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Authors: J. D. Robb

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BOOK: Vendetta in Death
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“Did Ms. Brant urge you to take the money and walk?”

“No. She was willing to go to the wall. We weren’t.”

“Why?”

“He had vids. We didn’t tell Sylvia—we just … We weren’t ready to talk about that part. He had vids, of both of us—not together,” she said quickly. “Jasmine told me about hers after I told her about mine.”

Peabody spoke, soft, gentle. “Can you talk about it now?”

“Yeah. I got through that wall. I woke up that night in his house, in his bed. I don’t remember how I got there. I don’t really remember any of it. But I knew I’d never have gone with him like that. I’d already made that clear, even told him I’d report him. Then I’m naked in his bed? When I woke up, sick, confused, humiliated, he already had the vid cued up. And there I was, in that room, having sex with him.”

She had to look away—not to fight tears, Eve noted. To pull back the rage.

“I didn’t just look willing, but eager. He told me if I tried to say I hadn’t been willing and eager, he’d ruin me. He had the lawyers, the money, the vid. I’d never get a decent job in the field again—anywhere. Then he told me to get dressed and get out. His wife was coming home that afternoon.

“Tell me I should’ve gone to the police,” she snapped even as, at last, her eyes filled. “When he had that vid.”

“Ms. Lester.” Peabody spoke in what Eve thought of as her heart voice. “We’re not here to tell you what you should’ve done. He had all the power, and not just in that moment.”

“He broke me, and I did nothing.”

“That’s not true,” Peabody corrected. “You went to your supervisor.”

“Not right away. I thought I could just bury it, you know, pretend it didn’t happen. Especially when he went back to London, and I didn’t have to see him. But I walked into the bathroom, and Jasmine was in there. She was sick. I didn’t even know her very well, but she was sick, so I said something about could I get her some water, or help her get home or whatever. She just blurted it all out. She said she had to quit, had to leave, she’d had sex with McEnroy and couldn’t even remember. And she’s puking and blaming herself, and I realized he’d done the same thing to her somehow. I told her, and I guess I used her, because she was so sick and shaky she let me take over. That’s when we went to Sylvia.”

“It seems to me you helped each other. That’s not using. It’s supporting.”

“Maybe. What I know is I’ve tried to put it behind me, and I was getting there. Now the bastard’s dead and I’m a suspect. I should probably get a lawyer.”

“Do you want a lawyer?” Eve asked her.

She sent Eve a look of unbearable weariness. “Then I’d have to go through all of it again, tell someone else.”

“We’re going to need Frankie’s full name and contact info. We need to verify your statement on your whereabouts last night. We can tell him we’re simply checking off boxes on some routine matter.”

“He knows about McEnroy. I haven’t felt ready to have sex—and boy, I used to like sex—since that morning. I wanted to have sex with Frankie, but … not ready. So I told him why. He’s waited. He’s Frank Carvindito. He’s an editor for Vanguard Publishing. And he’s pretty goddamn terrific.”

“Okay. Can you tell us the last thing you remember before you woke up in McEnroy’s bedroom?”

“Oh yeah. I’ve been over it a million times. He called me into his office, and the son of a bitch apologized. He said he realized he’d been inappropriate, that he’d misread signals, how I was already a valued member of the team. He laid it on, and I accepted it. I loved the work there, so I accepted it. And the coffee he offered me when he started to talk about work. I have a vague memory of walking out with him. I think most everyone was gone by then. I remember feeling off, like I’d been drinking, but good drinking, you know? Loose. Then I was in the back of a car with him, and his hands were on me, but I didn’t mind. He gave me a drink, and then … nothing. I just don’t remember after that. Some flashes—like dream blips—but nothing clear.”

“All right.” Eve got to her feet. “We appreciate your time and cooperation.”

“That’s it?”

“For now it is. We’ll verify what you’ve told us. As long as it jibes, as long as you didn’t kill him, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Her lips twisted into a mockery of a smile. “Well, there’s good news.”

