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Authors: J. D. Robb

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BOOK: Vendetta in Death
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“Geena,” Francie began, but Geena shook her head.

“Get them out. Get them out,” she repeated, and rushed to the stairs, all but sprinted up them.

“I’m very sorry.” Francie twisted her hands together. “She’s not herself. Understandably. I’ll talk to her, but I can assure you she knew none of this. He was so attentive, so loving to her and the girls.”

“But you knew.”

“Not about the illegals. I swear it. She’s like a daughter to me, and those girls are my grandchildren in all but blood. If I’d known, I’d have told her. I’d have found a way. I allowed myself to believe he’d turned
a corner and was faithful, but there were signs I ignored because Geena and the girls were happy.”

Francie paused, pressed her fingers to her eyes, then dropped them. “I can tell you this, with no hesitation or doubt. She was telling you the truth as she knows it. She believed him, absolutely, and she would have told no one but me about the other women. She needed her illusions, Lieutenant, so she believed him.”

Francie rose. “I’ll talk to her. I’ll do what I can.”

“One more question. Did you speak to anyone else about Mr. McEnroy?”

“Whatever Geena shared with me stayed between her and me. He broke her trust time after time in the past. I wouldn’t, couldn’t. I never would.”

“Thanks for your time.”

“She’ll want to see him,” Francie added as she walked them to the door. “If not tomorrow, then soon. She’ll need to see him.”

“I’ll arrange it.”

Eve stepped out, started for the elevator. “Don’t tell me I was hard on her.”

“Well now, you were hard on her, but you had to know, didn’t you?”

She jabbed the call button. “Know what?”

“If she knew what he was about, if she had any part in it, overtly or by her silence. If knowing, she finally had enough and helped arrange his murder. Or simply cried on shoulders who might do it for her.”

Saying nothing, Eve strode onto the elevator, jammed her hands in her pockets.

“And now you know,” Roarke finished, and called for the garage level. “So you can stop being hard on yourself for doing your job.”

Eve shot him a look. “You gave her strokes and pats.”

“I felt sorry for her, true enough—as did you. But it wasn’t my job
to go hard. It seemed clear enough she’s one who needs someone to lean on likely in the best of times, so certainly in the worst of them. She has the tutor, her surrogate mother, but it seemed to me she’d respond to a man. Was I wrong in that?”

“No.” Eve hissed out a breath. “You’re a hundred percent right, which is why you’re the emperor of the business universe. You read people fast and accurate. You stay with someone who cheats on you, time after time, out of love—to a point. Love might be there, sure, but you really stay out of need, out of insecurity, out of not knowing what the hell else to do. She rings all the bells to me.”

“You don’t suspect her of having a part in his death after this.”

“If you don’t eyeball the spouse and eyeball hard, you’re stupid. But she’s about as low on the list as it gets. She didn’t know about the drugs. I’m betting some part of her knew he was still cheating, but she buried that. But not the drugs. She was shocked, and an instant later, even though she went off, she knew it was true.”

“I think you’re right on that.” Roarke led the way to the car, slid behind the wheel. Then he turned to Eve. “It’s why she denied it so strongly. The truth makes it impossible for her to keep believing she loved and stayed with a good man. He was a rapist, an opportunist, not just unfaithful. And he brought the women he victimized into her home, into her bed. How does she live with that, how does she keep his light shining for her daughters if she accepts the truth of it?”

Tired, tired to the bone, Eve let her head fall back against the seat. “She can accept whatever she wants at this point.”

“She’ll go after you,” he warned as he drove out of the garage. “The foundation of her world demands it.”

“Maybe. I’ll handle it.”

“I’ve no doubt.” He went quiet, letting her think until he approached the gates of home. “We joke about what each would do if the other
strayed—and I admit you usually outdo me in creativity there. But the fact is we never would. It’s not only love that keeps us faithful. It’s respect, for each other, for ourselves. That’s a bond that holds.”

“I know it. Still, I can be even more creative if you ever tested it.”

“And I know that.”

He shot her a grin as he drove through the gates.

The house rose and spread, lights gleaming in the windows. Its turrets and towers speared under a glass-clear sky that opened the night to the April chill.

