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Authors: J. D. Robb

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BOOK: Vendetta in Death
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He smiled at her. “Would you like to?”

“Not especially. It just struck me it’s got some of your style and class. I hit two others you do own—also classy.”

He smiled at her, but she saw the way he studied her face. “It’s just been a long one,” she said.

“And more to come. We’ll have a pint and some food.”

“I’m good with coffee.”

“Which is what you’ve downed, no doubt, most of the day. A half pint for you, which won’t hurt you a bit. I’ll suggest you follow it with the fish and chips, which is exceptional here.”

A beer might smooth out some of the edges, she thought. And fish and chips never hurt. “Okay, that’ll work.”

While he ordered, she put away her notes. And when he simply took her hand, the wall she’d held in place all day crumbled.

“It was like his hobby, that’s how I see it. I know it was a sickness. Nobody takes so many risks—personally, professionally—needs so much control over women, gains such satisfaction out of using them the way he used them without a sickness. But he treated it like … like a hobby, a serious one. The way some people treat, I don’t know, golf, or crafting, or whatever. I’d bet my ass if he was alive, if I’d caught him, had him in the box, that’s just how it would come out he saw it.”

“It’s your job, Lieutenant, to know that, understand that, as much as it’s your job to find his killer.” Those eyes, those incredibly blue eyes, looked straight into her. Saw everything. “Empathizing with the women he used doesn’t change any of that.”

“Empathizing isn’t objectivity.”

“And bollocks to that. If feeling, relating, understanding isn’t part of the job, well then, why aren’t droids investigating?”

She frowned over that while the server brought out the beer. “It’s a line though, and some cases make it harder not to tip over on one side or the other.”

“You have excellent balance.”

“It pisses me off. He got away with it for years, using his power, his money to use, abuse, and humiliate to get his rocks off. And it pisses me off that someone decided to be judge, jury, and executioner. It pisses me off that some have the mind-set that taking a life is some sort of act of heroism. She—because it’s going to be a woman or women—tortured and killed him and called it justice.”

However weary she might have been, her eyes went hard, went cop flat. “And it’s not, goddamn it. He’s out of it now, isn’t he? He suffered for a few hours, and now he’s out of it, when real justice would have put him in a cage, taken away that power, that money, his freedom for years.”

He listened, nodded, sipped his beer. “There was a time, not so long ago, before I met a cop such as you, I’d have tipped on her side of the line.”

“I know it.” She muttered it, scowled at her own beer.

“And the fact that I now lean more toward yours can still surprise me, but there you have it. And I see, too, because I know my cop, what else is in that heart and mind of yours, and you need to put that part of it away, as you’re nothing like the one you’re hunting.”

She started to object, then to dissemble, then just shrugged and drank some beer.

But he knew his cop, his wife, his woman, and pressed.

“You were a terrorized child who took a life to save her own. You suffered for it more and for longer than you’d ask of another.”

“I know what it’s like to make that choice.”

Because the flash of fury that spiked inside him wasn’t what she needed, he smothered it, and spoke in practical tones.

“And more bollocks to that, as it wasn’t a choice planned or calculated, or even on impulse. It was live or die in the moment. Pity the child you were, Eve, and stand for her as you would for any victim.”

“I know it was self-defense. I know you’re right.”

“And if you didn’t still have these moments of inner conflict, you wouldn’t be the cop or the woman you are. I’m madly in love with the woman you are, even though she’s a cop.”

She started to smile, then sighed. “Shit, shit. Couple walking this way—he’s mid-forties, beige jacket, about five-ten, a hundred and sixty. Tell them to wait here while I get his wallet back.”

With that, she vaulted over the low wall to the sidewalk, zipped through the throng of pedestrians, and jogged toward the street thief making good time toward the corner.

She tapped his shoulder. “Bad luck,” she said when his head swiveled toward her. As he shifted to sprint, she simply stuck out her foot, tripped him. He went down in a sprawl, coat flapping.

“Bad luck,” she repeated, whipped his arms behind his back, slapped on restraints. “It was a pretty decent bump and grab, too.”

He cried, “Help! Help!” so Eve just rolled her eyes, took out her badge. Pedestrians veed around them like a fork in a river.

Since he flopped and squirmed—and would likely try to bolt even with the restraints—she just put a boot on his ass, called for uniforms.

By the time she wound it up, Roarke had the couple seated at the table with Irish coffees. “Lieutenant, this is Mark and Jeannie Horchow from Toledo. They’re in New York to celebrate their fifteenth anniversary.”

“Okay,” Eve began. “Mr. Horchow—”

“I never felt a thing! I don’t know how he got my wallet.”