Eve paused, waited until Leah’s eyes met hers. “I’m a cop, and I’m telling you this. What he did to you was rape. He drugged you, raped
you, then blackmailed you. He’s to blame, every level, every step. You’re not. And you stood up when you realized he’d done the same to someone else.”

“I…” She had to stop, had to swallow. “Thanks. I mean it. Now, you’re going to go around all this with Jasmine, even though she’s in Chicago. Take it easy with her, will you? She’s always going to be a little tender because a part of her is always going to at least half believe she caused it. And to add insult, he passed her over for a promotion right after. Just another little sting, right?”

“We’ll keep that in mind.” Eve walked to the door, stopped. “Are you still in the support group?”

“Me? Not really. Once Frankie and I got serious—once I realized I actually could have good feelings for a man—I sort of let it slide. Jasmine’s got one in Chicago. I think she’s a lifer.”

“Does it have a name? The group?”

“Women For Women. I thought it would be as stupid as it sounds, but it actually helped. I might just hit the next meeting.” She smiled a little. “Just a quick booster maybe.”

They left her staring into space and squeezing the red ball.

“She struck me as telling it straight,” Peabody said as they rode down.

“Yeah, but we verify. I’m going to dump you at Central on my way to the morgue.”

“I love when that happens.”

“You verify Lester’s statement with the boyfriend. You contact Jasmine Quirk, run her through it, verify her statement. Set up a meet with the vic’s spouse, get any updates from EDD on the electronics. Write up the report, copy to me, Whitney, Mira. Get what we need for a search and seize on all the vic’s residences and offices.”

“Worldwide.”

“That’s affirmative. See what you can find on this support group.”

“The support group?”

“Remember Mr. Mira’s cousin? A conspiracy of female vics turned revenge killers. It’s not impossible we have something similar here, so let’s take a look at the group. Contact the vic’s transpo service, a driver, from Po’s files. No way he risked a cab getting Lester from the office to his residence, so if he headed out to a club last night to hunt, he probably didn’t take public transpo.”

“I’m starting to think the morgue and a dead, mutilated body’s easier.”

“Make lieutenant, then you can call the shots.” Eve whipped to the corner. “Out.”

“At least this way I can grab a street dog before I go in.” Peabody climbed out, beelined for the cart as Eve bullied her way back into traffic.

She ran through questions in her head along the drive.

Could one person, working alone, have lured McEnroy, incapacitated him, transported him to an as yet unknown location, tortured, mutilated, and killed him, then transported the body back to the dump site?

Not impossible, but it seemed more likely a partnership of some sort.

Alternately, had McEnroy left his residence to go to that as yet unknown location voluntarily, most probably expecting sex? And there the killer incapacitated him, and the rest, before transporting the body to the dump site? If so, a stronger case for working alone, but still …

Even as she walked down the white tunnel of the morgue, she ran other scenarios. The one point that stuck in any and all: The murder, the method, the victim had all been meticulously planned.

When she swung through the double doors of the chief medical examiner’s theater, she found Morris sitting on a stool at one of his counters, munching on soy chips as he studied a comp screen.

He still wore the clear protective cape over a stylish suit of steely blue with a sharp-collared shirt of the same exact tone. He’d chosen a tie the color of warm apricots, twined his long black braid with a cord to mirror it.

He swiveled on the stool, smiled. “A fine day it is for the living. Where’s our Peabody?”

“Central. Verifying and so on.” She walked to the steel slab where McEnroy still lay spread open by Morris’s Y-cut. “Bad end for him.”

“Bad, long, painful.”

“Did you get tox back yet?”

“Just now.” Rising, Morris walked first to his cold box, took out a couple tubes of Pepsi. He tossed one to Eve, cracked his own.

“Thanks.”

“We’re here to serve. The unfortunate Mr. McEnroy had traces of Rohypnol mixed with a very dry martini. More traces of a drug, street name Black Out. Both of those chemicals, or the results of them, would have worn off before the torture began.”

