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Authors: J. D. Robb

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They rode the elevator as far as Eve could stand it, squeezed out when a bunch of shiny new uniforms trooped on, herded by the grizzled vet she assumed had drawn the short straw for leading an orientation.

She hit the glides. “Check in with EDD, see if McNab’s made any progress.”

The more she had to present, Eve thought, the better.

“He’s into it.” Peabody read the reply on the ’link screen. “Hack confirmed, but it’s multiple. So far he’s got them going back for sixteen months. He hasn’t been able to pinpoint. Can’t ascertain as yet if it’s one hacker or more.”

“Good enough for now. The killer cyber-stalked him.”

They switched back to an elevator for the rise to The Tower. Tibble’s offices soared high above the streets, and the desks of the cops who worked them. But Eve had reason to know that distance, that height, didn’t remove New York’s Chief of Police and Security from those who served and protected.

But those who rose that high had more than law and order to oversee. They had to deal with politics, with optics, with media perception.

She acknowledged that reality, more or less accepted it, and often thought: Better them than me.

She paused outside Tibble’s office where his admin manned a workstation with two screens, a D and C where several lights blinked insistently, a ’link humming incoming even as he talked on a headset.

“Hold, please.” He turned to Eve and Peabody. “Just one moment, Lieutenant, Detective.” He tapped his headset. “Sir, Lieutenant Dallas and Detective Peabody are here. Yes, sir.” He tapped again. “You can go right in. He’s ready for you.”

Eve opened the right side of the double doors.

The wall of glass showed the world of New York washed in the light drizzle of early spring rain.

The room itself, wide and deep, held a sitting area, a massive wall screen, a solid desk, high-backed visitors’ chairs.

The two men in the room sat at their ease. Commander Whitney filled a visitor’s chair with his wide shoulders. Gray threaded liberally through his dark hair, and the lines of command scored his face with a kind of stoic dignity.

Tibble, long and lean, took the desk with the drenched city at his back. He wore his hair close to the skull of a face as long and lean as his body. His eyes skimmed from Whitney to Eve to Peabody, and showed nothing.

She’d heard he was hell at the poker table.

“Lieutenant, Detective, have a seat.”

Though she preferred giving reports, or receiving a dressing-down, while on her feet, Eve followed orders.

“As you should be aware,” Tibble began, “I rarely summon my officers to The Tower over a complaint. However, since this complainant has opted to reach out to me, personally, as well as the mayor, Commander Whitney and I agreed we should have a conversation.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You don’t ask about the complaint or the complainant.”

“No, sir. The complainant would be Geena McEnroy, and her complaint would involve our investigation into her husband’s murder. Or, more specifically, into the motive for his murder.”

“Which is?”

“Nigel McEnroy’s confirmed sexual harassment of employees and clients—and more. His use of illegals to drug the women he targeted. His rape of multiple women, which he recorded and secreted said recordings in his offices here in New York and in London. Recordings I’ve viewed.”

Sober, direct, Tibble showed nothing in expression. “These are very serious allegations made against an individual who can’t dispute them or defend himself.”

“Yes, sir, they are. They are also fact. We have sworn statements from a number of women who were drugged, coerced, raped, and threatened. We have video and audio evidence, as McEnroy recorded his assaults. We have the illegals he used, the notebooks in which he listed his targets, corroborating witnesses from the venues in which he trolled those targets.”

Eyes unreadable, Tibble merely nodded. “I see. Is there a reason why you didn’t speak to Ms. McEnroy about this preponderance of evidence?”

“But—” Peabody broke off, cleared her throat. “Excuse me, sir.”

“You have something to add, Detective?”

“Sir, I read the lieutenant’s report, and know she did, in fact, speak to Ms. McEnroy about the evidence we’d gathered at that time. Basically, Chief Tibble, Ms. McEnroy didn’t want to hear it or believe it. She was understandably in a very upset state of mind.”

“One might be when one’s spouse is tortured and murdered and left on one’s doorstep.”

