Loyalty in Death:In Death 09

By: J. D. Robb

“Yeah, and he just did ninety days on a D and D. I got the indecent exposure tossed. Ratso likes to flaunt his personality when he’s piss-faced. He’s harmless,” Eve added. “Mostly full of wind, but every now and again, he comes up with some solid data. The Brew’s on the way, and Cooke can hold for a bit. Run the serial number on the murder weapon. Let’s verify if it belonged to the victim. Then find the next of kin. I’ll notify them once Cooke’s booked.”

The night was clear and cold with a stiff wind snapping down the urban canyons and chasing most of the foot traffic indoors. The glide-cart vendors held out, shivering in the steam and stink of grilling soy dogs, hoping for a few hungry souls hearty enough to brave February’s teeth.

The winter of 2059 had been brutally cold, and profits were down.

They left the swank Upper East Side neighborhood with its clear, unbroken sidewalks and uniformed doormen and headed south and west where the streets went narrow and noisy and the natives moved fast, their eyes on the ground and their fists over their wallets.

Smashed against curbs, the remnants of the last snowfall was soot gray and ugly. Nasty patches of ice still slicked sidewalks and lay in wait for the unwary. Overhead, a billboard swam with a warm blue sea hemmed by sugar-white sand. The busty blonde frolicking in the waves wore little more than a tan and invited New York to come to the islands and play.

Eve entertained herself with thoughts of a couple of days in Roarke’s island getaway. Sun, sand, and sex, she mused as she negotiated bad-tempered evening traffic. Her husband would be happy to provide all three, and she was nearly ready to suggest it. Another week or two maybe, she decided. After she cleared up some paperwork, finished some court appearances, tied a couple of dangling loose ends.

And, she admitted, felt a little more secure about being away from the job.

She’d lost her badge and had nearly lost her way too recently for the sting to have faded. Now that she had both back, she wasn’t quite ready to set duty aside for a quick bout of indulgence.

By the time she found a parking space on the second-level street ramp near The Brew, Peabody had the requested data. “According to the serial numbers, the murder weapon belonged to the victim.”

“Then we start off with murder in the second,” Eve said as they trooped down to the street. “The PA won’t waste time trying to prove premeditation.”

“But you think she went there to kill him.”

“Oh yeah.” Eve crossed the sidewalk toward the murky lights of an animated beer mug with dingy foam sliding down the sides.

The Brew specialized in cheap drinks and stale beer nuts. Its clientele ran to grifters down on their luck, low-level office drones and the cut-rate licensed companions who hunted them, and a smatter of hustlers with nothing left to hustle.

The air was stale and overheated, conversation scattered and secret. Through the smeared light, several gazes slid to Eve, then quickly away.

Even without Peabody’s uniform beside her, she whispered cop. They would have recognized it in the way she stood—the long, rangy body alert, the clear brown eyes steady, focused, and flat as they took in faces and details.

Only the uninitiated would have seen just a woman with short, somewhat choppily cut brown hair, a lean face with sharp angles and a shallow dent in the chin. Most who patronized The Brew had been around and could smell cop at a dead run in the opposite direction.

She spotted Ratso, his pointy rodent face nearly inside the mug as he sucked back beer. As she walked toward his table, she heard a few chairs scrape shyly away, saw more than one pair of shoulders hunch defensively.

Everyone’s guilty of something, she thought, and sent Ratso a fierce, bare-toothed smile. “This joint doesn’t change, Ratso, and neither do you.”

He offered her his wheezy laugh, but his gaze had danced nervously over Peabody’s spit-and-polish uniform. “You didn’t hafta bring backup, Dallas. Jeez, Dallas, I thought we was pals.”

“My pals bathe regularly.” She jerked her head toward a chair for Peabody, then sat herself. “She’s mine,” Eve said simply.

“Yeah, I heard you got you a pup to train.” He tried a smile, exposing his distaste for dental hygiene, but Peabody met it with a cool stare. “She’s okay, yeah, she’s okay since she’s yours. I’m yours, too, right, Dallas? Right?”

“Aren’t I the lucky one.” When the waitress started over, Eve merely gave her a glance that had her changing directions and leaving them alone. “What have you got for me, Ratso?”

“I got good shit, and I can get more.” His unfortunate face split into a grin Eve imagined he thought cagey. “If I had some working credit.”

“I don’t pay on account. On account of I might not see your ugly face for another six months.”

He wheezed again, slurped up beer, and sent her a hopeful look out of his tiny, watery eyes. “I deal square with you, Dallas.”

“So, start dealing.”

“Okay, okay.” He leaned forward, curving his skinny little body over what was left in his mug. Eve could see a perfect circle of scalp, naked as a baby’s butt, at the crown of his head. It was almost endearing, and certainly more attractive than the greasy strings of paste-colored hair that hung from it. “You know The Fixer, right? Right?”

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