Home, she thought, no longer just the house he’d built, but home. Because they’d learned how to make it one together.

“I thought, when I first moved here, it couldn’t last. You’d realize: Jesus, what was I thinking with her? Or you’d start bitching about the job, the hours, and I’d start bitching about the wife-of-the-business-emperor deal, and it would all just go south.”

She turned to him as he pulled up in front of the house, then leaned over, took his face in her hands. Kissed him. “It’s really nice to be wrong.”

“I had moments when I wondered if you’d walk away, unable to accept who I am, who I was, what I’ve done. It’s very nice, yes, to be wrong.”

When they got out of the car, he met her, took her hand. “But then again, I knew I had you at the cat.”

“At the cat?”

“You brought Galahad here, and that I took as a sign in my favor.”

“Maybe I just wanted to dump him on you.”

“No,” Roarke said simply, and walked inside with her.

She shrugged out of her coat, tossed it over the newel post as Roarke hung his own in the closet. Then she simply stood there in the wide, quiet foyer.

“Problem?”

“I’m just waiting to see if Summerset slithers into view.”

Roarke rolled his eyes, well used to her digs at his majordomo, and started up the stairs. “I let him know we’d be late, and would have dinner out. The night’s chilly enough for a fire. I expect you’ll want to set up your board and book.”

“Yeah, and more, I need to review more of McEnroy’s vids. We need to ID the women, run them, interview them. I’ve had the London cops hit his offices and residence there. I’ve got copies of more vids coming.”

They made their way to her office, where he walked to the fire, ordered it on low. The cat, sprawled in her sleep chair, rolled his tubby body over, stretched. “You haven’t spoken with his partners as yet?”

“On for tomorrow.”

Since Galahad deigned to jump down, stroll over to wind through her legs, she bent to scratch him.

“If I were going to kill the guy, I might try to cover it by doing it in New York if I lived elsewhere. So I’ve got travel to check.”

“Why don’t I see to that for you when you have it ready?” An equal opportunist, Galahad wandered to Roarke, ribboned there until he got a good stroke. “I’ve a few things to deal with, so you can let me know if you want that help.”

“I will, thanks.”

When Roarke went into his adjoining office, Eve programmed a pot of coffee. She poured a large mug, began to set up her board.

Drinking coffee, adjusting her board, she glanced over to where Galahad lay, once again, sprawled in her sleep chair.

“You know, he had that right—big surprise. I wasn’t dumping you on him. I was bringing both of us home. You just got used to it faster.”

Once she had her board and book finished, she sat to open the file from London. And found a very helpful detective inspector had written a detailed memo attachment. She’d identified the hotel McEnroy
used, statements from staff at the clubs McEnroy had detailed in his memo book—the London version also locked in his office there.

She’d also confiscated the illegals and all electronics.

Same pattern.

Moreover, Detective Inspector Lavina Smythe had reviewed a full dozen of the vids and run face recognition on the women.

Eve now had a list of names to work with, in addition to a comprehensive report. Smythe ended the memo with:

While Nigel McEnroy’s murder occurred in New York City, he is now posthumously under investigation for possession and use of illegals, for rape, extortion, and abduction, all of which took place in London. We will arrange interviews with all individuals related to said investigation, and subsequently copy you on these reports. We request any information you gather in the course of your investigation be shared.

“You got it, DI Smythe.” And in that spirit, Eve wrote her own memo, attached it to a report, shot it to London.

She printed out the ID shots Smythe sent her—all redheads—added them to her board under a section she headed as
LONDON
.

She walked over to Roarke’s office, where he sat working on his comp, making minute changes to some weird-ass schematic.

“I’ve got a dozen names from London, if you want them.”

He glanced over. “That was very quick.”

“London did the work. There’s a DI Smythe, and if I’m reading between the lines, she looks at it like I’ve got the DB, but she’s got a lot of female vics—potentially suspects, but vics. And she’s going to see they get justice. So we’ll share salient data. I can hope I get the same level of cooperation from Paris and so on.”

“I’m nearly done here so—”

“How can you tell?”

He merely smiled. “Do you really want to know?”

