Authors: J. D. Robb
“She went at him harder than McEnroy. Sodomized him with the prod. She didn’t go that far with the first. No time off between hits, either. Major escalation.”
She picked up her kit, pushed to her feet. “Wait for Peabody, would you? And go ahead and call in the wagon, the sweepers. I want a look at the house.”
“Security hub’s main floor in the back, off the kitchen. Droid station’s there, too.”
With a nod, Eve started for the house. Nice place, she thought, three-story brownstone, well maintained. And with top-of-the-line security.
No sign of forced entry.
And, she thought as she stepped in, no sign of struggle in the entranceway. A long, narrow hall—a delicate-looking table along the left wall with a slim vase of fresh flowers on it.
“Vic was a well-built man,” she said for the record. “If a man his size and build had put up any sort of a fight in this space, there’d be signs.”
She continued back—rooms to the right and left. Fancy living space to the right with what she thought of as a lot of fluffy, female touches.
Lots of pillows, more flowers, dust catchers. Big wall screen in the room on the left, a built-in bar, read a bit more masculine.
“No sign of struggle, no visible signs of robbery.”
A formal dining room, a kind of little sitting room that didn’t look as if anyone routinely sat in it.
In the kitchen, white as a laboratory with a lot of gleaming silver, Roarke stood examining what she thought of as a Summerset droid. Silver hair, bony face, black suit.
Roarke glanced at her. “Just checking to see if anyone tampered with it, and it doesn’t appear so. I can reengage him if you like.”
Roarke reengaged manually. The dark eyes of the droid flickered to a simulation of life.
“Scan the badge,” she ordered it. “This is a police investigation.”
“I require a warrant as well to allow you access to the home.”
“No, you don’t. Not when Thaddeus Pettigrew is lying dead outside.”
“I see. This is unfortunate.”
“Yeah, I bet he’d agree. When did you last see or speak to Mr. Pettigrew?”
“Mr. Pettigrew shut down my services at nineteen-thirteen this evening.”
“Is that usual?”
“It is not unusual. Mr. Pettigrew had a light supper from eighteen-twenty-five to eighteen-fifty-eight, and ordered me to shut down after I had cleared the kitchen and dining areas.”
“Was he alone?”
“Where is Marcella Horowitz?”
“Ms. Horowitz left at ten-eighteen this morning for a three-day visit, with her mother, sister, and a friend, to the Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Hilton Head.”
“This was planned?”
“Initially Ms. Horowitz was to leave tomorrow, but they were able to secure the accommodations for an additional day.”
“I need her contact information.”
Eve took it. “Who was Mr. Pettigrew expecting tonight?”
“I am not aware of any appointments for this evening or tonight on his calendar.”
“Why are the security cams shut down?”
“I am not aware.”
Droids could be handy, Eve thought, and sometimes not the least damn bit.
“Did Mr. Pettigrew entertain women when Ms. Horowitz was out of town?”
“I am not aware.”
“Did you take a bottle of wine and glasses to the master bedroom before you shut down tonight?”
“I did not.”
Dead end, Eve decided. “You can shut down.”
“I ran the feed back,” Roarke told her when the droid shut down. “I have Pettigrew arriving home, alone, at seventeen-twenty. Prior to that, no activity in or out between the time a woman—I assume Horowitz—left at ten this morning. The droid walked out with her, with a suitcase. It came back minutes later without. Pettigrew left the house just before nine
. He and Ms. Horowitz shared a quite steamy goodbye kiss in full view of the camera.”
“Okay. I’m going up to the bedroom. You could check the house ’link, see if he talked to anyone, invited anyone over.”
“I can do that from the bedroom.” Roarke walked up the back steps with her. “He obviously expected someone for a sexual liaison, but from the looks of the bedroom, he died unsatisfied in that area. At least here.”
Eve walked into the master. Lots of pinks and blues, lots of fussy details. A kind of decorative, topless cage held what she assumed would make a mountain of pillows on the bed. The large bed with its slim, gilded posts had been tidily turned down. Just as an impressive variety of sex toys had been tidily arranged on the nightstand.
A gilded table in the sitting area held a bottle of white wine—open, but full—two glasses. The fire—a small circle in the blue wall—simmered low.
A man’s black silk robe lay across the foot of the bed.
