only smiled, then bent down to brush those perfectly carved lips over the top of her head.
“That police business might include my data if you want it. The media hasn’t yet released any salient information on his death, but as you’re here, it’s murder.”
“It’s murder, and it’s nasty.” She took two ’links, a memo book, and a few discs out of the drawer. “Close the door, ace.”
He walked back, did so, and paused in the adjoining doorway. “Good morning, Peabody.”
He moved back to Eve, leaned a hip on the desk. “Caro will send you a copy of the data,” he began, speaking of his own efficient and trustworthy admin. “In the meantime, I can tell you McEnroy and his company have had their New York headquarters here for about six years. They’re in the first year of their second five-year lease, and have routinely paid the rent and fees in a timely manner. They have opted
for the building cleaning service—nightly—as well as our IT services and maintenance. They brought in their own decorators, but employ our live plant care service and often use our floral company, bakery, and other craft services.”
“Did you know him?”
“I did not, though one hears what one hears.”
“What does one hear?”
“He enjoyed golf, tennis, boating, and sex. His wife wasn’t always his partner in any of those hobbies. He preferred high-end clubs for all his sports. Give me an hour, I can tell you where he ordered his suits, his shoes, where he bought jewelry, and so on.”
Roarke glanced around the office. “He wasn’t as discreet as his office decor might indicate.”
“So cheating on his wife wasn’t a secret?”
“He had a reputation. He also had one for being almost preternaturally good at matching clients, so the less savory business was often overlooked. His wife’s business more than a client’s, after all.”
“Looks like somebody disagreed with that.”
“And is that what killed him?”
“Early evidence indicates. Somebody who disagreed left his body, naked, mutilated, castrated, essentially on his doorstep early this morning.”
“Well then,” Roarke said mildly. “That would be a very severe sort of disagreement.”
“Bet your fine ass. Whoever that was took some time letting McEnroy know she—most likely she—disapproved of his hobbies. Which, early evidence indicates, included drugging targeted females, some of whom worked for him.”
“Ah, well then.” Rising, Roarke studied the view. “‘Less savory’ doesn’t quite come up to it, does it now? Do you suspect his wife?”
“Unlikely, at least not directly.” You had to look at the spouse, Eve
thought. Always. “She and their two kids were in Tahiti. I confirmed that before I notified her. She’s heading back. Whoever did it—and there’s the possibility the wife was complicit—left a poem, and signed it Lady Justice.”
“A poem. And a poetic signature.” He turned back to her. “Intriguing.”
“You could call it that.” She’d already determined the ’links and memo books were passcoded. And he was right there.
“Seal up.” She pulled a can out of her field kit. “And open these, will you?”
He studied the can with resignation. “I hate this bloody stuff, but anything to serve.”
He had the ’links and book cleared in a very short and annoying amount of time. Eve checked the book first.
“He’s got the wife’s schedule, each daughter’s schedule in here. Travel, music lessons, blah blah, even playdates. What is it with making dates to play? Why don’t kids just, you know, play?”
“I couldn’t say. But from the looks, he was either a very involved father, a conscientious husband—in this area—or having the schedules so outlined helped him find his windows for his own version of playdates.”
She’d thought exactly the same. “It can be both. His schedule, too—family stuff, work stuff. And those a lot less savory playdates. Right? See here, he’s got dates and times, names of clubs—or bars, or venues of some kind. Here in New York, in London, Paris, Chicago, New L.A., and so on. All carefully documented.”
With a hand on her shoulder, Roarke leaned down. “Mixing them up—it seems he didn’t want to repeat locations, not too closely on his calendar. But from the number of locations and dates, this was a man with a serious addiction.”
“First names of women—just first names—and some dates with
two, even three. So he liked to keep track there, too. Jesus, he’s got notations in here when he used drugs on them, what kind, where he took them after. If and when he paid them off.”
“Perhaps Lady Justice had a point,” Roarke suggested.
“Murder doesn’t have a point, and it’s not justice.” Eve closed the book. “McNab’s heading in to take care of the electronics, and I’m getting full cooperation around here.”
“And so I’m no longer useful.”
Since the door was closed, and Peabody occupied, she rose, pressed her lips to his. “You’re always useful, but I’ve got places to go, people to grill. I’ll look for Caro’s data, it’ll add.”
“Then, unless I prove useful elsewhere, I’ll see you tonight.” He glanced at the disc. “Are you thinking he might have memorialized some of his rapes? As rape is what they were.”