“Roofied him—that’s the lure—then knocked him out in order to get him where he/she/they wanted him. The roofie? The killer would consider that justice. It was one of his favored tools in what’s looking like serial rape.”

“Ah, so a bad end for a bad man. From the ligature marks on his wrists—you see here?”

“Yeah, clear enough.”

“He was hung by the wrists, arms above the head, as you deduced on-site. His weight caused the restraints to dig into his flesh, and also put considerable strain on his rotator cuffs, arms, shoulders. There are, as you also noted, no defensive wounds. He would have been incapable of attempting to defend himself. The facial injuries, some from a weighted sap, some from an electric prod. Much the same with the torso, the back, the legs. Some wounds, the prod straight on, like a jab,
others a lash, like a whip. All would have been excruciating. The prod had to be on high voltage to cause burns this severe.”

As a matter of routine, Morris picked up two pairs of microgoggles. “The torture, given the extent of the wounds, went on for between three and four hours. He would have lost consciousness off and on. There were traces of Alert on and in his nostrils.”

“No fun torturing an unconscious man.”

“No indeed. He was still alive when his genitals were—quite efficiently—severed with a sharp blade.”

“Medical training? A scalpel?”

“Medical training’s possible, or someone who spent some time practicing. A sure hand, in any case. But the blade used wouldn’t have been a scalpel. You’re more likely to be looking for a knife with a slight rise in the center of the blade. See here.”

He put on the goggles, leaned over the body, so Eve did the same.

“Not a hesitation mark,” he pointed out, “not a stop and start again, but the slight deviation in the blade, cutting across the root of the penis.” He swiped a hand to demonstrate.

“Hold it up, lop it off.”

“In plain words, yes. A killing blade, but also, I think, ornamental. Perhaps ceremonial.”

“Ceremonial would fit. Same method on his balls. Not going to leave him anything.”

“Punishment for the rapist. You’re thinking one of his victims or someone attached to one.”

“It leans that way. So far. Did you read the poem?”

“I did. Lady Justice. Well, hell has no fury, after all.”

“If there is a hell, he’s burning in it now, so he probably figures there’s plenty of fury.”

She took off the goggles, laid them aside. “Opinion. Could a woman have done this, alone?”

He sipped Pepsi contemplatively. “He’s not a big man, tall but slim. A woman strong and determined enough, I’d say yes, it’s possible.”

“Hanging him up by the wrists. Could’ve used a pulley system.”

“Yes, and a dolly and ramps to move him in and out of a vehicle. Quite a lot of physical labor, but … hell’s fury.”

“Yeah.” But she pointed to the mutilated genitals. “Seems to me hell’s fury isn’t usually so precise. Thanks for the tube.”

“Anytime at all. Enjoy the sunshine while you can.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that,” she said as she left.

Morris looked down at the body. “Well, Nigel, what do you say we close you up now?”

 

5

When
E
ve walked into her bullpen
, J
enkinson

s tie du jour scorched her corneas. His way to celebrate almost spring, apparently, equaled a forest of Peabody’s daffodils—these infused with sulfuric acid—over a field of Venusian green grass.

She winced, turned away to save herself.

“Peabody, my office.”

In her office, with nuclear yellow still blooming across her vision, she hit the AutoChef.

At last, real coffee.

“Report’s written and sent,” Peabody told her, adding a puppy dog look toward the AC.

“Don’t beg, get coffee.”

“Thanks! I spoke with Jasmine Quirk—and was writing up that addition. No travel shows on the run for her, and I corroborated she attended a work meeting until six central time last night. Also corroborated she and her roommate, a family friend, then attended a
birthday party, for her brother, from eight to eleven CT. After which she and her roommate took the L back to their apartment.”

Peabody sighed in some coffee.

“She didn’t give any buzz, and though she was visibly more shaken than Lester, she gave me her version of her experience with McEnroy. It follows pattern, except since his wife was in New York at the time of the rape, she woke up, alone, in a room in the Blake Hotel. He’d left her a vid disc. Sex disc.”

