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Authors: J. D. Robb

Vendetta in Death (11 page)

BOOK: Vendetta in Death
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“Get me what you’ve got when you get it.”

He walked to her, gave her a tug in for a kiss. “I’ll do that. Get yourself and our Peabody something to eat from the AC in your car.”

Distracted, she glanced back at the workstation. “I’m sending McNab up. He’ll have the unit transported.” Then she frowned. “You’re not dressed for the office.”

“Happens I have a suit or two on hand there. You take care of my cop, and see that you feed her as well.”

“Yeah, yeah.” She started for the door, glanced back. “This is good information. Maybe, before you go, you can scan for a safe—I got the jewelry ones in the bedroom already. But maybe they have another. Maybe there’s more good information inside.”

“More fun for me.”

 

9

She nabbed
P
eabody coming in as she was going out
.

“Tell me in the car.”

“Okay, where are we going?”

“To talk to the vic’s ex. I’ve got some information. Tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine.”

“Okay, can I have coffee, too?”

“Two coffees.” Roarke’s words echoed in her ears. Annoying, she thought, but inescapable. “And there’s probably food. Like a pocket or something.”

Thrown off, Peabody blinked twice. “You want food?”

“Just program something easy, and start talking.”

Thrilled by the prospect of food, happy to oblige, Peabody searched the menu while she updated.

“The wit’s cooperative, but she barely caught a glance. She just happened to look out the window when she closed it—she’d had it open for the fresh air, and it was chilling down. So she saw the car, and
thinks it was Pettigrew getting in, but barely saw him. She said the woman was—and this is all maybe—on the tall side, really built. She noticed that because she was wearing a really low-cut skin suit. And her hair was short and dark blond or brown with darker tips. Purple or black. Maybe.”

“She can work with Yancy.”

“She said she would, but that she really only closed the window, then turned around and walked out of the room. She’s not sure about the car, either. Dark is the best she could do, and I worked her, Dallas. She’s just not sure. She says not a compact, but not a limo. She wasn’t even a hundred percent on the time because she was doing little chores, but she knows it was at least nine because her kid was in bed, and she’s got a nine o’clock bedtime, and it was the kid’s window. She closed the window, told the kid good night, and went out.”

You couldn’t always ask for detail, Eve thought. You took what you got.

“We’ll check if Yancy’s got the sketch finished on the first murder, maybe it’ll jog something if we show it to this wit.”

“Like I said, she’s cooperative. It spooked her, having a murder basically across the street. What did you get?”

“I got the live-in was with her mother, sister, and a friend at a spa resort—and unless they’re all in on it, she’s going to be clear for this, because I’m not buying she plotted and planned this and McEnroy. But we’ll look at her.”

Eve glanced down as Peabody programmed the in-dash AC. “They’re coming back to New York. We found he likes to hire LCs, every few weeks, and he had one on the books for tonight.”

“Bang, big one. Low-cut skin suit could be an LC,” Peabody added. “Or somebody who wanted to look like one.”

“I’d say number two. Bigger bang, Roarke says it looks like Petti
grew’s system’s been hacked, and the LC was canceled a few hours before she was due.”

“Two bigs. It’s an omelet pocket.” She handed the crusty little snack to Eve. “Eggs, cheese, bacon.”

“Fine.” Grabbing it, Eve took a bite, thought: Okay, pretty good. “Possibly McEnroy’s widow and Pettigrew’s live-in made a deal, did the deeds, one doing the other. We’ve seen that, but it doesn’t feel like it.

“Who was driving the car?” Eve added and took another bite. “Somebody was driving the car because it would be crazy to risk putting it on full auto. Somebody helped with the body, somebody has a quiet, private place to do the work.”

“Plus, hacking,” Peabody said around her own bite. “Somebody knows how to hack. You hire that out, you’ve got one more person who knows. It adds more risks, right?”

“It’s very personal.” Weaving through traffic, Eve gulped some coffee. “It’s very specific. Men who cheat. In McEnroy’s case, add rape. With this one, hiring sex. Both bringing the sex into the home. Drugs and humiliation for women for McEnroy. Greed for Pettigrew. He got the lion’s share of the money from the sale of a company during the divorce. They had to both own it—I’m getting the details from Roarke. He bought the damn thing.”

Peabody nearly choked on her pocket. “What? He knew the vic?”

“No, but he’ll get the details.”

“You got all the bigs,” Peabody complained.

