Authors: J. D. Robb
Eve sat back, glanced at Peabody. “Okay, Mr. Printz, I bet you keep decent personal records. You’re going to dig into those and show us the times, the dates and locations when you drove McEnroy off the books.”
“I can do that. Yes, I can do that.”
When they let the very cooperative and deeply shaken Printz go, Eve cocked a brow at Peabody.
“I believe him. Down the line,” Peabody added. “He saw what probably other people saw. A man and a woman, a little drunk, a lot loose after some clubbing, heading off to have a bunch of sex.”
“Printz made the mistake a lot of people do. Sure, it’s breaking the rules, but who does it hurt? And I can use the money. But he’s no killer, he’s no rape apologist, either. And otherwise?”
Peabody looked blank. “Otherwise?”
“Why didn’t McEnroy tag Printz for the pickup from the club, as arranged? As was his pattern?”
“Oh, okay. So the killer persuaded him to walk, maybe? Or the killer had the transportation.”
“It’s going to be the second—more people see you walking, and why let more people see you? Pattern, Peabody, why does McEnroy break it, why does he give up the control of his own car and driver when all of this is about him having the controls?”
“Maybe he knew the killer, trusted the killer. The text to Printz came in just before midnight, so McEnroy was, probably, already incapacitated, and the killer sent the text. So…”
“This was planned, carefully. She—because the killer’s going to be female—had to get McEnroy to her chosen location, with her in control. How did McEnroy get women into his transpo, and to his locations?”
“He drugged them. She drugged him at the club. Turned the tables, used his own methods.”
“Roofied him,” Eve agreed. “Added more in the transpo—Morris got tox back. We’ll check out This Place after we talk to Jessica Alden. We might hit some luck, get a description of his killer.”
“We’re in some luck now,” Peabody said as she checked her communicator. “Alden just got here.”
“We’ll keep the room. Go ahead and bring her in.”
“I’m getting a fizzy.” Peabody rose. “You want a cold one?”
“Pepsi works. Offer Alden whatever she wants. We’ll start friendly.”
Eve tucked the fresh printouts gleaned from Printz in the file, cross-checked her notes on the time stamp of the vid she’d watched. Alden coordinated with a nine-thirty pickup at La Cuisine, a restaurant on the Upper West, the previous September.
Take the candidate—for job placement, for rape—to dinner, slip a little something in her drink, walk her out to the limo, slip her a little more on the drive home. Into the lobby, the penthouse elevator, up to the bedroom, where the camera’s already set up.
She sat back, caught a glimpse of herself in the two-way glass.
Maybe she looked a little pale, she admitted, but she’d been at this since before dawn. And she’d forgotten to grab anything for lunch. No, she’d worried she wouldn’t be able to stomach anything, she corrected.
She’d fix that, she promised herself. She wasn’t going to fall into the comparison trap. She wouldn’t let old wounds start throbbing again, old memories cloud her judgment or objectivity.
She had a job to do.
When the door opened, she had the file open as if reviewing the contents. She closed it when Peabody shut the door behind Alden.
The curvy redhead wore a good suit in pale blue, ankle-breakers covered with a floral pattern, and an expression of mild annoyance.
“Lieutenant, Ms. Alden.”
Without waiting, Jessica sat down, tapped the tube of sparkling water on the table. “Coming down here’s put a hitch in my day. I heard the news about Nigel McEnroy, and it’s shocking. But you can’t be talking to everyone who ever worked through Perfect Placement.”
Maybe not so friendly then, Eve thought, and cracked the tube Peabody handed her. “Not everyone, no. Just those we believe may have reason to want McEnroy dead.”
“Why in God’s name would I want him dead? I barely knew the man. I was headhunted by PP, but I worked primarily with Sylvia Brant. I don’t think I met with McEnroy more than three or four times.”
Eve went with the faintest of smirks. “You did a lot more than meet with him last September eighteenth.”
“Dinner at La Cuisine ring any bells?”
That drew Jessica’s eyebrows together. Beneath them her eyes, a gold-flecked brown, went momentarily blank. “What? Oh, yes.” The mild annoyance returned. “Of course, last September. I was one of the two candidates up for the position I now hold at Broadmoore. He—McEnroy—he was in New York to weigh in on the placement, and we had a business dinner. A business dinner,” she repeated, and rubbed her left hand up and down her right arm.