“Yes, sir.”

With the faintest of nods, Tibble looked back at Eve. “Ms. McEnroy states that you and the civilian consultant you took with you were both accusatory and aggressive toward her. Ah…” He swiveled his comp screen, tapped it. “Badgering and belittling her,” he read, “while smearing her husband’s good name in order to blame him for his own murder.”

He tapped the screen again, folded his hands. “She has threatened to bring suit against both of you and the department, unless you are both dismissed. She intends to appeal to the governor if you’re not fired by the end of the day.”

“Respectfully, Chief Tibble,” Eve said, “she can appeal to the deity of her choice, it won’t change the facts. Her husband was a sexual predator, the fact of which she may or may not have been aware. Rather than badgering or belittling, Roarke—the civilian consultant—attempted to sympathize and comfort.”

Tibble raised a brow. “I take it you did not attempt to sympathize and comfort.”

“He’s better at it, sir. In order to investigate this matter, it was imperative to interview the spouse of the victim, to ascertain whether or not she was in any way involved or complicit in his death. If you don’t look at the spouse—”

“You’re an idiot,” Tibble finished. “Do you believe the spouse in this case was involved or complicit?”

“I don’t. I believe she turned a blind eye to his actions because she didn’t want to believe him capable, didn’t want to accept he continued to cheat on her. And now, faced with the raw truth, she lashes out.”

“Considering the facts regarding the victim’s actions, behavior, crimes you’ve uncovered, do you feel capable of continuing to investigate his murder, without prejudice?”

“Sir. There’s no question of that.”

“Good. Moving on. We now have a second victim. You believe they’re connected.”

“By method, yes. In the killer’s mind, yes. And there is a strong probability there’s a connection to a support group for women who have been abused, raped, cheated on. Some of the women McEnroy raped and the ex-wife of Thaddeus Pettigrew, the second victim, all attended this support group.”

Interest flickered, for an instant, in Tibble’s eyes. “I take it McEnroy’s widow didn’t attend this group.”

“There’s no evidence at this time to indicate that, no, sir.”

Tibble took pity on her, gestured for her to stand. “Go ahead, since we’re here, fill us in.”

Eve rose. “We spoke with the woman who founded the group. We have no reason to believe she’s involved. She requested a warrant for the names in her notes. They use first names only, but we have McEnroy’s book, and may find some that cross.”

Pleased to be on her feet, and to talk it through, she continued. “The second victim routinely hired, we believe without the knowledge or consent of the woman he lived with, LCs from a company called Discretion. The person in charge there confirmed Pettigrew has been a regular for several years—which would include his time with
his ex-wife, and through his relationship with a Marcella Horowitz. Ms. Horowitz was out of town with three other females at the time of Pettigrew’s murder. Both Peabody and I believe her shock and upset at being informed and interviewed regarding his murder—and his predilection for LCs—was genuine.”

“She’s young, Chief, Commander,” Peabody added. “And while, like Ms. McEnroy, she doesn’t want to believe she was betrayed, we conclude she’ll come around to it.”

“In addition, these murders took a cool head to plan. Both victims had their e’s hacked. There’s nothing in the widow’s or in Horowitz’s data that indicates they’d have the knowledge or skill, which both the civilian consultant and EDD confirm this sort of hacking entails.”

“And the poem left with the bodies?” Whitney spoke for the first time.

“A nice flourish” was Eve’s opinion. “And personal. A justification for the killings, and the torture. Pettigrew’s ex-wife, Darla Pettigrew, started a company several years ago that manufactured and programmed droids. She may have the knowledge and skill.”

“If you don’t look at exes,” Tibble began.

“You’re still an idiot,” Whitney finished. “You’ve spoken to her?”

“Yes, sir. Ah, I need to disclose, as the civilian consultant accompanied me this morning to Pettigrew’s body, both he and McNab accessed the electronics. When doing so, Roarke discovered the company, Data Point, one sold during the divorce, had been acquired by Roarke Industries.”