“Looks like he had the evening planned out,” she said. “And here’s what it looks like. Someone he expected—or someone he wasn’t expecting but invited in—got him out again without incident. Maybe slipped him something right in the entranceway or up here before he had a chance to pour that wine. But more likely downstairs. Why cart him all the way down and out? Have to get him out, into a vehicle, get him where you can spend a few hours torturing him.”
“Nothing on the house ’link on that today,” Roarke told her. “There’s a confirmation on the car service pickup for Horowitz, and a conversation with her mother—I assume since she calls her Mom. She had the ’link on speaker while she dressed. It’s just chat about spa treatments and so on. Very cheery.”
“Yeah. So whoever killed him knew he’d be alone. Someone he knew or who knew his schedule. Horowitz’s schedule.”
She heard Peabody clomping up the stairs, turned.
“The wit comes off straight,” Peabody began. “He and his wife—two kids—just got this puppy. Adorbs! Anyway, it was his turn to do the walk—house-training deal. He said he was almost walking in his sleep, then the puppy got really agitated, fighting the leash, barking, whining.”
“Smelled the body.”
“You gotta figure,” Peabody agreed. “So he’s about to pick up the
pup, and he sees the body. Called it in, and stayed back on the sidewalk until the cops responded. He says he didn’t know Pettigrew or Horowitz, or not much. To wave at or nod at if he walked by.
“Meanwhile,” she continued, “Officer Markey picked up another wit on the knock-on-doors that said she’s pretty sure she saw Pettigrew getting in a car with a woman about nine.”
“No. She says short hair, brown or maybe blond, tipped with a darker color. Blue or purple or maybe black.” Peabody gave a shrug, knowing, as Eve did, some wits didn’t register or retain. “It was dark, and she wasn’t really looking.”
“But she saw Pettigrew and a female?”
“She’s not sure—not a hundred percent—it was Pettigrew because when she glanced out he was already half in the car, but the car—black, maybe dark blue, maybe dark gray—was right in front of his house.”
“We’ll talk to her. Or you go talk to her now, see if you can work more out of her than Markey. I’ll contact the cohab.”
“He’ll have a home office. Since you’re here,” Eve said to Roarke, “you can help go through it. Maybe he has secrets locked away like McEnroy.”
“I do enjoy looking for secrets.”
Eve sat, and for the second time in two days, woke a woman with very bad news.
“Um, what? Hello?”
“Yeah, what? Who is this?”
“Ms. Horowitz, this is Lieutenant Dallas, with the NYPSD. Can you give me your location?”
“Is this a joke? I’m in bed, whaddaya think? It’s like, what, six in the freaking morning. Who is this, really? I’m going to report you to the management.”
“Ms. Horowitz.” Eve held her badge up to the screen. Marcella had blocked the video on her end, but she’d see the ID perfectly. “I regret to inform you Thaddeus Pettigrew is dead. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“That’s a horrible thing to say. Unblock video.”
Eve watched a woman with masses of blond hair rip off a sleep mask, glower at her.
“Ms. Horowitz.” Eve held up her badge again. “I’m in the residence you shared with Mr. Pettigrew. I am the primary investigator in this matter. I’ve officially identified Mr. Pettigrew’s body. Again, I’m sorry for your loss.”
“I don’t believe you!”
But she did, Eve thought, she could see it in the shocked eyes as the woman, dressed in a silky red sleep shirt, tossed covers aside, leaped out of bed. The image on-screen bounced as she sprinted out of the bedroom, calling for lights, calling for her mother.
“Good God, Marci!” A woman in pink pajamas shoved up in bed. “What in the world—”
“She says she’s the police. She says Thad’s dead. Mom!”
“Give me that ’link! Who is this?”
“Ma’am, this is Lieutenant Dallas, NYPSD. I’m sorry to inform you Mr. Pettigrew was killed in the early hours of this morning.”
“It’s a lie, Mom!”
“Hush now, sweetheart. You go wake up your sister and Claudia. Go on now.”
Sobbing, Marcella ran out of range.
“I’m sorry, I’m not able to give you that information at this time. Your name, please.”
“Ms. Rothchild, it would be best if you bring your daughter back to New York as soon as possible.”