“I’m thinking that wouldn’t surprise me, since he had a cam set up in his bedroom. All-directional vid cam, on a tripod, already cued for voice activation. So I’ll take the discs in, view them at Central. Appreciate the assist.”
“You’d have opened the rest. Take care of my cop,” he added, then called out a goodbye to Peabody as he left.
Yeah, she’d have opened the rest. But, she admitted, she’d probably still be at it.
oarke walked out
eabody walked in
“A quick look,” she began, “nothing to see. The kind of business stuff, scheduling, contacts, and all that you expect to see on an admin’s e’s. He keeps his personal schedule, contacts, separate. It’s all flagged for EDD.”
“Good enough. The vic kept his personal separated, you could say. His personal schedule includes regular visits to a group of clubs, and his memos include first names of women, dates, what drugs were used, where he took them after he dosed them.”
Peabody’s puppy-dog eyes hardened like marbles. “Jesus, what a slime sack.”
“Yeah, but he’s our slime sack now. We’ll talk to the staff here, see if we get more buzz. And let’s arrange to have conversations with the two targets from here we know of. Let’s see if Quirk had any travel to New York in the last few days. We’ll also check the partners’ travel.”
By the time they’d finished at the offices, Eve believed Brant had it right. The threats had pushed McEnroy out of the company pool.
As they rode down to the garage, Eve calculated. “We get another woman who admitted—or claimed—McEnroy acted inappropriately toward her around about a year ago. To her recollection. But then backed off completely.”
“Sylvia Brant’s ultimatum.”
“It fits. And she didn’t report it, as he stopped. Or she says he stopped. Let’s run her, Peabody, and keep her on the list for now. Then we need to take a good look at another pool. Clients.”
“Yeah. Oh, you want this position? I’m going to personally review your qualifications. Slime sack,” Peabody repeated as they stepped out of the elevator, started toward the car.
Eve checked her wrist unit as she slid behind the wheel. “We’ll split up interviews with the partners, but first, we’ll have that conversation with Leah Lester. Plug in her work address.”
Peabody programmed the in-dash. “I did a quick run on Allie Parker already—the no reporting since he stopped. No criminal, no change in finances that shows on the speedy first-level. She came on at PP right out of college, is midway through her second year as an administrative associate. The timing works, doesn’t it? She’s new, McEnroy rolls into the office, sees the fresh meat, gives it a little squeeze. Before he can do more, or before the meat really decides how to react, Brant comes down on him, and he decides to shop elsewhere.”
“Agreed, and there wasn’t an Allie in McEnroy’s book. But she stays on the list. Next run, for everybody on the list, any payments to the clubs McEnroy favored. That’s where his killer picked him up, so she—or he if that’s a blind—likely stalked him first.”
Peabody made notes as they went. “I get, sort of, why the ones he went after in his own firm settled for the money and walked away,
but … What would you do if a boss or superior tried the grab-ass on you?”
“First year on the job a detective—second grade—tried to corner me in the locker room—shoved me back against the lockers, grabbed my tit with one hand, my crotch with the other. I’d just started in Homicide under Feeney, and we’d been out on a long one. It’s about two hundred hours, and he comes in while I’m changing. Big guy, asshole, figured he’d initiate the rook his way.”
“Jesus, Dallas! Did you report him to Feeney?”
“Didn’t have to. While I was busting the asshole’s nose, bruising his balls, Feeney heard the commotion and came in. Detective Fuckface starts going off on how I came at him, lost my shit, and he was filing charges. While he’s spouting off, I’m thinking how I’ve been in Homicide a handful of weeks, I’m the rook, and this guy has a gold shield, so I’m screwed. Why would anybody believe me—he’s bleeding, I’m not. And while I’m thinking that, while the asshole is spouting off, Feeney gives him a shot in the gut that drops him.”
Odd, Eve realized, it wasn’t an incident she thought about, but now she could see it all again, clear as glass. “I’m about half-dressed, my support tank’s ripped at the strap, so Feeney turns to me—puts his boot on the asshole’s chest, and turns to me. He looks right in my face, just my face, and asks me to say what happened, so I did. Then he tells me to put on my shirt, wait in his office. So I did, and almost lost my shit then.”
Yeah, she thought, clear as glass.
“I wanted Homicide like I never wanted anything, and I didn’t know if I was going to get written up, dismissed, or if my lieutenant was going to shrug it all off as a done deal, tell me to do the same, just let it go.”
