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Authors: J. D. Robb

Vendetta in Death

BOOK: Vendetta in Death
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To the magickal Griffin, the newest light and love in my life, who came into the world, and spent some time in my arms while I wrote this book

 

To the magickal Griffin, the newest light and love in my life, who came into the world, and spent some time in my arms while I wrote this book

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,

Men were deceivers ever.

—William Shakespeare

Justice without force is powerless;

force without justice is tyrannical.

—Blaise Pascal

 

1

He needed killing
.

She’d researched, studied, planned the who, when, how, and why for more than a year, and had chosen Nigel B. McEnroy to be the first.

At forty-three, he had a wife of eleven years, two children—both girls, ages nine and six. He had, over the course of eighteen years, built his own executive headhunting business with two partners. As CEO of Perfect Placement, he oversaw recruitment both on- and off-planet.

Though he maintained his base in London, he traveled extensively. Perfect Placement kept offices in New York, East Washington, Tokyo, Madrid, Sydney, New L.A., Dubai, Hong Kong, Vegas II, and most recently had established a center on the Olympus Resort.

He lived well, entertained lavishly, had earned a reputation for pinpointing the precise needs of a client and making what he thought of as a perfect marriage.

In business, Nigel B. McEnroy was scrupulous, exacting, ethical, and diligent.

None of that stopped him from being, in his private life, a liar, a cheat, an adulterer, and a serial rapist.

The man was unquestionably a pig, and it was time for the slaughter.

She looked forward to it, and felt she’d chosen her first very well.

He liked cheating with redheads, ones with large breasts, ones—most usually—lower on the food chain of power than himself. When he wasn’t fishing in his own company pool, he enjoyed hunting in upscale clubs.

If that wasn’t bad enough, considering his wife and two children, he usually tipped a drug into his chosen prey’s drink, to ensure co-operation. Capitulation.

Worse, perhaps, he had at least once (she suspected more) roofied a potential candidate for a position, one he would pass over—for a
male
—just to add insult to injury.

Of course, the poor girl hadn’t been able to prove a thing, could barely remember the assault, had been too afraid to accuse the son of a bitch.

But she’d heard enough from other victims, more than enough to begin her research, stalking, trailing, watching the pig in action. And twice had documented his rapist routine.

Finally she had everything in place, and now took a long last look at herself in the full-length mirror in her workshop.

Her hair long, wavy, bold red, her eyes dyed a deep, sharp green and carefully made-up. Her lips plumped and as red as her hair.

She’d worked for some time to give her nose the appearance of a slight uptilt, her chin the slightest point.

The temporary fake boobs looked and felt absolutely real—you got what you paid for. To finish it off, she’d padded her ass just a bit and used a very subtle self-tanner for a slight golden hue.

The dress she’d chosen, green like the eyes, slick as water, fit like
skin. The heels, sparkling silver, gave her more height—especially with the narrow lifts.

Pig Nigel hit six-one, and with the shoes, she’d stand at five-eleven. A good fit.

She looked statuesque, bold, sexy.

With the wig, the body and face enhancements, why, her own mother wouldn’t recognize her.

She gave one more turn in the triple, full-length mirror, fluffed the wig. “Engage, Wilford.”

The droid, designed to simulate a white male in his sixties with a trim silver mustache to match the flow of hair, opened quiet blue eyes.

“Yes, madam?”

She’d programmed his voice to a plummy British accent, outfitted him in a black suit, crisp white shirt, black tie.

“Bring the car around,” she ordered. “The town car. You’ll drive me to a club called This Place, then park and wait for further orders.”

“As you wish, madam.”

“Take the elevator. I’ve unblocked it.”

While he followed her instructions, she checked the contents of her bag, then walked to the monitors.

Her grandmother—bless her—slept peacefully with the medical droid on watch. Dear, dear Grand would sleep through the night—helped along by the sleep soother she’d added to the glass of brandy sweet Grand drank every night.

“Be back soon.” She blew a kiss to the monitor, took the elevator to the main level of the glorious old house she adored nearly as much as Grand.

Always careful, she blocked the elevator again, walked with a satisfying
click
of heels to the opulent foyer, stepped out into the cool of the April night, secured the front doors.

She shivered a little, with cold, with anticipation, but Wilford stood holding the car door open.