“You said Thad was killed. You didn’t say he died, but was killed. Was it an accident? Surely you can say that much.”
Steadier by a mile than her daughter, Eve thought. “No, it wasn’t an accident. I’m Homicide.”
“Oh dear God.” She looked away as raised voices, sobs rolled toward the room. “Yes, we’ll come back right away. I need to go, to calm her down.”
“Contact me, Lieutenant Eve Dallas out of Cop Central, when you’ve made the arrangements to travel back to New York.”
“Yes, yes. I have to go. Marci—”
She clicked off.
Replacing the ’link, Eve spent some time going through the closets, spent more of it opening the jewelry safes in each. Good practice, she decided, even if neither had been particularly complex safes, and when both turned out to be exactly what they were.
Safe holds for jewelry, wrist units, a little spare cash.
She made her way down to the home office, where Roarke sat at a muscular workstation.
No female touches here, she thought. Another bar—a small one—a too-small-for-a-nap sofa in port-wine leather. A muscular data and communication center to go with the muscular desk.
Wall screen, a couple of chairs, framed degrees and awards rather than art on the walls.
“I’ve something for you,” Roarke began.
“One I’m going to assume is so. He has semi-regular transactions with a company called Discretion. That’s a licensed companion broker. Every month or two, he places an order, makes the payment. It may be the woman he lives with is aware, of course, but given the circumstances it’s doubtful. More,” he continued before Eve could speak, “he ordered an LC for last evening, made the payment. It shows a refund, less cancellation fee. He made the payment two days ago, canceled it yesterday afternoon.”
“You’ll want EDD to have a good look, a more thorough one, but I’d say, on a quick dive through? His account was hacked.”
“Now that makes sense. Makes sense,” she mumbled again as she wandered the room, as she put it into her head. “She knows, if she’s hacked his system, Horowitz is leaving town, and he has a paid side piece coming in. She waits, cancels it, and she comes instead. Why wouldn’t he open the door when he’s expecting a woman? When he’s got the wine, the bed, the evening mapped out?”
She spun around. “Can you pin the hacker’s location?”
“Possibly. That would be the location where the hack was done, and would take a bit of work. Someone this good? Well, if it were me, I’d use an unregistered portable and hack it from a remote location. Still worth the look.”
“Yeah, yeah, we’ll look.”
“There’s a bit more, not a secret, but a bit of a surprise.” He waited until he had her full attention. “The fifteen million and change from a couple years ago? He got that from me.”
She stopped dead, stared at him. “What? Why didn’t you say you knew him?”
“Because I don’t—didn’t.” With a shrug, he rose. “I acquired, as I do, a small company a couple years ago. More absorbed it, and it was
done through lawyers and brokers. It didn’t ring with me until I dug into his files. Data Point, it was. A private concern that manufactures droids and other complex electronics.”
Irritation flickered over his face—the sort she recognized came from him not being a hundred percent on every detail.
“I’ll need to check on it all,” he continued, “but as best I recall, the lawyer repping Data Point contacted one of my lawyers as Data Point looked to sell out. We had a look, the company seemed solid enough, the price was right—even what you could call a bargain. Pushing through my memory, I’m thinking the reason for it was divorce by the principals, but I may be projecting on that. I’ll check on it. But, bottom line, Roarke Industries acquired it, absorbed the company and its assets.”
Complication, she thought, and advantage. She’d take the advantage and deal with the complication later.
“Did you meet them—the DB or the ex?”
“I wouldn’t have on an acquisition such as this. A small one, as I said.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Fifteen million is small?”
“Twenty-two, actually. It appears the ex-wife got the seven, but the matter was done through lawyers and reps because yes, in the overall, it was a small addition. A solid one, but not a competitor or a major deal.”
“I want whatever you can get me on it. The poem mentioned greed. He got double what the ex got, and that could be part of the motive. Sex, greed, power. We’ve got sex with his use of LCs—and potentially Horowitz replacing the ex. We get greed with the money. That leaves power.”
She looked at her wrist unit. “I’m going to talk to the ex. Wake her up most likely. People don’t have their shields fully engaged if you get to wake them up. I need to grab Peabody and get to it. Do you need a lift?”
“I’ll find my way well enough. I may go straight to the office, get those details, as I’m curious about it now.”