Loyalty in Death:In Death 09

By: J. D. Robb

“You’ll work harder.” He said it simply, almost childlike faith in his eyes. And Eve felt her conscience stir restlessly. “And I can find out shit for you. If Fixer talked to me some, he coulda maybe talked to somebody else. He didn’t scare easy, you know. He come through the Urban Wars. But he was plenty scared when he called me that night. They didn’t do him that way ’cause they was gonna take out a bank.”

“Maybe not.” But she knew there were some who would gut a tourist for a wrist unit and a pair of airboots. “I’ll look into it. I can’t promise any more than that. You find out anything that adds to this, you get in touch.”

“Yeah, okay. Right.” He grinned at her. “You’ll find out who did Fixer that way. The other cops, they didn’t know about the shit he was into, right? Right? So that’s good data I give you.”

“Yeah, good enough, Ratso.” She rose, dug credits out of her pocket, and laid them on the table.

“You want me to run down the file on this floater?” Peabody asked when they stepped back outside.

“Yeah. Tomorrow’s soon enough.” As they climbed back up to her vehicle, Eve dug her hands into her pockets. “Do a run on Arlington, too. See what buildings, streets, citizens, businesses, that kind of thing have that name. If we find anything, we can turn it over to the investigating officer.”

“This Fixer, did he weasel for anybody?”

“No.” Eve slid behind the wheel. “He hated cops.” For a moment she frowned, drummed her fingers. “Ratso’s got a brain the size of a soybean, but he’s got Fixer down. He didn’t scare easy, and he was greedy. Kept that shop of his open seven days a week, worked it solo. Rumor was he had his old army-issue blaster under the counter, and a hunting knife. Used to brag he could fillet a man as quick and easy as he could a trout.”

“Sounds like a real fun guy.”

“He was tough and sour and would sooner piss in a cop’s eye than look at one. If he wanted out of this deal he was in, it had to be way over the top. Nothing much would’ve put this old man off.”

“What’s that I hear?” Cocking her head, Peabody cupped a hand at her ear. “Oh, that must be the sound of you getting sucked in.”

Eve hit the street with a bit more bounce than necessary. “Shut up, Peabody.”

She missed dinner, which was only mildly irritating. The fact that she’d been right about the PA and the plea bargain on Lisbeth Cooke was downright infuriating. At least, Eve thought as she let herself into the house, the twit could have stuck for murder two a little longer.

Now, scant hours after Eve had arrested her in the wrongful death of one J. Clarence Branson, Lisbeth was out on bail and very likely sitting cozily in her own apartment with a glass of claret and a smug little smile on her face.

Summerset, Roarke’s butler, slipped into the foyer to greet her with a baleful eye and a sniff of disapproval. “You are, once again, quite late.”

“Yeah? And you are, once again, really ugly.” She dropped her jacket over the newel post. “Difference is, tomorrow I might be on time.”

He noted that she looked neither pale nor tired—two early signs of overwork. He would have suffered the torments of the damned before he would have admitted—even to himself—that the fact pleased him.

“Roarke,” he said in frigid tones as she breezed by him and started up the steps, “is in the video room.” Summerset’s brow arched slightly. “Second level, fourth door on the right.”

“I know where it is,” she muttered, though it wasn’t absolutely true. Still, she would have found it, even though the house was huge, a labyrinth of rooms and treasures and surprises.

The man didn’t deny himself anything, she thought. Why should he? He’d been denied everything as a child, and he’d earned, one way or another, all the comforts he now commanded.

But even after a year, she wasn’t really used to the house, the huge stone edifice with its juts and its towers and the lushly planted grounds. She wasn’t used to the wealth, she supposed, and never would be. The kind of financial power that could command acres of polished wood, sparkling glass, art from other countries and centuries, along with the simple pleasures of soft fabrics, plush cushions.

The fact was, she’d married Roarke in spite of his money, in spite of how he’d earned a great portion of it. Fallen for him, she supposed, as much for his shadows as his lights.

She stepped into the room with its long, luxurious sofas, its enormous wall screens, and complex control center. There was a charmingly old-fashioned bar, gleaming cherry with stools of leather and brass. A carved cabinet with a rounded door she remembered vaguely held countless discs of the old videos her husband was so fond of.

The polished floor was layered with richly patterned rugs. A blazing fire—no computer-generated image for Roarke—filled the hearth of black marble and warmed the fat, sleeping cat curled in front of it. The scent of crackling wood merged with the spice of the fresh flowers spearing out of a copper urn nearly as tall as she and the fragrance of the candles glowing gold on the gleaming mantel.