“He’d consider that his job. I’m afraid you’ll need to go into the Fifteenth Precinct to retrieve your belongings, as he had several other stolen articles in his possession. An officer will transport you, and walk you through the process.”

“Oh my!” Jeannie, all bubbly blond hair and wide eyes, goggled up at Eve.

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

“No, no! We wouldn’t have even known, would we, Mark? We were just walking, and … We can’t thank you enough. So kind!”

She glanced over as the black-and-white pulled to the curb. “We’re going to ride in a police car. Wait until we tell the kids.”

Mark laughed a little, rose, offered Roarke his hand. “We appreciate it, very much. Thank you, Lieutenant.” He offered his hand to Eve.
“We really enjoyed
The Icove Agenda
. Who knew we’d end up being rescued by Dallas and Roarke?”

“Wait until we tell the kids,” Jeannie said again.

Eve waited until she watched them get in the cruiser, then since it was quicker, vaulted over the barricade again. Even as she sat, the server set another half pint in front of her.

“The other went warm,” Roarke told her. “And you’d barely touched it.”

“Okay.” She touched it now, drank. Then she smiled. “I feel better.”

He smiled right back. “Thought you would.”

 

7

Body fueled
,
emotions settled
, E
ve rode up to the
M
c
E
nroy penthouse with Roarke.

“And how do you want to handle the widow?” he asked her.

“I need to get a sense of her, and the tutor. From Peabody’s take the tutor’s going to be looking out for her as much as the kids. She’s been with the family for years. She comes off clean, but unless they’re both idiots, they had to know, at a minimum, Nigel McEnroy cheated routinely.”

“Some spouses turn a blind eye for any number of reasons.”

“Some do.” Eve turned her very sharp eye on Roarke. “Me, I’d’ve strapped him naked to the bed, tied his dick in a knot
after
I’d slathered it with honey for the fire ants I’d have in a jar, which I’d dump out right on his knotted dick.

“But that’s just me,” she added as the elevator opened.

“It is very much you.”

“Then I’d fly off to wherever it is they do the tango, and do that.”

“Argentina comes to mind.”

“Okay, there. Blind eyes are for wimps, idiots, or don’t-give-a-damn-anyways.”

“None of which you are.”

“You, either.”

“Agreed. I might take a page from your book on whomever my adored wife might cheat with. Then I’d buy up every coffee bean in the known universe, and burn them, as well as the plants they grow on.”

“That’s sick,” she said with feeling. “Sick and inhumane.”

“Ah well, that’s just me.” He took her hand, kissed her knuckles before pressing the buzzer on the McEnroy penthouse.

“Maybe it’s a weird thing to say after that, but I’m glad we’re us.”

The McEnroys are unavailable. Please respect the family’s privacy at this difficult time.

Eve held up her badge after the comp message. “Dallas, Lieutenant Eve, with civilian consultant Roarke. We have an appointment.”

One moment.

She waited for the scan, the verification. In short order the door opened. She recognized Frances Early from her ID shot. Mid-fifties, sturdy and attractive, mixed race. Tired hazel eyes assessed Eve before she stepped back.

“Lieutenant, sir, Ms. McEnroy is still up with the children. If you’d come in and wait until she’s able to come down.”

She caught the faint whiff of sweepers’ dust though the living area had been ruthlessly cleaned to remove any other trace of the police.

“I’ve let Ms. McEnroy know you’re here. The children are under
standably distraught, and she’ll stay with them until they fall asleep. May I offer you anything while you wait?”

“We’re fine. To save time, to ensure we don’t keep either you or Ms. McEnroy any longer than necessary, we can start by talking to you.”

“To … I see. Of course. Please, sit down. I hope you understand I’m a bit distraught myself.”

“Understood. You were close, you and Mr. McEnroy?”

Francie sat, ran a hand over a chin-length cup of deep brown hair. Her nails, Eve noted, glinted with bright pink polish that seemed at odds with her conservative white shirt and black pants.

“I’ve been with the McEnroys for eight years. I tutor the girls, help tend to them, travel with them and Geena—Ms. McEnroy.”

“And you were close with Mr. McEnroy?” Eve repeated.

Francie spread her hands. “We’re family here.”

Which didn’t answer the question, but told Eve what she wanted to know.

“Mr. McEnroy stayed in New York while you, his wife, and children went to Tahiti on vacation. Is that usual?”

“Due to his work, and his business travel, Mr. McEnroy often joined the rest of the family at some point during a holiday. Or traveled alone. I came on as tutor so that the girls—though Breen was a bit young for schooling when I started—could continue their education while traveling. Most usually between New York and London, but we often accompanied Mr. McEnroy on other extended trips.”