She slipped inside, crossed her legs. April 11, 2061, she thought. The day that marked the rise of Lady Justice.

Nigel was on the prowl, and ready to celebrate a long, successful day of work. With his wife and daughters enjoying tropical breezes during spring break, he had a full week on his own—no need to make excuses about working late when he felt like a bit of strange.

He enjoyed This Place for its discretion (no cams), its VIP booths—screened off from the hoi polloi—its excellent martinis and music. And, oh yes, the variety of attractive women looking for a bit of strange themselves.

He’d reserved a VIP booth, of course, but during this first hour roamed the glittering silver floors, scanned the pumping lights of the dance floor, took the glides up and down the triple levels.

He thought of this part of the evening as the hunt, and enjoyed it immensely.

He’d scored very well the night before, thank you, with a twinset. Two strawberry blondes happy to share their attributes for a few hours in his New York pied-
à
-terre.

He imagined he could have tagged either—or both—back for a return engagement, but he wanted fresh. In any case, as always, he’d deleted their contacts.

He knew he looked his best, trim in black pants, a studded belt, a pale blue sweater that matched his eyes. He wore a sleek wrist unit that said wealthy to anyone with an eye for such things.

He could have paid for a top-level licensed companion—and had
done so when time squeezed his choices. But he much preferred the hunt, and the score.

At the moment, he had his eye on a redhead with sinuous moves on the dance floor. A bit young for his usual pick, he admitted, and the hair—spiked and short—not as sophisticated.

But those moves.

Keeping her in sight, he began to circle the floor. He’d find an opening, and then—

Someone bumped him lightly from behind. He started to glance back, heard a throaty, “
Excusez-moi
.”

The voice, the faint French accent, that throaty purr had him turning completely.

He forgot the dancer with the sinuous moves.


Pas de quoi
.” He took the vision’s hand, brought it to his lips, and was rewarded with a sultry smile.

He kept the hand—she didn’t object.
“Êtes-vous ici seule?”


Ah, oui
,” she said, with what he read as a clear invitation. “
Et vous?

He turned her hand over, brushed his lips lightly over the inside of her wrist. Spoke in English. “I hope not anymore.”

“You’re English. You speak French very well.”

“I hope you’ll allow me to buy you a drink, and we can speak in any language you like.”

She trailed her free hand down that glorious fall of hair, angled her head. “I would enjoy that.”

He thought:
Score
, as he led her away, through the crowd, around tables, past one of the many bars, and to his booth.

“I hope you don’t mind. I prefer a bit of privacy.”

Beyond the curtain waited the plush semicircle of black, generous with silver-edged pillows. She sat, crossed those excellent legs, reclined just a little. Just enough.

“I like the booths,” she told him. “The curtains where we can see out, but no one can see in. It’s … titillating, yes?”

“Yes indeed.” He settled beside her, gauged his timing. Not too fast, he decided. This green-eyed wonder knew the ropes, would expect some sophistication. “And what’s your pleasure?”

“I have many.”

He went hard, but only chuckled. “As have I. But to drink?”

“A vodka martini, very dry, two olives. I prefer Romanov Five.”

“As do I.”

“Ah, we have found our commonality.”

“The first of many.” He ordered from the comp menu, let his gaze travel over her, enjoyed the movement behind the filmy one-way curtain, the pulse of music. The titillation.

“I’m Nigel—”

She touched a finger to his lips. “First names only,
ça va
? Some mystery for us. Solange.”

“Solange,” he repeated. “And what brings you to New York?”

“If I told you, we would lose the mystery. Let me say then, perhaps this moment. I enjoy New York for its many pleasures, and its…” She seemed to hunt for the word. “Ah, yes, anonymity. And what do you enjoy, Nigel?”

“This moment.”

She laughed, tossed her hair. “Then we should savor it, and the moments yet to come. Tonight I come here to … yes, divest—it is to divest the day and the things that must and needs be done. So to do what pleases instead. A night for me, yes?”

“Yes. This is also the same for me. Another commonality.”

“So…” She opened her evening purse, took out a tiny compact. “Tonight we are creatures of the moment. Together.”

He started to lean toward her, and the drink slot signaled, opened.

“We should toast the moment.”