“And after the business dinner you went with him to his home.”
“I certainly did not!” Hot color flashed into her cheeks. “Are you actually implying I slept my way to my position? That’s not only a lie, but an insulting one. I’ve worked hard to reach this point in my career, and I don’t sleep around, or use sex for advancement. Add to it, he’s married, has kids. And I was in a serious relationship.”
“What did you do after the business dinner?”
“I … I walked to the corner.” She cracked her own tube with a quick snap. “I walked to the corner, got a cab, went home. I haven’t seen or spoken to Nigel McEnroy since that night. Since … I went home.”
“What’s the last thing you remember before you walked to the corner? Look at me,” Eve demanded. “The last thing.”
“I … I wasn’t feeling well. Nerves, that’s all. The job was a big upgrade for me, so I was nervous. It was months ago.” She snapped it out like she’d snapped the tube. “Why would I remember every detail?”
“You remember nothing,” Eve corrected, but gentled her tone. “You don’t remember, not clearly, even leaving the restaurant. You don’t remember getting in the limo McEnroy had waiting.”
“I didn’t.” But a tremor shivered into her voice. “It would be unprofessional. I took a cab home.”
“After.” Even more gently now. “Because he told you to. Jessica, you were one of many.”
I know what it’s like, Eve thought, to block it out, all of it out to survive. I know what it’s like when it floods back, when the walls break down, and it all lands in your chest like an avalanche.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Eve leaned to Peabody, murmured in her ear, “Get Mira if she’s available, or whoever she recommends as a rape counselor.”
Peabody rose, moved quickly.
“He drugged you.” Eve said it fast, fast was best. “You did nothing unprofessional, nothing wrong. You did nothing because he drugged you, just as he did other women.”
“You’re trying to say he … he gave me a roofie, raped me? No, no, no, I’d remember!” Jessica insisted with the fierceness of desperation. “I would remember. I’d have sued his ass off. I’d have gone to the police. I—”
Eve got up, walked around the table to sit next to her. “He drugged you, so none of it’s clear, and what bits and pieces worked through, you blocked out.”
“You’re saying he recommended me for my position because he raped me?”
“No, no I’m not. You were going to get the position, on your qualifications. One had nothing to do with the other. The bits and pieces, you told yourself they were anxiety, or weird dreams.”
“There’s a room, and the birds—they fly out of the chairs, fly around the room screaming. Someone’s inside me, and I can’t stop it. I don’t want to stop it, but I’m screaming, too.”
She gripped Eve’s hand. “When I heard he was dead, when I heard the report this morning, I … I felt, just for a second, I felt satisfaction. It was horrible. But I don’t remember. You can’t be sure.”
Eve thought about the vid. Not now, she decided. “We’ve talked to other women. He did this to other women. He had a pattern, Jessica. Did you talk to anyone about that night? How you didn’t feel well, how you took a cab home?”
“No, not even Chad. I was ashamed because I thought I must’ve gotten ill at dinner, maybe behaved oddly. I couldn’t remember, and I thought it must’ve been something I ate, or nerves. I told Chad it went great, but I didn’t want to talk about it and jinx it. I lied, the first lie I told him.”
She squeezed her eyes shut, tightly shut.
“I told him others after. We were going to move in together. We were looking for a bigger place so we could move in together. But after that night I couldn’t stand for him to touch me. I didn’t want to hear his voice, or smell his smell. I couldn’t stand being touched so I pushed him away. We lost it, what we had.”
She wept as she spoke now, silent tears streaming as she choked out
the words. “I got the job, and I told him I had to focus on my career. He said I broke his heart. What do I do now?”
“Start healing.” Eve glanced over as Peabody came back.
“Mira,” Peabody said simply, and Eve nodded.
“We have someone who’ll help you.”
“I can take you.” Peabody offered Jessica her hand. “You can come with me.”
“I need to say it out loud.” After dragging in a few breaths, Jessica swiped the tears from her face. “I was raped. Nigel McEnroy raped me. Now I feel sick.”
“We’ll stop by the ladies’ room on the way. Here, let me take your water.”
With a compassion and efficiency Eve admired, Peabody slipped an arm around Jessica’s waist, led her from the room.
Because she felt a little sick herself, Eve rose. She wanted her office, door closed, ten minutes with her head on her desk to just breathe through it.