She looked at the wall screen, the lines, curves, tiny notes and numbers. “Absolutely not.”

“Well then. Shoot me the data, and I’ll check the travel.”

“Smythe would probably do it, but—”

“As it’s the middle of the night in London, she can have the information when she gets up in the morning.”

“I’m not going to think about stupid time zones. I’ll send you the ID shots.”

Back at her desk, she did that first, then poured more coffee before she cued up the next vid from McEnroy’s office.

The hotel room this time, obviously prebooked, as he’d already set up the camera. Another redhead, no surprise there, but Eve judged this one at barely legal age, and giggling high. He called her Rowan when he put on music, ordered her to dance.

Eve paused the vid, ordered magnification on the woman’s face.

“Computer, run facial recognition on female subject. Resume video.”

Acknowledged.

She ran through the dance, the striptease in case there was any useful dialogue. Noted down the run time when he added a dose from a vial to a glass of wine, offered it to her.

After she downed it, the giggling playfulness ended, turned to desperate moans, grappling. Eve switched to split screen when he shoved the woman on the bed, mounted her.

She studied the young, pretty face of Rowan Rosenburg, age twenty-one, calculated the rape had occurred only two weeks after her twenty-first birthday. A student at Juilliard, Eve noted, living in New York for the past two years and originally from Vermont.

Eve ran the vid through to the end, tuned back in when McEnroy told Rowan to get dressed—and run along now like a good girl. She looked used and confused, but wiggled back into the sparkly club dress. She nodded, eyes vague, when he told her where to walk—away from the hotel, Eve noted—to take the subway back to the club.

When she stumbled out, he picked up his ’link.

“Text to Geena. Hello, darling! I’m about to escape from this tedious meeting. I should be home within the hour. Let’s raid the kitchen, shall we, for a midnight snack. I’m famished! See you soon.”

He set the ’link aside, glanced—smirking—toward the camera.

“Camera off.”

She cued up the next.

By the time Roarke walked in, she’d reviewed six, identified the victims.

After a look at her face, he walked over to open the wine cabinet.

“I’m working.”

He said nothing, simply opened the bottle, poured two glasses.

“How many more do you have to view?”

“Too many.”

He set her wine on her command center. “I have the data for you. Why don’t I take some of the vids, run the face recognition and so forth.”

“I can’t. It’s not right.” She gave up, picked up the wine. “It’s not right to let a civilian view them, even you. These women, their privacy—well, that’s pretty much shot to shit already. But it’s not right.”

With a nod, he turned to her board. “What can I do?”

“He humiliates them.” She took a long swallow of wine. “It’s not just his ugly sexual gratification that gets him off, it’s humiliating them.”

“Of course it is. If it was just to get off, he could and would hire a professional. He could engage a licensed companion who fits his needs.
But that would put her on an equal footing, as that’s a kind of partnership.”

He turned back to her. “What can I do?” he asked again.

“You could take the six I’ve ID’d, run them. Check travel, employment, if they live alone, have a spouse or cohab. You can take it down a level, see if any of them have medical—a physical issue, an emotional one—after the date of the attack. It’s a goddamn attack.”

“It is, yes.”

“She worked with somebody,” Eve muttered. “It’s damn near impossible to believe a lone woman pulled this off. She got him in a vehicle—who was driving? Could she trust using full auto? She brought him back to his residence, got him out on the sidewalk. Doing that alone? I don’t buy it. Who is she close to—another victim, a sister, a spouse, a father, a brother? Someone she trusts.”

“I’ll keep that in mind when I look at them. Send them along.”

“Roarke.” She sighed, realized she didn’t know what she wanted to say. “I appreciate it.”

She set the wine aside, cued up the next vid.

While Eve worked, so did Lady Justice.

Once a cheater, she thought as she again checked her appearance. This time she’d chosen a short, spiky wig, a honey blond tipped with sapphire blue. Her eyes matched the tips, as did the skin suit that dipped down nearly to her navel. She’d taken the time—quite a bit of time—to tint her skin in a color called Mocha Riche. She wore an appliance that gave her an overbite and a product that plumped her lips before she dyed them Rebellious Red. Her boots had scalpel-thin heels and lifts.

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