“He knew the victim?” Tibble demanded.

“No, sir,” she replied. “In fact, the transaction was done through lawyers and reps. It was, to Roarke’s estimation, a small acquisition. However, Pettigrew had managed to acquire the controlling interest in the company, without his wife’s full knowledge, and he forced the sale, took the lion’s share.”

“Which was?”

She knew she was going to hate this part. “Just over fifteen million.”

“And the ex-wife’s take?”

“Just over seven.”

“So, an acquisition costing more than twenty-two million is … small?”

It mortified, but Eve continued to speak briskly. “Apparently it is in Roarke’s world, yes, sir. I feel it was major in Darla Pettigrew’s. Her company, and he not only cheated on her, left the marriage, he forced her to sell, and took the bulk.”

“A fine motive,” Whitney concluded. “Opportunity?”

“She lives with her grandmother, who’s recovering from an illness. Both claim she was there, though they both admit the grandmother fell asleep. However, Ms. Callahan claims to remember Ms. Pettigrew coming in to check on her during the night.”

“Eloise Callahan.” Peabody couldn’t help herself.

Tibble actually blinked. “Eloise Callahan? The actor? She’s a legend.”

“I know, right? Sorry. Sorry, Chief, I know it isn’t relevant.”

“It may be,” Eve corrected, “as she’s a legend for her acting. She came off very genuine, as did her granddaughter, but it’s possible the granddaughter inherited some of that acting skill.”

Again, a flicker of interest as Tibble angled his head. “You’re looking at her.”

“Betrayed ex, big house—very private, and the killer needs private space—sick grandmother, or accomplice grandmother. A vehicle, a driver. We’re looking at her.”

“All right.” Tibble nodded. “Write it up. If you’re going to look hard at Eloise Callahan’s granddaughter, you better have damn good vision. She’s beloved, and through her activism she has political connections that make Geena McEnroy’s threats to bring in the governor look like a toddler’s tantrum.”

“Yes, sir. About those threats.”

“Consider them handled, Lieutenant.”

“Yes, sir, and that’s appreciated. I want to say I don’t have Roarke’s or Peabody’s ease with sympathy and comfort.”

“Not true,” Peabody murmured.

“Quiet. While I don’t have that ease, I would never belittle the obviously shocked and grieving widow of a murder victim.”

“To use your own words, Dallas, there’s no question of that. Get to work.”

Once they stepped out, Peabody breathed out. “He was never going to ream us.”

“You weren’t even there, for Christ’s sake. Why would he ream you?”

“Partners. Your ass—”

“Enough with the asses in the ass pan. No, he was never going to ream us or me or anybody over this. He called us in so he could tell the mayor and whoever else takes a poke he did. He spoke with us, has the facts, and while the department regrets Ms. McEnroy’s loss, while those involved in the investigation sympathize with her state of mind, we have to pursue the facts in order to find McEnroy’s killer and bring that individual to justice.”

“That’s good,” Peabody said as they got on the elevator.

“He knows how to work it, but he had to hear it from us, with Whitney in the room. It’s how he covers—goddamn, I have to say it—everybody’s ass.”

Even so, since she still held some tension in her shoulders, she rolled it out. “Now let’s go do the job.”

 

12

While
P
eabody wrote up the report
, E
ve updated her board and book
.
After checking the time, noting she had a decent gap before her consult with Mira, she propped her boots on the desk, studied the board.

There would be other women, she thought, women with stories to tell, ugliness and hurts to air. And maybe vendettas to wage.

If the killer fished in the pool of Women For Women for its justice-seeking, had that pool generated multiple killers or accessories? A kind of deadly pact?

Possible, possible, she decided, but …

Natalia Zula. She studied the therapist’s ID shot, that of her pretty college-age daughter. They made it harder to buy the deadly pact theory. Zula knew the women, listened to their stories, gave them the time, space, place to air that ugliness, those hurts.