“Well, he was a charmer.”

“Oh yeah. Lester’s alibi holds, and EDD is making progress. I checked with McEnroy’s usual transpo service. He didn’t use them last night.”

“Then he’s got a secondary he uses when he’s hunting. He’d use the personal ’link to order it. Have McNab look.”

“Will do. Ms. McEnroy’s due back in about an hour. I contacted her, or mostly the tutor. She’s—the widow—willing to talk to us as soon as possible, but won’t leave the children and doesn’t want them exposed to the conversation. She asks that we come to her this evening after nine when the children are in bed.”

“All right. I’ll handle that.” With, she thought, her expert consultant, civilian. “I need to set up the board and book. You can get the discs and memo book from McEnroy’s desk drawer out of Evidence. Start cross-checking those first names with staff and clients. And we’ll split interviewing the partners.”

“I’ll get on it.”

As Eve sat to pull up Peabody’s report, the sweepers’ and Morris’s preliminaries, she shot off a text to Roarke.

Need to interview vic’s widow after 2100—at her request. Could use a slick rich guy. Interested?

She scanned the reports, pulled up her own notes, added more, and
started her murder book. When she rose to set up her board, her ’link signaled a return text.

Meet me at half-seven at Nally’s Pub, West 84 between Columbus and Amsterdam. A slick rich guy will buy you dinner first.

Nally’s Pub, she thought. Well, at least it didn’t sound fancy.

She answered:
Solid
.

She finished the board, started to program more coffee for study and thinking time. Peabody clomped back in with an evidence box.

“Points for McNab,” she said. “He found a contact tagged multiple times on the desk drawer personal. Tagged last at seventeen-twelve yesterday. Two-minute conversation with one Oliver Printz re limo pickup at McEnroy’s residence at eleven-fifteen.

“And points for me,” Peabody added as she put the box on Eve’s desk, then swiped a check mark in the air. “Because I recognized Printz as McEnroy’s usual driver through Urban Ride.”

“So Printz worked off the books.” She’d print out his ID shot, add it to her board. “We need to talk to him. Have him brought in. Use the potential witness to a crime deal, but get him in.”

She unsealed the box. “And shut the door.”

“You’re going to review the discs.”

“I’m going to look at a sample, yeah, so shut the door.”

With a nod, Peabody backed out, shut the door.

Eve slid one of the discs into her unit, ordered play.

The McEnroy bedroom flashed on-screen, the bed neatly turned down. She heard voices, a man’s, a woman’s.

“No, in here,” it said as McEnroy came on-screen. The woman—redhead, late twenties—wrapped around him, rubbed against him.

“Anywhere. Everywhere.”

He took her wrists, turned her more toward the camera. “What do you want, Jessica?”

“You. I want you.”

“More than anything?”

“Yes, yes! Nigel, please. I can’t wait.”

“More than the position at Broadmoore?”

“More than anything.”

“Show me. Strip for me.”

She wore a simple black dress jazzed up with a thick silver belt, silver needle-thin heels. Her body quivered, her hands shook as she stripped down to bra and panties.

“Hold there.”

He stepped out of camera range while she shuddered, ran those shaking hands over her own body, begged him to touch her.

He came into range holding two glasses of wine. “A drink.”

“I don’t need wine, just you. Oh God, Nigel, please.”

“Drink.”

Dosed it with more, Eve thought as the redhead obeyed.

“That’s enough for now.” He set her glass aside. “On your knees, Jessica. Me first. You want to pleasure me, don’t you?”

She dropped down, dragged his pants down. And while she fellated him, he sipped his wine.

She watched for thirty minutes, through to him taking her to the bed while she all but wept with need. Where he asked—oh so polite—if she was adventurous, if he could tie her to the bedposts. She agreed to everything he asked, begged for more.

Then she skipped to the end where he stood in a robe, obviously freshly showered, and she sprawled, pale and heavy-eyed, on the bed.