As she passed through the bullpen, Santiago popped up from his desk. “Hey, boss, Carmichael and I’ve got one we need to walk through with you.” He hesitated as he studied her face. “You okay?”
“Fine. Come on back.”
“We can do it later.”
“It’s fine now. Let’s go, I’ve got my own to walk through.”
She went to her office, got more coffee, and did her job.
t officially open its doors until eight—and anyone who arrived before nine earned a wheeze status—but Eve arranged an interview with key staff on-site.
“Even if I could get past the door,” Peabody commented, “I couldn’t afford the cover price in a club like this, much less a drink.”
“Lucky you don’t have to shell out either then.” Eve held her badge to the security scanner.
Locks disengaged; the door swept open.
The man who did the sweeping hit six-four with a scarecrow build inside New York black. His hair—shaved on the left side to show off a scalp tattoo of a bleeding heart—fell ruler straight to his right shoulder in pure white.
He had eyes like green lasers, a silver incisor, and nails painted as black as his skin suit.
“Ladies.” His voice was like the pipe of a flute. “Welcome to This Place.”
“Lieutenant,” Eve said. “Detective.”
“And still welcome.”
He stepped back, gestured them in. “I’m Maxim Snow, your host and the manager. I’ve assembled those I believe may be of most help to you.”
A whole bunch of cooperation, Eve thought, for a place Roarke didn’t own.
“We appreciate it.”
“Not at all. Mr. McEnroy was a sporadic regular, and a valued guest, so whatever we can do to assist you in apprehending whoever committed this heinous crime, we’re here to do.”
He gestured them forward. Under full lights the floor sparkled. Whatever drinks or bodily fluids had spilled on it during the night’s revelry, not a sign remained.
Tables and booths gleamed, privacy shields swept back to reveal slick gel circles.
The air smelled just as spotless.
“You run a clean place, Mr. Snow.”
“In every way we know how. Of course, This Place really shines at night. May I take your coats?”
“We’re good,” Eve told him.
He led them to a table where the assembled staff sat.
“May we offer you refreshments? A coffee, a latte, some sparkling water?”
“We’re good,” Eve said again before Peabody could accept.
“Well then, let me make introductions. Lieutenant Dallas, Detective Peabody with the NYPSD. We have Tee DeCarlo, head server, Edmund Mi, who works the door, Lippy Lace and Win Gregor, bartenders on the level where Mr. McEnroy engaged a privacy booth last evening. Please have a seat.”
They made an odd if diverse group. Snow, the gangly urban scarecrow. DeCarlo, with her frizzy ball of blond hair popped over a scowling face and a small, compact body in ragged sweats. Beside her Mi, with skin the color of gold dust, wore a snug black tank over tattooed, linebacker shoulders. The two bartenders sat together: Lace, young, pretty, black, wore her hair pulled back in an explosively curly tail, and a running tank and shorts showed off good muscles; Gregor, even prettier, played up the pretty by smudging up his eyes to enhance already long lashes.
“We appreciate you coming in,” Eve began, and DeCarlo let out a snort.
“Now, Tee.” Snow patted her hand with obvious affection. “Be nice.”
“Don’t like cops.” Her voice, in opposition to his flute, sounded like a foghorn with allergies. “Gotta come into work on my time off ’cause cops say so. Don’t like cops.”
“Tee, a man’s dead.”
“People die every day, don’t they? Get themselves killed every day, too, or else these two wouldn’t have a job.”
Couldn’t argue the point, Eve decided.
“Why don’t we get on with doing our job so you can get back to your time off?” she suggested. “You knew Nigel McEnroy?”
“Didn’t say knew, did I? He don’t look twice at ones like me. He’d give somebody like Lippy a good look, but he liked the white ones. Redheaded white girls.”
“You saw him with women, redheads?”
“Not my job to see unless somebody wants service, but I ain’t blind, am I? He’d come in, always had a VIP booth reserved in advance, and he always used the auto-order. Tipped decent, I’ll say that, if he had cause to use a live server. He’d come in, troll the place, maybe send a drink over to one he had his eye on, or chat ’em up. Sooner or later, he’d take one back to his booth, and sooner or later, she’d leave with him.”
“Did you see the one who left with him last night?”
“Redhead.” DeCarlo shrugged. “Like always. Didn’t bother to leave any cash in the booth, either, even though we’ve got to clear it.”
“You saw him leave?”