She’d been through them herself, had demanded and received justice the right way. Could a group of women form into a killing mob right under her nose?

Not nearly as plausible, but for now, she wouldn’t discount it.

She wanted those names.

She swung her feet down, started to reach for her ’link to harass ADA Cher Reo about the warrant. Her unit signaled an incoming.

Another sketch came through with a short memo from Detective Yancy.

Can’t give you much, as the wit didn’t see much. A glimpse in the dark. Wit was willing and cooperative, but unable to give details.

“I’ll say,” Eve agreed as she studied the sketch of a woman who ranged anywhere from twenty-five to fifty, may have been Caucasian or mixed race. No eye color, no defined features. The hair held the most details, the short, spiky style, the colors.

She split-screened Yancy’s sketch from the wit at the club with the second sketch.

Resemblance? Maybe, maybe not. She pegged the first redhead as middle to late thirties, Caucasian, very attractive. The hair might have been a wig or dyed for the occasion, as the killer had known of McEnroy’s penchant for redheads.

Hunted redheads, she thought, married a brunette. And what did that mean? Love, Eve supposed, but that love couldn’t and hadn’t outweighed his particular and prurient needs.

Second suspect, most likely a wig, or temp color job. In both cases, the hair made a statement—and was a detail that stuck in witnesses’ minds.

The killer struck Eve as too smart to use her own style and color.

She added Darla Pettigrew’s ID shot between the two sketches.

Again, maybe yes, maybe no on the resemblance.

Darla came in at thirty-eight—and looked it, if not a couple years
older. Nondescript brown hair, medium length. Nondescript altogether, Eve mused, at least for the ID shot.

But she had those really good bones just like her grandmother. Eyes that might have sparkled if she bothered to smile, or didn’t look tired. Wouldn’t her actor grandmother know all the tricks with enhancements to play up the best features?

Then again, maybe Darla just wasn’t interested in enhancements or painting up. And Eve had to admit she’d be the last person to criticize that stand.

Still …

Darla Pettigrew had motive, big motive to Eve’s mind. She had access to privacy and a grandmother who likely wouldn’t question her, and she had e-skills.

Eve checked for vehicles, found none registered in her name. Eloise had two, one all-terrain—white, one luxury sedan—silver. And neither fit the witness statements.

Didn’t mean she didn’t have access to another.

Because it just kept niggling at her, she contacted Leah Lester.

“Lieutenant Dallas, Ms. Lester. I have a question about the support group.”

“Look, I told you everything I could. Why won’t you let me just put this behind me?”

“When someone murdered Nigel McEnroy, they put it in front of you. Give me your impressions of a woman in the group named Darla.”

Leah’s face closed in. “And I told you the group was confidential and anonymous.”

“I’ve spoken to Darla, and I’ve spoken to Natalia. I’m asking for your impressions of this individual.”

“I was a lot more invested in myself, to be honest, than the others. I only went because it was important to Jasmine.”

“Do you remember Darla?”

“Maybe. Vaguely. At least I think so, but what I’m not going to do is put the finger on some poor woman who got screwed by a man.”

“Cuts both ways,” Eve tossed back. “What you tell me may clear her. Her ex-husband was murdered last night.”

“Jesus Christ.” On a shudder, Leah pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes. “Like McEnroy.”

“Yes. Now, impressions.”

“Vague, like I said. I stopped going, I told you that. I remember her as sort of broken—like a lot of us—but heartbroken, I guess. Her husband dumped her for a younger woman, and something about stealing the business she’d built. I guess I didn’t feel all that sorry for her. She wasn’t drugged and raped, just dumped.”

She let out a sigh.

“Like I said, I was more into my own problems. She looked like she had money, not like Un— not like one of the others whose ex smacked her around, until she got away with her kid.”

“How did she look like she had money?”

“I don’t know. Her shoes. She had really good shoes, and she was still wearing a wedding set. If the diamond was real, it was worth something. I’m just saying she looked like money.”