“Get dressed and go.”

“What? I don’t feel very well. I feel…”

“I’m done with you. You can catch a cab at the corner or walk to the subway.”

“I don’t know where I am.” She looked around, a woman still caught in a dream. But she got up, swaying, stumbling, put on her clothes. “At the corner.”

“That’s right.” He took her arm. “You’ll take the elevator straight down to the garage—you understand.”

“Garage.”

“Walk out, turn left, walk to the corner for a cab. You’ll do very well at Broadmoore, Jessica. You have talent.”

“Broadmoore.”

The vid stopped. After a few seconds, another started. Same bedroom, same setup. Another redhead.

Eve stopped the play.

So he had a type.

Rising, she started to program coffee, then changed to water, cold.

She opened her door again, as it would take hours to review the discs.

Checking the memo book she found three Jessicas, a Jessie, and a Jess.

She brought up PP’s files, ran a search on Broadmoore and Jessica.

It turned out Broadmoore, a company specializing in high-end kitchen and bathroom designs and furnishings, with its headquarters on the Upper East Side, had hired Jessica Alden the previous fall, through PP, as a marketing executive.

She was finishing an initial run on Alden when Peabody came back. “Printz is coming in.”

“Good. He has a type. He likes redheads.”

“Quirk’s a brunette.”

“She wasn’t in her ID shot from a year ago. Red. I’ve got a Jessica
Alden, redhead, on disc. He takes his time, makes sure they get plenty of camera time. He likes them to beg, and when he’s done, he basically kicks them out. He gave her two doses, as far as I could tell, once he had her in the bedroom, just to keep her going. Bring her in.”

“All right. Listen … I can book a conference room, take some of the discs for review.”

“Do that. Note the name if he uses one, any company or business he might mention, cross-check it to nail it down. Otherwise we’ll use face recognition. Zip through,” Eve added. “There’s no point in watching what he does unless it shifts pattern. We don’t need evidence against him—he’s dead. We just need to ID his victims. Get started.”

She gestured to the box. “He’s got multiples on each disc. We’ll break off when Printz gets here. Then Alden. If this holds, we’re going to be talking to a lot of rape victims as murder suspects, so get ready for that.”

She’d go through a couple more, Eve decided, closed the door again, went back to coffee. Zipping through as she’d advised Peabody, she identified two more, had one marked for facial recognition.

She shut it down at the knock on her door.

Detective Trueheart, fresh of face, stood outside. “Sorry, Lieutenant, but an Oliver Printz is here to see you.”

“Good. Can you put him in an interview room, let Peabody know? I need another minute.”

“Sure. Ah, should I close the door?”

“No, that’s all right.”

She replaced the discs, tagged the one she’d completed, resealed the box, initialed it. Then she put together a file before walking out to the bullpen.

“He’s in Interview B, Lieutenant. Peabody’s on her way.”

“Thanks, Detective.”

Eve detoured to the bathroom, let herself breathe while she splashed
cool water on her face. Then stood another moment until the faint nausea faded off.

She met Peabody outside the Interview door. “He’s not a suspect,” Eve began, “but may be complicit in McEnroy’s ugly hobby. If so, we’re going to nail him for it. But what we get out of him, absolutely, is where he took McEnroy last night.”

“Can I go hard? Watching that disc…”

“Take the lead.”

“Really?”

“Jesus, Peabody, it’s an interview, not an ice-cream cone for being a good girl. Take the fricking lead.” She shoved the file at her partner, opened the door.

“Mr. Printz.” Peabody started off with a sober nod. “Thank you for coming in so quickly.”

“Don’t know what it’s about. Can’t remember seeing anything like a crime.”

Peabody nodded again, took a seat.

He had a good look for a limo driver, Eve thought. Clean-cut, well-dressed, mid-forties. He kept his hands folded on the table, and his quiet face impassive.

“I’m Detective Peabody and this is Lieutenant Dallas. We’re going to record this interview.”