As he turned to retrieve the martini glasses, she tossed her purse to the floor. He set the drinks on the table, bent to pick up her purse.

As he did, she spilled the contents of the vial in the compact into his drink.


Merci
.” She took the purse, slipped the compact back inside. She accepted the glass, tapped it lightly to his. “To the moment,” she said.

“And the many pleasures.”

Her eyes glittered at him over the rim of her glass. “And tell me one of the many pleasures you seek.”

“A beautiful woman who wants what I want.”

Watching him drink, she laid a hand on his thigh, trailed her fingers teasingly toward the bulge in his crotch. “But how can you seek what you have found?” When he leaned toward her, she brought the hand up to his chest. “
Mais non
. We drink first, to this moment, the savoring, and the anticipation of pleasures to come. See them beyond the curtain, moving, touching, a ritual of mating, yes? And some may while some may not. And we, we could do what we like here, unseen.”

“Titillating,” he said, and felt oddly light-headed.

“Finish the drink and come with me. I have a place that is more so. A place of many pleasures.”

Eager, he downed the rest, took the hand she offered when she rose. “My flat’s close,” he began.

“I have a place,” she repeated.

He thought it was like moving through a silver-edged fog, and never saw her tap her wrist unit to signal the droid, barely heard the music as she led him down to the first level, out into the night.

She nudged him into a car, and inside he groped for her breasts as his mouth sought hers.

He thought she said, “Straight home, Wilford,” in a different voice, but he was sinking, sinking into her, into pleasures.

Into the dark.

He woke with his head banging, his throat burning dry. When he tried to move, the muscles of his arms screamed. He blinked his aching eyes open, winced against the light.

He saw a large room, counters, monitors, screens, a massive workstation. None of it made sense.

It took him nearly a full minute to come around enough to realize he was naked, his hands cuffed over his head to a chain that hung from the ceiling. His feet barely made it to the floor.

Kidnapped? Drugged? He twisted against the restraints, but it hurt.

No, no, the club. He’d gone to the club. The Frenchwoman. Solange. He remembered, but it blurred, and when he fought to think it through, his head screamed.

No windows, he thought as fear popped cold sweat over his skin. He saw stairs leading up and, if he craned his throbbing head enough, a door at the top.

He tried to call for help; his voice came out in a croak.

Pleasures—he remembered that. They’d talked of pleasures, and she …

He sensed movement behind him, felt a terrible, shocking pain. His cry started as a croak, broke into a scream.

And she stepped into view.

Not the Frenchwoman.

Who was this woman, this creature smiling at him who wore a silver mask, with dark hair edged with silver spilling around her face, with her body curving in black?

She wore silver boots and a kind of—good God—breastplate in black leather with the letters
LJ
emblazoned on it in silver, like the boots.

“Who are you? What do you want?”

“I want my many moments of pleasure.”

He felt a thin thread of relief weave through the fear. “Solange? Don’t—”

“Do I look like Solange?” Snarling, she tapped the electric prod a bare inch above his penis, had him convulsing with pain as the burn seared across, spiked down. “I’m Lady Justice, you adulterous prick. And Nigel B. McEnroy, this is your time of reckoning.”

“Stop, stop, don’t. I can pay. Whatever you want, I can pay.”

“Oh, believe me, you will. For your wife.” She slapped the prod over his belly. “For your daughters.” His chest. “For every woman you’ve raped.” His buttocks.

His screams bounced off the walls. “No, no, no. I haven’t raped anyone. You’ve made a terrible mistake.”

“Have I? Have I, Nigel?” She gave him a little lick of shock across the balls, and imagined only dogs could have heard the high pitch of his scream from that one.

Each time she said a name—one of his victims—she shocked him again.

He gibbered, went limp, but she was patient. After snapping a vial under his nose to revive him, she started again.

He begged—oh, how he begged—he cursed her, he wept and screamed and pissed himself.

And oh, oh, oh, those moments of pleasure.

“Why, why are you doing this?”

“For all the women you’ve betrayed, humiliated, abused. Confess, confess, Nigel, to your crimes.”

“I never hurt anyone!”

She slapped the electric rod hard over his buttocks. When he could speak again, he sobbed out the words. “I love my wife, I love my wife, but I need more. I’m sorry. It was only sex. Please, please.”

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