“I caught a glimpse. We’ve got waiting lists for the VIP booths, so we need to turn ’em quick.”
“Who was in charge—McEnroy or the woman? You’re not blind,” Eve reminded her. “You’ve got a sense. You were keeping an eye, because once he gets a woman in the booth, they wouldn’t stay too long. A drink, maybe two, then he’d leave, isn’t that right?”
“Maybe. Maybe it seemed like she was leading him rather than the other way around like usual. But he was alive and kicking when he left, so what happened after isn’t any of mine.”
“Can you describe her?”
“A redhead, big tits.”
“Tall, short, white, mixed?”
“Didn’t pay any mind. Why should I?”
“What time did they leave? When did you turn the booth?”
“Jeez, how am I supposed to remember?”
“I can look that up,” Snow said, “if you’ll excuse me a moment.”
“Go ahead. You worked the door,” Eve said to Mi.
“Lieutenant. When did McEnroy get here?”
“He gets an auto-pass—he’s on the list. I can’t tell you exactly, but it was early. Maybe after nine, but before ten, for certain.”
“Did you see him leave with the woman?”
“I’m going to say, like Tee, I caught a glimpse. I looked twice because his car hadn’t pulled up. It’s routine, his car pulls up and he comes out, but his car didn’t pull up, and he and the redhead walked out to where another pulled up.”
“What kind of car?”
“Wasn’t a limo. I’m going to say a town car, but I didn’t pay much attention. I was busy, and you just don’t pay as much attention to people leaving as you do the ones who want in.”
“Can you describe her?”
“I’m going to say good-looking, a lot of red hair, and well, yeah, she had a body on her. We let in her type because it’s good for business. And, hell, she slipped me two bills. I think she was maybe French. She said, you know,
when I passed her through.”
“Had you ever seen her before last night?”
“I don’t think so, but it’s real hard to say.”
“Would you work with a police artist?”
“I guess, but the thing is I see an awful lot of frosty women on any given night. I only remember because of the French thing and the two bills. I took them, but I was going to let her in anyway.”
A mistake? Eve wondered. Or deliberate?
“What time did she get here?”
“I’m going to say around ten-thirty, but I’m not real sure. I know they left before midnight because Blick spells me for my break at midnight and he was about due. I’m going to say when I caught that glimpse of her leaving with him, I thought how she didn’t stay long for two bills, but I guessed she got what she was after.”
Mi shrugged those wide shoulders, then stopped, drew his brows together in thought. “Oh, and now that I’m thinking about it, I thought how Mr. McEnroy was maybe a little drunk.”
“Well, if I see him leave—not always, but if I do—he’s got his arm around the woman he leaves with and she looks to have had a few, you know? This time it struck me as the other way.”
Eve decided the man on the door noticed more than he realized. “I’m
going to set you up with a police artist. Peabody, find Snow and see about the security cam on the door between, let’s say, twenty-one-thirty and midnight.”
Even as Peabody started to rise, Snow came back.
“I have that information for you. Mr. McEnroy cleared his tab at eleven-fifty-three. He ordered a martini at the bar—your station, Lippy—at nine-twenty-nine, a sparkling water with lime at ten-fifteen, then two more martinis from the auto in the booth at eleven-twenty-six.”
“Thanks. If you’d show Detective Peabody the door security feed and make a copy for us, we’d appreciate it.”
“Of course. If you’d come with me, Detective. Are you sure I can’t get you something? Coffee?”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind a no-fat latte.”
Eve ignored them, studied Lace. “Did McEnroy ever hit on you?”
“Not really, no. A little flirt, sure, but nothing real. It’s like Tee said. He liked white girls—redheads, built redheads.”
“He always went to Lip at the bar when we were on together, even if she had a line going. Sorry, interrupting,” Gregor said.
“It’s all right. So you interacted with him more than Mr. Gregor.”
“I’d have to say. And if he went to one of the other bars, he’d go to the female. We talked about it, you know, just joking like. I didn’t see him with anybody last night. I really didn’t see him at all after he came up to the bar for his two drink orders—the martini, then the water. But … I guess you could say that’s his usual routine. Come, and like Tee said, too, sort of troll, walk around, get a drink. Then I’d see him order through the auto later—two drinks, sometimes three, then he’d cash out. I honestly don’t remember serving a Frenchwoman last night.”
“How about you?” Eve said to Gregor.
