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Authors: J. D. Robb

Vendetta in Death (9 page)

BOOK: Vendetta in Death
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Thaddeus, she thought, liked tall ones.

She had to stop a moment, sit a moment, as even thinking his name
enraged her. After composing herself, she ordered her droid to bring the car around. Before she left, she checked her beloved Grand on the monitor.

Fast asleep, with the medical droid on alert.

It had been child’s play to hack into Thaddeus Pettigrew’s ’link. The only glitch had been a change in schedule. The whore he lived with had left a day early, so the cheater had booked another whore for tonight. Not tomorrow night as expected.

Still, easy enough to change her own plans, to cancel the paid whore and take her place.

Maybe her hands shook a little on the drive, but she wouldn’t fail. Hadn’t she already proven she could follow through?

She had the droid drop her out front. And Thaddeus, a creature of habit, would have disabled the security cams—in case his live-in whore decided to check on him.

Any nosy neighbors would see what she wanted them to see.

When he came to the door of the brownstone, her heart actively fluttered.

“Good evening, Thaddeus.” She made her voice a gravelly purr. “I’m Angelique.”

She offered her hand, and when he took it, smiling—oh so charming—she pumped the drug into his palm from the mini syringe in hers.

“Please, come in.”

“I’d love to.” She watched his face go slack. “But I have a car waiting. Come with me. I have such an amazing evening planned for us.”

“With you?” he said, biddable.

“Close the door, Thaddeus.”

He obeyed, walked to the car with her. Inside, as the droid drove back uptown, she handed Thaddeus the wine she’d already dosed. “Drink up! It’s your favorite red.”

“Thank you. I feel a bit strange.”

“The wine will help.” She tipped it up, toward his mouth.

When his eyes drooped, she couldn’t help herself. She drew him to her, kissed his mouth, arched under his hand when he stroked her breast.

And cradled him when the drug took him under.

 

8

Roarke wanted to tell her she needed sleep
,
but he let her be
. I
t might be better, he considered, if she simply wore herself out with this one. And perhaps her sleep, when it came, would be quiet.

He ran the names she sent him, studied them, wondered if any of them would prove a murderer.

Students, businesswomen, chefs, assistants, technicians.

Some married, some not. Some city residents, some not.

Rowan Rosenburg was the youngest at twenty-one, with Emilie Groman the oldest at thirty-six.

So far, he added.

Eve sent him four more, and when he completed those, he got up to check on her.

She sat at her command center, the cat in her lap, studying the board.

“Taking a break,” she told him. “The last one I did? She started to come out of it when he was finished with her. She started to cry, so he dosed her again, just forced it down her throat. He got her dressed, kept
telling her she’d had a lovely time, but the party was over and she needed to go home. Told her where to get a cab. I don’t know how he got her out of the house, she was barely functioning, because he turned off the camera.”

“Cecily Freeman?”

“Yeah.”

“She works in IT, and from what I dug up, was recruited by Perfect Placement for a position in Windsor Hotels sixteen months ago. Shortly after she took the position she engaged a therapist. She’s twenty-five. She’s gay.”

“They’re all just bodies to him, wills to be broken, objects to be used and humiliated. It’s all I can stomach tonight.”

“Good. You need sleep.”

“Freeman,” she said as she dumped the cat and rose. “She was coming out of it, went into therapy. She might remember more than most. And, remembering, want payback.”

“Possible.” Roarke steered her to the elevator. “She’s five-four, a hundred and fifteen pounds. She’d surely have needed help.” He kissed the top of her head. “Why don’t we split a soother?” he suggested as they stepped into the bedroom.

The cat sprinted in behind them, took a flying leap to land his pudgy body on the bed.

“I was thinking of a soother.” She turned to him, turned into him. “But not that kind.”

He wrapped his arms around her. “Darling Eve. You’re so tired.”

“I passed tired awhile back. But I need to let myself feel, let myself know, what sex can be. What it’s supposed to be when it matters. I need to show you.” She brushed her lips to his. “And for you to show me.”

He kissed her temple, called for the lights to dim, the fire to light. In that soft glow he eased back, eyes on hers, to unhook her weapon harness.

They could soothe each other, he thought as he set the harness aside. Perhaps he needed that gift as much as she.

He’d taken off his suit coat, his tie in his office, so she unbuttoned his shirt as he unbuttoned hers. As the shirts slid to the floor, he circled her toward the bed.

He eased her down to sit, to take off her boots.

When she reached for him, brought him close, the cat let out an annoyed grunt before stalking to the side of the bed and leaping down.

It made her laugh, curl closer. Then their lips met.

Slow, soft, spinning out the moment, saturating the moment with tenderness as the kiss deepened.

As she gave herself to it, to him, she wondered how she’d ever gotten through all the hard, dark days before him. Having this, arms to hold her, a heart to beat against hers, shined a light so constant, so steady, she could always find her way out of the dark and the hard.