“McEnroy and Pettigrew are going to connect somewhere. We need to find where they cross. How does she pick her targets? How does she know going in they cheat? Because that’s the deal,” Eve muttered. “That’s the link. Maybe she was one of McEnroy’s vics, but with this? Not necessarily. I need that consult with Mira.”

“I’ll set it up. Two for two, Dallas. You’ve got to figure she’ll go for the hat trick.”

“She’ll have him selected already,” Eve agreed. “She’ll know his weak spot, use it. He’ll be married, divorced, or seriously involved.”

She could see it. She could see it, but it didn’t help.

“He has to have someone to cheat on. Both of these were heterosexual,” Eve speculated. “Does that matter to her? Would she look the same way at a same-sex relationship, or someone who cheats with the same sex? Question for Mira.”

“She has to be attractive,” Peabody put in, chowing down—yay!—as she tried to work it out. “Or able to make herself attractive. McEnroy targeted really attractive women. Redheads—maybe she is one, and wore a wig for Pettigrew. Or she wore a wig both times. Like you said, she needs to have or have access to a private place, and the transportation. She has to trust at least one person enough to help her. Drive, transport the body. At least one person.”

“One of them has hacking skills good enough to impress Roarke.” Eve tapped her fingers on the wheel as she braked at a light. “The poems. That’s a sense of drama, right? And a need to demonstrate she’s enforcing justice. They deserved it, and here’s why.”

She hit the gas, pushed through traffic. “It’s personal. She knew them, or one of them. Or she knows one on her list and hasn’t hit him yet. But there’s a man who set her off, started her on her crusade. She was tuned in enough to Pettigrew to move fast—when he switched his LC to last night because Horowitz got off a day early. She was ready to go, she had it all in place.”

“Well, Jesus, she’ll have the next in place unless she’s done.”

“Not done.” Grim, Eve swung around a lumbering maxibus, punched it in front of a Rapid Cab. “She’d have, I don’t know, signed off or whatever you’d call it if this was it. And she’s escalated. She’s into it.”

She fought her way to the Upper East Side through traffic thick and
jagged as a pile of bricks. And did her best to ignore the blasting cheer of ad blimps announcing
Spring Sales! Top New Fashion Trends!
until she slid into the wealth and privilege of Carnegie Hill. In the world of dog walkers, au pairs, and chauffeurs, she pulled up to the security station at a set of iron gates.

Through them, only a stone’s throw from the sidewalk, the house rose and spread, white limestone, tall, narrow windows, frilly balconies, dignified columns.

“Wow. It’s no Dallas Palace,” Peabody decided, “but it’s pretty mag. She must’ve done all right with the sale of the company.”

“It’s her grandmother’s. The ex lives with her grandmother.”

The Callahan household,
the security comp announced,
is unavailable for visitors at this time.

“Lieutenant Dallas, Detective Peabody, NYPSD. We need to speak with Darla Pettigrew regarding a police investigation.”

She held up her badge for scanning.

Ms. Pettigrew is not available at this time.

“Make her available or I’ll come back with a warrant and we’ll have this visit at Cop Central. Scan the badge.”

A red light shot out, scanned.

Ms. Pettigrew will be informed of your arrival, Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. Please drive cautiously through the gates.

They slid apart with the faintest hum.

Eve drove through, parked in front of the wide, columned front entrance.

“Who’s the grandmother?” Peabody wondered as they got out of the car. “This place is abso-swank.”

“Some actress. Eloise Callahan.”

Peabody stopped dead, probably to avoid tripping over her jaw when it dropped to her feet. “Eloise Callahan!
The
Eloise Callahan?”

“The one who lives here.” Both clueless and disinterested, Eve walked to the arched double doors, rang the bell.

“Jesus, Dallas, Eloise Callahan isn’t just some actress. She’s like a legend.” Thrilled, Peabody had to press a hand to her heart. “She won like a zillion Oscars and Tonys and Emmys and you name it. And she was a total activist, too. She used her clout to help spearhead the Professional Parents Act, the gun ban. My granny actually marched with her. Granny said people tried to talk her into running for president, but she—”

Peabody broke off as the door opened.

Female droid, Eve thought after a moment. Seriously exceptional droid designed to mimic mid-thirties. Slim, attractive, with dark hair, dark eyes.

“Lieutenant, Detective, please come in.”

They stepped into a wide foyer with soaring ceilings. A massive chandelier hung overhead, dripping with elongated crystals in the iciest of blues.

The gleaming antiques—long tables, fancy chairs—the art—soft, sweeping watercolors—made her think Roarke would approve.

“Ms. Pettigrew will be down as soon as possible. May I take your coats?”

“No, thanks.”