Details mattered, Eve mused—even shoes. So she pressed. “Do you remember if she seemed close to any of the women, developed a bond?”

“I don’t know. I said I barely … Wait, I did hear she gave one of the group some money. The one I said got smacked around. I don’t know if it’s true, just something somebody said.”

“Who? Who said it, who got the money? Two murders, Leah, don’t make me bring you in.”

“Goddamn it. I don’t remember who told me. It might have been Jasmine, it might have been one of the others. It was Una. If you’re talking to Natalia, ask Natalia because Una wouldn’t hurt a fly. She was a sweet woman trying to make a life for her kid after getting
shafted. If Darla did give her some money to help, good for her. That’s all I know.”

“I appreciate it.”

Eve clicked off, sat back, and wondered just how to track down a single parent named Una.

But right now, she needed to get to Mira.

She went out to the bullpen, stopped at Peabody’s desk.

“I’m heading to Mira.”

“I was just about to let you know, I talked to the London partner. He finally tagged me back. He claims he didn’t know anything about the harassment—or the drugging, the rapes. And seemed pretty grim about it. He did say he knew McEnroy—his word—strayed. That he had a thing, and always had for redheads, which to him—the partner—showed McEnroy loved his wife. He fell for her, a brunette, built a life, had a family. But he strayed from time to time.”

Peabody managed a simultaneous hiss and eye roll. “It’s ‘strayed’ like, you know, he made a wrong turn walking to the bank. Anyway, the partner’s coming into New York to try to handle things here, and he says he’ll do whatever he can for the widow. He’ll make himself available once he’s in New York, for interview if you want to speak to him.”

“And the other partner?”

“Apparently scrambling to try to put out fires the murder, and the scandal attached, have lit. The company’s taking a hit. Lawsuits threatened. I believe this guy with the grim.”

“Keep at it. It’s not going to involve the company, unlikely the partners, but let’s tie up all the threads.”

She rolled it around as she took the glides to Mira’s level. No, not the company, not the partners, any more than it had to do with Pettigrew’s law firm or partners.

It came down to the men themselves, sex, rape, greed.

She found Mira’s dragon of an admin at her post. The woman gave her own wrist unit a hard look but, as Eve hit the outer office exactly on time, couldn’t work up a bitch.

“You’re cleared to go in, Lieutenant.”

Mira, her sun-tipped mink-colored hair falling in a curly bob, stood by her AutoChef. Spring obviously inspired the trim lilac suit, the shoes of a few shades deeper with skinny heels so clear they looked like glass.

She’d added small purplish dangles to her ears, a trio of thin, braided chains around her neck, and as always, looked simply perfect.

She smiled at Eve, her soft blue eyes warming. “I’m just making tea—and yes, I know, but I think you could use something calmer than coffee by this time of your day. You’ve been at it since before dawn.”

“She likes to kill early, after a long night.”

“Yes, I’ve read the reports.” Mira gestured to one of her blue scoop chairs as she brought over two delicate cups of floral-scented tea.

“Now.” She handed Eve one, sat, crossed her very fine legs. “You say she, and I’m going to agree the killer is female, a justice seeker who believes she’s enacted that justice by the violent murder of men who have misused other women.”

“The violence escalated with the second victim.”

“It often does, as we know. And executing—as I believe she sees it—two men in two nights is not only vindicating, but exciting.”

“Could she have had a more personal issue with Pettigrew?”

“It’s certainly possible, but if she kills again, somewhat less likely. She killed him not first, but second. If there are more victims it’s less likely, as the more personal would more likely be saved for the end. The crescendo, so to speak.”

“Maybe she doesn’t have an end in mind. McEnroy was a kind of practice. Can I pull this off? Yeah, I can, so move on to the personal target.”

Interested, Mira sat back, lifted her eyebrows. “Do you have a reason to believe that?”

“Pettigrew’s ex-wife rings some bells for me.”

“What sort?”