She laid her hand on his heart, thinking: This. This, this. Knowing he gave her that heart, every day, changed the world.

As they drowned each other in the kiss, she traced the shape of his face with her fingers, drew in his scent.

This, she thought again, mattered. This held. This shined.

And closed all the ugly in the world away.

While the fire crackled, the bed sighed, he drew off her support tank to trace his hands over the long lines of her, the subtle curves of her.

He traced his lips over the sharp line of her jaw, over the slight dent in her chin, down the strong line of her throat to where her pulse beat.

He knew where to touch, how to touch to make that pulse quicken, thicken. As it did, as her fingers skimmed through his hair, he whispered kisses over her breasts.

Half dreaming, she breathed out his name, let herself float on the tenderness he offered. Giving hers to him as her hands roamed.

They built desire in delicate layers, clouds of sensation to shimmer.
When he shifted, when their eyes met, she rose to him. She cupped his face with her hands; he slid inside her.

Joy, so simple, so elemental, flowed through her like a river warmed in sunlight.

He lowered his mouth to hers; she linked her fingers with his. Lost in her, he murmured in Irish, words that streamed from his heart as they floated on the joy.

Even when they slipped under, they held strong.

And so he showed her, as she showed him.

Later, with her curled against him, the cat a furry lump at the small of her back, Roarke felt her drift.

“There now,
a ghrá
,” he murmured. “Only quiet dreams tonight.”

As Eve drifted, Lady Justice waited for the next scream to die away. After all, she didn’t want to rush.

She stood, booted feet spread, one hand on her hip, the other tick-tocking the electric prod. Behind her mask, her eyes gleamed.

“Not such a big man now, are you, Thaddeus?”

Trembling, blood trickling out of his mouth from where he’d bitten his tongue, he lifted his head.

“Why are you doing this? Why?”

“Why? Let’s see.” Head angled, she tapped a finger to her cheek. “Because I can. Because you
deserve
it!”

She slashed the prod across his abdomen, watched him convulse, watched his naked body jerk and sway. “You’ve really worked on that six-pack, haven’t you, Thaddeus? Gotta stay in shape to screw all your whores.”

Sweat and blood ran down his face, piss down his legs. “Please stop. Please. I can pay you, anything you want. I have money. I have plenty of money. I can—”

“Do you?” Rage burned through her like a brushfire. “Where did you get all that money, you cheating, lying, thieving son of a bitch?”

All but shrieking it, she slashed, slashed with the prod, until his screams no longer sounded human, until those screams broke into wild sobs.

She had to walk away to compose herself. This wasn’t to be done out of anger, she reminded herself, not out of hot fury, but cold-blooded justice.

“Confess. Admit you’re worthless. Admit you’re a liar. A cheat. Admit you cheated and stole from your wife, a woman who loved and trusted you. Admit you cheat now on the whore you took over your vows.”

She jerked his head up. “Admit all that, and I’ll stop. I’ll let you go.”

“Anything.” His head lolled to the side, so she gave him a light, almost teasing flick with the prod.

“Say it. Confess!”

“I confess!”

“To what, Thaddeus? Say it, say it all.”

“I— Tell me what to say. Please, I’ll do anything.”

“Say you’re worthless.”

“I’m worthless.”

His head lolled again so she had to give him a good slash with the prod across his cheek. His scream tore the air like claws.

She didn’t mind a bit.

“Say you’re a cheat.”

“I’m a cheat.”

The words, barely audible, garbled, pleased her.

“A liar.”

“Yes, yes, a liar.” A fit of coughing had him gasping for air. “Please, I need water. Please, have mercy.”

“A thief. Say it, say it!” She shouted the words like triumph. “You’re
a thief. A cheating, lying thief who stole from his wife to live on her money with a whore.”

“I—I stole from my wife.”

“You cheated on her, lied to her, stole from her, tossed her aside like she was nothing. Say it all!”

He struggled and wept his way through it.

She walked away again as he hung limp, half-conscious. And brought back the bucket and the knife.

“Now say her name. The name of the woman you betrayed.”

“Darla,” he mumbled. He opened his swollen eyes. “Please let me go. You said you’d let me go.”

“I did, didn’t I? Say her name again. Loudly, clearly.”

“Darla.”

She smiled at him. “Look at me now. Look right at me. Guess what, Thaddeus. I lied.”

She used the knife.

Eve’s communicator jolted her out of sleep. As she groped for it, Roarke ordered the lights on at ten percent.

“Block video. Dallas.”

Dispatch, Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. The mutilated body of an adult male at 26 Vandam, probable connection to previous homicide. Officers on scene.

“Acknowledged. On my way. Contact Peabody, Detective Delia. Dallas, out.”

She leaped out of bed. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

While the cat complained, she sprinted into the bathroom, into the
shower. Thirty seconds later, she stepped out as Roarke handed her a mug of coffee, then stepped in.