“Or didn’t,” Eve put in. “Meaning Mr. McEnroy was often without his family here in New York, or in London, or Paris, or wherever his work schedule took him.”

“Of course.” Francie folded her hands with their pretty pink nails, set them on her knee. “It was the nature of his business. As a result, the girls are excellent travelers. I want to add Mr. McEnroy was devoted to his daughters. He often juggled his very demanding schedule to be
with them, or bring them with him for birthdays, Christmas, and so on. He was a loving, involved father.”

“Was he a loving, involved spouse?”

Francie shifted, took a moment, then looked straight into Eve’s eyes. “I would prefer you discuss any marital business with Ms. McEnroy.”

“I’m asking you—and you’ve stated you’re family—your opinion on the nature of the McEnroys’ marriage.”

“I won’t gossip about my employers, or my family.”

“This is a murder investigation, not gossip. You were aware McEnroy had numerous and habitual sexual … encounters outside his marriage.”

Francie’s face went blank, but the knuckles of her folded hands whitened. “You’re pushing me to say ugly things about a man who provided me with family when I had none.”

“I’m asking you to tell me the truth about a man who was murdered to assist in the investigation. To help find who killed your employer, who robbed a woman you’re clearly fond of of her spouse, and the children in your charge of their father.”

Tears blurred Francie’s hazel eyes. “Their private life should be private.”

“It stopped being private when he was tortured and killed by an individual who accused him of multiple rapes.”

Her hand flew to her mouth. “That’s a vicious thing to accuse anyone of, and he’s unable to defend himself from such a vicious thing.”

“I’ve confirmed the rapes, Ms. Early. Multiple. He kept records.”

“Oh God, oh my God.” She rose, hands pressed to her face as she walked to the wide window, back again, glanced toward the stairs. “You’re saying to me I’ve worked for, lived with, spent my holidays with a man who…”

“You knew he cheated. I imagine his wife confided in you even if you didn’t see the signs yourself.”

“There’s a wide, wide difference. I don’t have to approve of adultery, but can say and mean it’s not my business. It’s between husband and wife, and for them to deal with. Or not. But rape isn’t … They could be lying.”

She whirled back. “Lying to try to extort money.”

“He kept records,” Eve repeated. “He had a routine, and he had a type. We also confiscated date rape drugs he kept in a locked cabinet in his office.”

She folded her hands again, and those knuckles stayed bone white. “You’re saying … oh, if you’re lying to me, I’ll have your badge. You’re saying Nigel drugged and raped women. It will destroy her, Geena. She’s already shattered, but this … Can you not tell her? She loved him, and she believed he’d stopped. Stopped cheating. She’d believed it before, but this time, she was so sure. She was so happy.”

“There’s no way to keep this from her, and due to the multiple women involved, there’s no way to keep it from coming out in the media.”

“Keep what from me?”

At the top of the stairs, Geena McEnroy stood with one hand gripping the polished rail, the other pressed to her heart. She wore a straight, simple black dress. Its mourning color accentuated her delicate beauty. Everything about her read fragile, from the quiet brown hair swept back in a knot, to the long neck, to the slender build. Her eyes, soft blue, were swollen from weeping; her lips, unpainted, trembled.

The only bright point came from her nails, glowing in hot red.

“The girls?” Francie asked.

“Sleeping. Finally sleeping.” Geena started down, hesitated, swayed.

Rising, Roarke moved to the stairs and up to take her arm. “Let me help you.”

“Nothing seems real. It feels as if I might take a step and fall off the world.”

“I’m so very sorry,” he said as he led her to a chair. “Shall I get you some water?”

“I— Francie?”

“Some tea.” Francie took a mini remote from her pocket. “You’ve barely eaten all day.” Her tone turned matter-of-fact.

A smart move, Eve decided, as Geena looked as if she needed to be reminded to breathe in and out.

When the droid came in, Francie ordered tea. “A pot, as I could use some myself. And perhaps our … guests would like a cup.”

“You said…” Geena looked around blankly, finally focused on Eve. “I can’t remember who you are.”

“Lieutenant Dallas. Ms. McEnroy—”

“Oh yes, of course. The girls nagged and nagged to see the vid, the one about the clones, so I screened it. I thought it too violent and frightening for them. They’re too young. I don’t want them exposed to—But now. Oh God, now.”

“I’m sorry for your loss, Ms. McEnroy, and I know this is a very difficult time, but we need to ask you some questions.”

“I don’t understand any of it. How can I have answers when I don’t understand? The girls ask and ask where their father went. Why can’t he come back? Why did he have to die? Was he sick? Did he fall down? And I can’t answer. What do I tell them?”