“I’ll take you to the main parlor to wait.”

Rooms spilled from the foyer through wide archways. The main parlor had enough seating to hold about fifty asses by Eve’s estimation. More antiques, more soft colors, lots of fresh flowers.

A fire simmered low in a hearth flanked by slim, carved columns. Above it, above the thick mantel of natural wood, hung a painting of a
woman about a decade younger, Eve thought, than the droid’s simulated age and a man maybe four or five years older.

They stood, both ridiculously beautiful, with him behind her, his arms wrapped around her waist and her hands over his. She wore white, bridal white, Eve realized, an unadorned sweep that skimmed to her ankles. Her hair, richly blond, tumbled down. She wore a crown of flowers. Her head tipped back toward his shoulder. His black suit contrasted sharply with the white gown.

Looking as ridiculously happy as they did beautiful, they smiled off into the distance.

“Will you join Ms. Pettigrew for coffee?” the droid asked.

“Sure. Great.”

“Please sit. We’ll be with you shortly.”

Peabody waited until the droid walked out before breathing, reverently: “That’s her. That’s Eloise Callahan. Jeez, she was just seriously gorgeous, right? And that’s Bradley Stone. Big love story. He was an actor, too, and they met on set, and fell big-time. They got married and had a couple of kids. I think they were together about twelve, fifteen years.”

It didn’t interest Eve in the least unless it connected to the case. But in case it did … “Love story gone wrong?”

“Well, yeah, because he died. He was filming on location, somewhere down South, I think, and some guy, one of the extras, I think, got a real gun on the set and just blasted away. The story is there were some kids in the scene, and he—Bradley Stone—shoved one of them to safety and took the hits.”

“He was a hero.”

Eve turned toward the woman in the archway. “My grandmother never married again. Darla Pettigrew,” she said as she walked in, offered her hand. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting, but I wasn’t dressed for the day.”

She was now, Eve thought, in black pants and a light gray sweater. She’d clipped her brown hair back from her face so it hung somewhat limply down her back. Though she’d slapped some makeup on, she still looked a little pale, a little tired.

“No problem. Lieutenant Dallas. My partner, Detective Peabody.”

“Yes, I know very well. My grandmother’s going to be disappointed she missed you.
The Icove Agenda
was her favorite vid from last year. She’d hoped to attend the awards, but she hasn’t been well. Please, sit and tell me what— Oh thank God.”

She let out a rusty little laugh as the droid came in with a tray.

“Coffee. Thank you, Ariel, just set it down. I know you both drink coffee, as I’ve seen the vid myself. More than once,” she added as she sat and began to pour the coffee, “since I spend a lot of time with Grand. She contracted pneumonia over the winter, and it’s been a long recovery. She’s still weak and needs considerable rest.”

“I hope she’s fully recovered soon,” Peabody put in. “I admire her work, on all fronts. In fact my own grandmother marched with her at the first Stand Up protest in East Washington. Well, I think it was still D.C. then.”

“Is that right? She’ll be delighted to hear it.” Darla handed Eve black coffee, doctored Peabody’s, then added a splash of cream to her own. “Now. Ariel said you needed to speak to me about an investigation. I have to admit I’m nervous and curious. Am I in some sort of trouble?”

Rather than answer, Eve pushed straight in. “You were married to Thaddeus Pettigrew.”

A quick flicker of what might have been pain, a tightening of the lips. “Yes, I was. We divorced two years ago.”

“Amiably?”

“Not really. Is there truly such a thing as an amiable divorce? We were married eleven years, together for thirteen. Unlucky thirteen, I suppose.”

“He wanted to end the marriage?”

“Yes. It’s an uncomfortable subject for me, Lieutenant, and a private one.” Her mouth, her eyes, her voice all tightened. “I can’t imagine why you’d ask me about it.”

“Mr. Pettigrew’s dead.”

“What?” Darla’s face went blank, as if swiped clean of all expression. “That can’t— What?”

“He was killed in the early hours of this morning. Can you verify your whereabouts between nine last night and four
A.M
. this morning?”

“I— What?” The coffee cup shook so violently in her hand Peabody reached over to take it from her.

“If you could verify where you were between nine last night and four this morning.”

“Thaddeus.” She pressed both hands over her mouth, began to rock. “Thaddeus. Are you sure? No, no, it’s not possible. It must be a mistake.”

“It’s not a mistake.”

“But how? No, no. How can he be dead?”

“He was murdered.”

Her hands dropped, gripped the edge of the chair seat. “Oh my God. Oh my God. That woman. Was it that woman?”

“What woman?”

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