“I’m going with you.”

“There’s no need for—”

“I’m with you.”

Rather than argue, she hit the drying tube, gulping coffee as the warm air swirled.

Moving fast, she hurried to her closet, grabbed clothes at random. Since it was easiest, she went with black all the way.

By the time she strapped on her weapon harness, Roarke buckled his belt—and managed to look elegant in black jeans and a thin, steel gray sweater.

“I’ll drive, and you can check who lives at 26 Vandam.”

She didn’t argue there, either. As she strode out of the room, Galahad gave them a glare with his bicolored eyes, yawned, then rolled over and went back to sleep.

Eve started the search while she jogged downstairs, grabbed her coat on the fly.

“I’ve got a Thaddeus Pettigrew and a Marcella Horowitz—single-family residence. Male DOB means that’s him if it’s the resident. He owns the house.”

As Roarke had already remoted her vehicle from the garage, it slowed to a stop as they walked outside in the dark, the chill.

He got behind the wheel, ordered two black coffees from the in-dash AC. Eve downed more coffee while he punched it toward the gates. Rather than wait for them to open, he hit vertical.

“I’m checking to see if I can find a connection—personal, business—with McEnroy. If this does connect, one way or the other, she’s killed two in two days. That’s fast work. Fast work.”

“A mutilated male body left at his residence? Odds are.”

“Yeah, well. I’ve got a Pettigrew in McEnroy’s London office, but that’s a Mirium, and no connection to a Thaddeus that shows. This guy was a lawyer, a partner in Moses, Berkshire, Logan, and Pettigrew. Looks like he specialized in financials, estate law, like that. Divorced, no kids. Ex lives Upper East.”

She kept searching. “Might not be Pettigrew.”

“Odds are,” Roarke said again.

“We wait and see. Vandam. Quiet neighborhood. Upper middle class. Pettigrew can afford the neighborhood, since he rakes in a good annual with the law firm. And since he came into a windfall … the same time he got the divorce. Settlement? Fifteen-point-six million isn’t chump change.”

She let it ride. Better to walk into the crime scene without theories or leans.

When Roarke pulled up behind the cruiser, Eve noted the cops on scene had put up the barricades. Even as she got out, she spotted Peabody, with McNab in tow, hoofing up from the corner.

She held up her badge, ducked under the tape.

“My partner and an EDD detective.” She gestured as she studied the body. “Report, Officer.”

“We got the nine-one-one at three-forty-three, Lieutenant, and arrived on scene at three-forty-five. My partner’s walking the nine-one-one caller down the block to his place so he can put his dog in the house. He was walking his dog, found the body. We secured the scene and the wit, rang the bell on the house here, knocked. No response. The wit said he thinks it could be the guy who lives here, but he couldn’t be a hundred percent. Wit’s Preston DiSilva.”

“Peabody,” she said as her partner approached. “Take the nine-one-one caller.”

“Officer Markey’s got the wit, Detective,” the uniform said to Pea
body. “His pup was getting pretty agitated, so Markey escorted him back to 22 Vandam.”

“I’ve got it.” She looked down at the body, back at Eve. “Two for two.”

No mistaking it, Eve thought, and took the field kit Roarke handed her. Crouching, she opted to ID the victim first. No surprise there, she mused.

“Victim is identified as Pettigrew, Thaddeus, of 26 Vandam. McNab, Roarke, take the house, clear it. Check the security feed. There are outside cams. He lived with a female. Horowitz, Marcella. If she’s in there, keep her in there. Just let me know if she’s in there and breathing.”

As they moved past her, Eve settled into it.

“The body shows multiple and severe burns, welts, lacerations, contusions. Wounds on the wrists indicate restraints. It appears both arms are dislocated at the shoulders. ME to confirm. Possible COD, blood loss from the amputation of genitalia.

“Escalation of violence demonstrated with this victim from McEnroy though method appears to match. As with McEnroy, a sign is tacked to the body, a poem.”

He had it all but wanted more,

So he cheated whore by whore.

He lived through lust and lies and greed,

The quest for money, sex, and power his creed.

At last judgment called his name,

And he has no one else to blame.

LADY JUSTICE

Eve took an evidence bag from the kit, untacked the sign, slid it into the bag, sealed it.

McNab hustled out of the house on his plaid airboots. “House is clear, LT. Nobody’s in there, but it looks like somebody was expecting some company in the master bedroom. Fire’s going, bed’s turned down, a bottle of wine, two glasses, and, ah, several sex toys lined up beside the bed.”

“You sealed?”

“Sure.”

“Help me turn him.”

McNab stepped up to assist. “There’s a house droid, but it’s been shut down since about nineteen hundred. And the security cams were shut down about an hour later. Roarke’s taking a look, but we can’t get anything from twenty hundred on. Jesus,” he muttered as they turned the body facedown. “Somebody was seriously pissed off.”

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