She glanced over at Peabody. “And I’d have to swallow it, because I needed the badge more than my pride.”
“I get that,” Peabody murmured. “I really get that.”
“Then Feeney comes in, and he digs this really crap bottle of whiskey out of his file cabinet, pours some in a couple of coffee mugs, tells me to sit. And how he needs me to file a formal report, and how I have to speak about the incident to Mira. Man, last thing I wanted, but he’s not hearing that. He’ll keep it quiet, he tells me, because he knows otherwise some can blow back on me, but I have to follow through, and he’ll have my back. And he tells me Detective Fuckface will be taking early retirement. Nobody, he says, nobody puts hands on one of his. Then he tells me to drink up, to suck it up, because it won’t be the last time I have to bust some fucker’s balls.”
“I love Feeney.” Peabody blinked damp eyes. “I totally do.”
“Yeah.” She spotted the shining downtown tower that housed Leah Lester’s employer, Universal Financial. “The fact is,” she said as she started hunting for parking, “if he hadn’t stood up for me, I’d have swallowed down what I had to swallow to stay on the job, to stay in Homicide. I could kick the fucker’s balls, but without Feeney’s backing, I couldn’t have done much else. He showed me what made a real cop, and what made a real boss, that night. I guess, come down to it, what made a real man.”
She hit vertical so fast Peabody yipped like a Pomeranian, then zipped across the lane, shimmied down into a spot.
“A little heads-up next time,” Peabody managed. Then she stepped out on the sidewalk, lifted her face, sighed. “It’s really starting to feel like spring. I’m going to stop by a flower stall on the way home and buy a whole bunch of daffodils. Hey, I should buy some for the bullpen!”
“Do that, prepare to eat them.”
They had to walk down to the corner, cross the street, but Peabody nearly bounced in her pink boots. “I bet they taste like spring.”
“You could find out.”
They crossed with the surge of pedestrians who may or may not have been happy it felt, sort of, like spring. Most seemed in too big a hurry to notice.
The big shiny building had glass entrance doors—blast-proof—a sprawling tiled lobby, and heavy security. To keep it simple, Eve pulled out her badge, held it up for one of the three guards. “What’s the floor, Peabody?”
“Sixty-second floor, Universal Financial.”
“You can stow your weapons here.”
“No,” Eve said, again keeping it simple. “Scan the badges, clear us through. We’re on NYPSD business.”
He didn’t like it, curled thin lips, but scanned and verified. “If you insist on keeping your weapons, you’re required to have an escort.”
“I’ll take them up, Jim.” The female guard stepped out of the security booth, gestured across the lobby to a bank of elevators. “Jim’s a little bit of a jerk,” she said when they were out of earshot. “It’s nothing personal.”
The guard swiped her card at an elevator, then stepped in with Eve and Peabody before holding up a hand at the next person trying to get on. “Sorry, please wait for the next available car.”
Once the doors shut, she swiped her card again. “Going express,” she explained. “Otherwise it could take twenty minutes to get up to sixty-two this time of day.”
“Hey, we’re all just trying to keep people safe, right? Anyway, I know somebody who’s a cop. Well, we just met, really, but she’s a cop in your division, Lieutenant. Dana Shelby.”
“Officer Shelby’s a good cop.”
“Maybe you could tell her Londa said hi. Sixty-two,” she announced and stepped off when the doors opened. “Just let me clear this with Universal’s security.”
She walked to the counter, had a word with one of the people manning it. More people sat in the cushy gray-and-black waiting area busily working their handhelds. Still more breezed in and out of various doors in their power suits.
The entire area smelled of privilege in the wisps of expensive perfumes and real leather.
In under a minute, a square-jawed man with a shaved head and a black suit stepped out of a side door, gave Eve and Peabody a quick glance before walking to Londa.
“Got it from here. Appreciate it, Londa.”
“No prob, Nick.” Londa sent Eve and Peabody a little salute before she headed back to the elevator and the guard crossed to them.
“Nick Forret, head of security for Universal. How can I help you?”
“We need to speak with Leah Lester.”
With a nod, he turned to the counter. “Is Ms. Lester in her office?”
“I’ll check, Mr. Forret. Yes, sir. Her office ’link is engaged, with a do not disturb.”
“Then don’t disturb her,” Forret said mildly. He gestured to another door. “I’ll take you back to Ms. Lester’s office. Do you expect any difficulties, Lieutenant?”