“That’s for you to say.”

“But I don’t know. You said someone … but I don’t understand why anyone would hurt him. Was it a robbery? Was it—”

“We don’t believe robbery was a motive.” Deal with it, Eve thought as the droid wheeled in a tea cart. Stringing it out only prolonged pain.

“Your husband was killed in a location unknown at this time, then his body was transported back to this building and left outside. We’ve traced his movements on the night of his death. He left the building at
approximately nine-eighteen
P.M
., took a limo to a club called This Place, where he had reserved a VIP booth. A privacy booth.”

“A—a business meeting.” Geena’s voice wavered as she spoke, and her eyes pleaded for Eve to agree.

“No, not a business meeting. We’ve confirmed Mr. McEnroy frequented This Place and other venues for the purpose of acquiring women for sexual activities.”

“That’s not true.” Flushes of color, high and bright, rode her cheekbones. “I won’t have you slander my husband, the father of my children. I won’t have it.”

Blind eye, Eve thought. Deliberately, desperately blind.

“We’ve confirmed, with evidence and with firsthand accounts, what he did, where he did it, and in many cases already with whom. You were aware of his proclivities, Ms. McEnroy. Attempting to protect your husband now also protects his killer. It’s my job, my duty, my purpose to find his killer and bring that individual to justice.”

“Do you think I care about your duty?” Her voice pitched high as the color on her cheeks. “You’d destroy a man’s reputation for your duty? Destroy his family?”

“Your husband hunted women for sport,” Eve snapped out. “He used them like toys. He drugged them, and in many cases brought them to your bed, recording the sex for his private library—and to humiliate them, to prevent them from taking action against him. Were you unaware of this?”

“You’re lying!” She hissed it out, a venomous snake with terrified eyes. “You’re a liar.”

“Geena.” Roarke spoke softly even as Francie rushed over to sit on the arm of Geena’s chair, wrap an arm around her. “This is a terrible time for you, and these are horrendous shocks, one after another. Someone killed your husband out of a twisted sense of justice that is in
reality revenge. The lieutenant’s purpose
is
justice. She’ll stand for your husband, work to find the person who took him from you and your children.”

“She’s saying terrible things about him.”

“You loved him very much. That only made it more difficult for you, more painful when he was unfaithful. You understood, through all that, he loved you and your children.”

“He did! He did!” Weeping now, she buried her face against Francie. “He wasn’t perfect. None of us is perfect. He had a weakness, but he fought it. For me, for the girls, he fought it. And he stopped. He swore to me he stopped.”

“You have some tea.” Gently, Francie drew away, picked up the cup to press it on Geena. “Dry your eyes now and have some tea.”

“He was so attractive, you see. Women were drawn to him,” Geena claimed as she obeyed and dabbed her face with a tissue. “And with his weakness he sometimes … He faltered. It shamed him, and he struggled. But in the last year, he renewed his vows to me, and kept them. He swore it. And he never used drugs, he never touched illegals. He’d have no need to use them on a woman. He was magnetic.”

Eve let that slide for the moment. “Did you speak with anyone about this aspect of your marriage? The difficulties you had when your husband faltered?”

“No one. Francie,” she corrected, reaching for Francie’s hand, gripping it. “She’s family, and more of a mother to me than my own.”

“Anyone else? A friend, a therapist, a doctor?”

“It was no one’s business but ours. It is no one’s business but ours. If you try to say he did these things, used illegals on women, brought them into my home, I’ll sue you for slander. Do you hear me? I’ll go to your superior and have you fired.”

Eve let the fury, and the fear behind it, roll off her. Duty, she thought, couldn’t always be kind and patient.

Could rarely be either.

“Would you like to see one of the vids? He liked redheads, curvy ones. He kept date rape illegals locked in his office. Did he ever use them on you, with or without your consent?”

Shock came first, stripping even a hint of color out of Geena’s face. But her eyes went hard. “How dare you?”

“That’s not an answer.”

“He did not. My husband loved me. Why are you trying to destroy what I have left of him?”

“Someone knew his habits, his routines, and used that knowledge to lure him to his death. If you told no one, someone else did or one of the women he used sought and found her revenge. If you lie to me, or hide information that relates to the investigation, you’re obstructing that investigation. If you knew of and/or participated in his use of illegals for sexual compliance and deny same, you’re obstructing.”

“I say you’re a liar, a woman so blinded by ambition she would smear a good man, a family man, a father, to further those ambitions.” Fury forced color back into her face as she surged to her feet. “I want you out of my home, and I’ll see to it you’re removed from this investigation if not removed from the NYPSD over this vicious vendetta you’re waging against my husband.”

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