“Nope. I chatted up these two blondes from Sweden, and a couple from Tokyo, but no single French ladies, not last night.”
“He’d occasionally buy a woman a drink, at the bar?”
“Sure. Now and then. He tips good, so you remember, even though he doesn’t come in like every week. Sometimes weeks and weeks go by, then he shows. But you remember.”
“And when he’d buy a woman a drink at the bar, did you ever notice a change in her behavior?”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Did she appear intoxicated after he bought her a drink, or more inclined to go with him?”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute.” DeCarlo slapped a hand on the table. “You’re trying to say he slipped something into the drink?”
“I’m not trying to say it, I am saying it.”
“No. Jesus!” Lace grabbed Gregor’s hand. “No, I never saw him do that. Ever. Win, Jesus!”
“You don’t look so shocked, Mr. Gregor.”
Shaking his head at Eve, he blew out a breath. “I never saw it, but … You know, the guy looked good, dressed good, but he wasn’t like a vid star, right? I used to wonder how the hell he scored every single time he came in. He’d pick one out, move in, and later Tee or one of the servers, somebody, would mention maybe how he walked out with another one. I never thought … but now.”
“You can’t just say something like that about somebody,” DeCarlo objected. “That’s what cops do, they say shit about people.”
“We have statements from multiple women McEnroy drugged and raped. This was one of his hunting areas.”
DeCarlo’s angry scowl crumpled. “We’re supposed to watch out for anything like that. We’re supposed to make sure nobody tries to pull any shit with anybody.”
“He was good at it,” Eve told her. “Kept the dose light here, or whatever club or venue he picked. Just enough.”
“I didn’t see it,” DeCarlo murmured. “I never figured him for …
He had that accent, that way. All charm, you know? I figured him for a player, sure, but not for this. Snow!” She pushed away from the table when the manager came back with Peabody. “She’s saying that son of a bitch roofied women right under my goddamn nose.”
“What?” He put a long, thin hand on DeCarlo’s shoulder as he shot those laser eyes at Eve. “Do you have evidence of this?”
“We do, yes, but we’re not saying Ms. DeCarlo or any of your staff was or is complicit. At this time we believe Mr. McEnroy perpetrated these acts alone.”
“Win, be a friend and get Tee a soother from my office. Sit now.” He eased DeCarlo back into the chair. “This isn’t your fault.”
“I didn’t see it. I got eyes, goddamn it. I know what to look for. I didn’t see it.”
“He used the privacy booth,” Eve explained. “He was good at it, and he was careful. He frequented a number of clubs, restaurants, following the same pattern. As far as we know, no one saw it. What they saw, if they noticed, was a woman, maybe a little drunk, leaving of her own volition with a man.”
“I can look back now, look back knowing, and see it,” DeCarlo muttered. “The son of a fucking bitch.”
“Me, too.” Mi lifted his shoulders. “When you know, you can see it. And when you know, you can see … last night, it was the other way around.”
“You mean she slipped him something?” DeCarlo’s scowl came back. “Good for her then. Goddamn it.”
“The individual who slipped him something followed up by murdering him,” Eve pointed out. “And it’s our job, my partner’s and mine, to find her and see that she faces justice.”
DeCarlo let out another snort. “There’s why I don’t like cops.”
When they walked back outside, Eve glanced up at the door cam. “Can we use the feed?”
“We’ve got her at the door, but she’s not stupid,” Peabody replied. “We don’t get a look, not a good one, of her face. A lot of hair, the killer body. We’re going to be able to peg height and weight, and—I assume—Yancy will have something to work with between the feed and working with the door guy.”
“Set it up, and get me the best image of her, copy to my units. We’re going to hit a couple more clubs, see if we can shake something, and the restaurant where he dosed Alden.”
She checked the time. “Then you’re off. If EDD has any more, shoot it to me.”
Once she cut Peabody loose, Eve hunted up parking near the pub Roarke had chosen. She settled on a second level, jogged down to the street to join the throng of pedestrians on the half-block walk.
She found the pub had a trio of skinny tables outside—and that Roarke had reserved one. A little cool yet for it, she thought, but the table heater took care of that. As she was early, she ordered black coffee and settled down to review her notes, write fresh ones.
“Still hard at work.” Roarke slipped in across from her.
“A lot of leads means a lot to tie together. Why don’t you own This Place?”
“Happens I do.”
“No, not this place, the club called This Place.”