“No. Ms. Lester may have information that could assist us in an investigation.”
They didn’t go far, though Eve noted Lester had moved up beyond cube status to the next level. Her office door was shut with the red DND light blinking. Ignoring it, Forret issued one sharp knock, opened it.
The woman at the desk jabbed a finger in the air out of range of the ’link even as she continued a conversation in the calmest of tones. “Ab
solutely, Mr. Henry, that is fully understood. I’d be more than happy to discuss all of this with you tomorrow, as planned.”
Eve let the conversation roll as she looked around the office. Smaller than hers at Central, but it did have a bigger window. No frills, no fuss—she respected that.
“I look forward to meeting you, sir, and very much appreciate the chance to show you what we can offer you as a member of the Universal Financial family.”
The minute she signed off, her polite, professional expression went to snarl. “Damn it! Did you see the DND? I’ve been working on getting this face-to-face with Abner Henry for weeks.”
“Lieutenant Dallas, Detective Peabody.” And with that Forret stepped out, shut the door.
To add to it, Eve held up her badge. “NYPSD, Ms. Lester. We need a few minutes of your time.”
“Cops?” The irritation shifted to puzzlement, then jumped straight to panic as she surged up. “My parents? My brother? What—”
“It has nothing to do with your family.”
“Frankie.” Now she pressed a hand to her heart, sank into the chair again. “Oh God.”
“Or Frankie,” Eve added. “We’re here about Nigel McEnroy.”
Color flew back in her face—a good face, Eve noted, more than pretty, with refined features, lips carefully dyed a quiet coral. Her eyes changed, too, the clear, pale blue of them going glacier cold.
“I’ve got nothing to do with McEnroy or his company, and nothing to say, either. I left his company’s employ more than a year ago. Now if you’ll excuse me—”
“Nigel McEnroy is dead.”
Something flickered in those eyes, then she sat back, blew out a breath, lifted a hand to skim it through her carefully styled mane of gold-streaked red hair. “Dead? As in … God. How do I feel?” she
murmured. “I don’t know how I feel. Not sorry,” she decided. “It’s not a crime to not be sorry.”
Hit the core straight off, Eve decided. “Can you give us your whereabouts from nine
. last night until four this morning?”
“Why … Jesus, was he murdered? He was murdered, and you’re looking at me.” She shut her eyes a moment, then picked up a little red ball from her desk, started squeezing it. “Things follow you no matter what you do. Someone killed him, that’s what followed him. And that follows me.”
“I … I was with Frankie from about eight until about midnight. We just started dating. We met for dinner at Roscoe’s, then we caught some music at the Blue Note. He walked me home—that’s his thing, he always takes me home—and I got in about midnight. I went to bed—alone. That’s my thing, but I’m about to try to change that. I left for work this morning about eight.”
She put the ball down, rose, turned to her window. “He’s dead, and I’m not sorry. He was a terrible excuse for a human being. You must know that, or know why I think that, or you wouldn’t be here. I should be scared, I guess. Should I be scared that you’re here?” She turned back. “I’m not. I’m just pissed off that this brings it all back when I’ve managed to push it out.”
She sat again. “I guess you’ve talked to Sylvia. To Ms. Brant.”
“We’re aware of Mr. McEnroy’s alleged behavior with you and other female employees.”
“Alleged.” For an instant her eyes went dead. Then they fired with icy rage. “Of course alleged. We took the money and walked away, Jasmine and I. So it’ll always be alleged. And even if we hadn’t? How can you prove what you don’t clearly remember?”
Eve understood that all too well, and the helplessness that came with
it. But pushed it aside to do the job. “You told Ms. Brant that Mr. McEnroy sexually assaulted and harassed you.”
“Raped me. I know it. I
it, but I can’t prove it. Sylvia believed me—us—me and Jasmine, and she made it stop. We took the money. You can call it a payoff, or compensation, or a bribe, I don’t give a shit. What it was? Something to help us get through until we could find our feet again, sleep at night again, get another decent job. It was making him pay.”
Eve didn’t mind the angry venting. The anger told her a great deal.
“Are you in touch with Ms. Quirk?”
“She moved to Chicago. She couldn’t stay here, and she has family there. We keep in touch, not as much as we did. We went to the same support group for a while. She convinced me to go. Maybe it helped. Misery loves company.
“I walked away,” she said again, and sat. “Even knowing the money it cost him meant nothing to him.”