“Her reaction to his murder? Way over the top. Divorced two years, right? And this is a guy who cheated on her, then dumped her for the younger skirt, and basically swindled her out of the company she’d built. For this guy she’s a weeping wreck? I don’t buy it.”

“Some love regardless of the insults and injuries.”

“Yeah, maybe so. But no.” The more she rolled it around, the more certain she felt. “Just no on this one. I can’t tell you exactly why, but just no. Add a shaky alibi, but one that’s corroborated, sort of. She has considerable e-skills and Pettigrew’s accounts were skillfully hacked. Big house, private house, plenty of room to do dirty deeds.”

“You believe she’s your killer.”

“At this point, yeah. I have to look at all the angles, but, if she’s not the killer, she’s not altogether right. Just off somehow.”

“Keep me apprised there.”

“I will. Otherwise, the killer has the connection, one way or the other, with this support group. No way she just happened to target two men with women they’d … misused in that group.”

“So it may be more than one involved.”

“We’ve seen it before, but … I don’t think the woman heading the group would have missed this sort of violent pact forming. And it feels like a single killer. It just feels as if it’s one who enjoys putting on the mask. Being this lure for this target, this lure for the next. When she hits again, she’ll present herself as his particular fantasy.”

“Lady Justice,” Mira added. “Yet another persona. Singular as well. Add the poems. Poetry tends to be highly personal to the poet. Yet the sheer physicality, the logistics, make it difficult to say, with confidence, the killer acts alone.”

“Not alone. Someone’s driving. It may be a partner, a hireling. It’s certainly someone she trusts not to betray her, so I lean toward another female first. Men are the betrayers.”

“Yes. She’s been betrayed or abused by a male. It may be a father or father figure if that betrayal was sexual.” Mira paused a moment, sipped tea as she studied Eve. “Is that aspect giving you any difficulty?”

“I can handle it.”

“That wasn’t the question.”

And until Mira had the answer to the question, Eve knew, she’d persist. So, get it out and done.

“I know what it’s like to be raped, to be helpless, to have the rapist be my father. I know what it’s like to kill, and kill violently. If it brings that back, I can use it. I will use it. Finding who killed these men, whatever they did in life, is my job. I have to do the job, or even after all this time, Richard Troy wins.”

“If you have any trouble, I hope you’ll come to me.”

“I’m here now. But I’m okay.”

And wanted to close that particular door.

“McEnroy was a predator,” Eve continued, “and it would have satisfied me to take him down, to see him live out the rest of his life in a cage. Pettigrew? Weak, greedy, a liar, but there’s no evidence he physically harmed anyone. Just cheated and cheated on his spouse, then continued to cheat on the woman he cheated with. Maybe a crappy human being, but not one who deserved what happened to him. I can stand for both of them.”

“All right. I’ll tell you you’re looking for a mature, goal-oriented killer. A female, at least thirty, probably somewhat older. Controlled until she has her target subdued. Controlled enough to stalk, to research, to plan, to prepare, to lure him. Once she has him bound, unable to defend, that control is let off the leash. She has the endurance to physically torture her victims for hours, the emotional distance to
ignore their screams or pleas, as there’s no sign they were silenced during the torture.”

“She’d want to hear them beg and scream.”

“I agree. Their punishment sustains her, their pain feeds her. The castration is the last stage, unmanning them, literally. And allowing them to hang, from the medical examiner’s report, like meat, until they succumb to blood loss.”

“Why does she bring them back to their residence? She could dispose of the bodies altogether, or dump them—since she has to have transpo—miles away. But she risks, in both cases, bringing them back, leaving them outside, taking the time to leave them, and the poem, in plain sight.”

“She wants them found, and quickly. Doesn’t it show their loved ones who they were? What they were? It shows the city, the world they were punished for their deeds. By her. I believe she’ll be both pleased and upset that she’s now being hunted by a pair of female cops. She’d appreciate your power—female power is essential to her psyche. And she’ll be unhappy that, as women, you don’t see she’s doing what needs to be done when she would consider you colleagues.

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