“Inter— Record?”

“Yes.” Peabody pushed on, clipped, all business. “Record on. Dallas, Lieutenant Eve, and Peabody, Detective Delia, in Interview with Printz, Oliver. Are you aware of the death of one of your regular clients?”

“What?” That impassive face registered shock. “Who?”

“You don’t watch or listen to media reports, Mr. Printz?”

“I do, of course. But I’ve been running clients all day. Or lord, was it Ms. Kinder? She’s been looking awfully frail lately.”

“No. Nigel McEnroy.”

Now he went sheet white. “Mr. McEnroy died?”

“Was murdered in the early hours of the morning,” Peabody corrected in that same clipped tone. “That would be sometime after you, off the books, picked him up at his residence.”

“I—I— Oh my God.”

“Can you account for your whereabouts between nine
P.M
. and four
A.M
., Mr. Printz?”

“I—I—” He held up a hand as if to stop traffic. “Did it happen in the club? He texted me that he didn’t need me. He usually…”

“Usually what?” Peabody demanded, and now her voice lashed. “If you even contemplate considering to think about lying, I’m tossing you in a cage with charges of accessory, before and after, to multiple rapes.”

“To what?” His eyes bulged in shock. “To
rape
! This is crazy.”

“Whereabouts, Printz, or I’m reading you your rights, and we’re going to get real serious real fast.”

“I picked Mr. McEnroy up at nine-fifteen, or very close to that, at his building, his residence. I took him to This Place—that’s the name of the club. I took him there, dropped him off, and I went home. He said he’d tag me when he was ready, but he texted he didn’t need me. I was home with my wife, my two kids. I was home the rest of the night. I never raped anyone in my life! I’m a family man. I have a daughter.”

“Then you just stood by when McEnroy drugged and raped women?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He lifted a shaking hand to loosen the knot of his tie. “I swear to God, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“How many times did you pick up Mr. McEnroy and a woman at a club, deliver them to his residence or the Blake Hotel?”

“I couldn’t tell you.” Printz took a couple of wheezing breaths. “Often. Often, but he didn’t rape them. I wouldn’t have stood for it!
They were maybe a little drunk, but that’s not my business. He was cheating on his wife, and I don’t approve, but that’s not my business.”

“Is cheating your employer your business?”

He flushed, even cringed a little. “It’s not right, working off the books. Plenty of us do it, but that doesn’t make it right. Mr. McEnroy’s a good customer, a good tipper, and … he was persuasive. My girl’s going to college in two years, and the tuition…”

Face hard, Peabody brushed the excuses off like gnats. “How much did he pay you to look the other way when he assaulted women?”

“I’d never do that. Never! He’d bring a woman out, different women, different clubs. But they were willing. He didn’t make them get in the car, make them get out and go with him. Usually they were, well, all over him.”

Peabody kept cold eyes on his face. “Did you subsequently drive the willing women home or to another location after McEnroy had finished with them?”

“No. Never. Look, when he went to a club, he gave me five hundred a night. It’s a lot of money for a couple quick runs. But ten times that wouldn’t have been enough for me to look the other way if he’d been hurting anybody. Any of the women he brought into my car, you could ask. They’d get in. I’d keep the privacy screen up, because that’s what he wanted. But they’d get in on their own, and get out where he took them on their own.”

Eve finally spoke. “Did you pick him up or take him to anywhere other than a club where he had a woman other than his wife with him?”

“Sure, sure, at a restaurant or at his office. But those would be on the books, and it’s the same deal. She’d get in and out on her own. I never, I swear on my life, I never saw him force anyone. He was always so polite.”

“And she was always a little drunk?”

“I … I guess you could say. Driving people’s my job. A lot of them might be a little drunk, or even a lot. It’s my job to take them where they want to go safely. I’ve been driving professionally for twelve years. You can look at my record. Not one complaint. Mr. McEnroy asked me to do this, and keep it between us. It was wrong, and I could lose my job over it, but that’s all I did.”

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